B’Tselem says Israeli ‘death’ zone in Gaza is illegal

January 4, 2006 5:28 PM IMEMC & Agencies Israel, Israeli Politics, News Report 0

The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, said the Israeli orders to automatically shoot at anyone in the "buffer zone" in northern Gaza is a flagrant violation of international human rights laws in times of war.

At the core of this is the principle of distinguishing between civilians and fighters. According to this principle, it is only permissible to attack fighters or military targets.
 
Caution and precaution must be taken as much as possible to prevent any harm to civilians. If there is any doubt about whether a certain individual is a civilian or a fighter, according to the laws of war, he must be considered a civilian.
 
These laws thus prohibit attacks directed at legitimate targets if their outcome will be excessive harm to civilians in proportion with the expected military gains from the attack.
 
In response to the firing of Qassam homemade shells by Palestinian organizations in the northern Gaza Strip at towns and military bases inside Israel, the Israeli army announced its campaign, Blue Sky.
 
The army called on Palestinian residents living in the northern Gaza Strip or in this area in particular to evacuate.
 
According to media reports, the Israeli army intends to begin a policy of automatically shooting at any person who enters this zone indiscriminate of their identity or reasons for being there.
 
B’Tselem considers any attacks directed at civilians and also attacks carried out with the knowledge that they will cause considerable damage to the civilian population, are recognized as war crimes. International law thus enforces criminal responsibility on any person involved in carrying out such crimes in addition to the responsibility that falls on the state.
 
The organization also considers that the homemade shells fired by Palestinian groups at Israeli towns and civilian facilities falls within prohibited attacks, which constitute war crimes in themselves. Still, the violation of the laws of war by one party does not exonerate the other party of prohibited acts under these laws.
 
B’Tselem stressed that the state of Israel is obligated to take all legal measures to protect the lives of its citizens. Opening fire indiscriminately at any person who enters a certain area is considered illegal and may lead to war crimes.
 
B’Tselem called on the head of the Israeli government and his defense minister to issue immediate orders to cancel these instructions. If they are not given, the necessary measures should be taken to ensure that Palestinian civilians are not harmed as a result of the army’s responses to the firing of missiles.
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