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West Bank Violence: Hamas must prevent further attacks on Israeli citizens

Amnesty International today strongly condemned recent attacks, one of them fatal, against Israeli civilians in the occupied West Bank and urged the 13 Palestinian armed groups who have issued a statement threatening further such actions to desist from attacking civilians.

In a letter sent to Isma’il Haniyeh, Prime Minister of the Hamas de facto administration in the Gaza Strip, Amnesty expressed its serious concern about the involvement claimed by Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, in the two recent incidents and urged the Hamas authorities to take immediate measures to prevent future attacks on civilians.

Amnesty also voiced its grave concern about a recent statement by 13 Palestinian armed groups, including the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, that more attacks on civilians are planned in response to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Four Israeli civilians, including a pregnant woman, who were travelling in a car near the settlement of Kiryat Arba were shot dead on the evening of 31 August, while two Israeli civilians were wounded in a shooting attack near the settlement of Kochav Hashachar on the evening of 1 September. In both cases the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades claimed “full responsibility”, according to their website and media reports. Hamas political leaders such as Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar and spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri, while not directly claiming involvement, have recently made statements which seem to condone such attacks.

Amnesty condemns all attacks targeting civilians, wherever, whenever and by whomever they are carried out and calls for those responsible to be held to account. Such attacks are prohibited absolutely under international law, regardless of the actions of other parties. The prohibition of deliberate attacks on civilians applies to everyone at all times, including to people under occupation who are engaged in armed struggle for self-determination.

Amnesty has repeatedly condemned the establishment of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. However, the unlawful status of Israeli settlements does not affect the civilian status of settlers, who only lose their protection from attack if and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.

Amnesty also notes with concern reports that many of the at least 350 people apprehended by Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces in the wake of the attacks have been arrested without a warrant, raising fears that many of those still held are being detained arbitrarily. While the PA has a duty to investigate and prosecute individuals under its jurisdiction who are alleged to have carried out or ordered such attacks, they must do so in the framework of respect for human rights. Additional concerns are raised by widely documented reports in recent years of torture and other ill-treatment of Hamas detainees in the custody of the PA security forces.

Following the two attacks on Israeli civilians, attacks on Palestinian civilians and their property have been carried out by Israeli civilians reportedly living in illegal settlements in the Nablus, Hebron and Jericho regions of the West Bank. Amnesty condemns these attacks and calls upon the Israeli authorities to prevent further such attacks against Palestinian civilians.

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