UK/Israel: Israeli PM’s visit - Tony Blair should call for halt to wall construction and land-grab

Amnesty International has today written to the Prime Minister Tony Blair asking him to call on the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to immediately halt the construction of Israel’s West Bank wall on Palestinian land.

With the Israeli PM due to visit the UK on or around 11 June, Amnesty International has acted in response to gathering concern about the emergence of a humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Tony Blair should make it extremely clear to Prime Minister Olmert that Israel should stop building the wall in Palestinian territory, must dismantle the illegal Israeli settlements and should lift unnecessary restrictions on Palestinian movement.

“Mr Blair needs to convey the basic message that without a reasonable freedom of movement, the Palestinian economy has no chance of recovery and the Palestinian people will be forced to rely on charity for their very survival.”

In defiance of international law, approximately 80 per cent of the constructed wall falls within occupied Palestinian territory, not between Israel and the West Bank. In many cases the wall loops around Israeli settlements deep inside the West Bank, again contrary to the Geneva Conventions.

In addition to violating international law, Amnesty International is warning that the combined effect of the wall, illegal Israeli settlements and drastic restrictions on the movement of Palestinians is leading to widespread poverty and suffering.

Amnesty International is also urging Tony Blair to raise the issue of the killings of civilians by Israeli security forces. Since the beginning of this year, Israeli forces have killed more than 110 Palestinians, including over 20 Children's rights. Of these, 35 were the victims of killings that amounted to extra-judicial executions, including nine bystanders at the scene of such assassinations. Many others were killed as a result of disproportionate and excessive use of force, notably reckless shooting and the shelling of densely populated residential areas by Israeli forces.

Recently the UK’s Attorney General Lord Goldsmith declared his intention to raise with the Israeli authorities the killings of two Britons - peace activist Tom Hurndall and journalist James Miller. Separate coroner’s inquests into the deaths in the UK have found that both killings were unlawful. No-one has been held responsible for Mr Miller’s death and while an Israeli soldier has been convicted of the manslaughter of Mr Hurndall, his family continue to campaign for others involved in his death to be brought to justice.

Kate Allen added:

“Killings by armed Palestinian groups are a serious concern and must be condemned in the strongest terms - indeed 16 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians already this year, but the sheer number of Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli army is deeply disturbing.

“The impunity enjoyed by Israeli forces responsible for killing civilians, including British peace activists or journalists, is another serious concern.

“Mr Blair should make it clear to his Israeli counterpart that Britain views Israel’s record on civilian deaths as unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International continues to call on the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority to condemn and prevent attacks against Israelis - and the human rights organisation believes that Mr Blair’s influence should be brought to bear both on the PA and Israel in respect of unlawful killings.

Amnesty International’s appeal to Tony Blair comes at a time of mounting concern that the international community is doing too little to offset an emerging humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Last month David Shearer, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, warned of such a crisis. Speaking at an Amnesty International event in London on 25 May, Mr Shearer predicted a “catastrophic” situation in coming months unless fiscal restrictions on the new Palestinian government are lifted and aid and investment allowed.

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