Israel and Lebanon: ICRC gravely concerned about the plight of civilians caught up in hostilities

Israeli mobile artillery units fire across the border into southern Lebanon from a position outside the northern town of Nahariya near the Israeli-Lebanese border July 13, 2006. (MaanImages/Magnus Johansson)

Geneva - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is gravely concerned about the plight of civilians caught up in hostilities in Lebanon and Israel.

It calls upon the parties involved in the conflict to fully comply with the rules and principles of international law.

The ICRC is following the military developments in Lebanon and northern Israel with great concern, as these events are having a serious impact on civilians. According to the latest reports, almost 50 civilians have been killed inside Lebanon as a result of bombing and rocket attacks. Military action in the south of the country has caused extensive damage to infrastructure, including roads and major bridges. The civilian airport in Beirut was bombed by the Israeli Air Force on the morning of 13 July.

The ICRC is also alarmed by reports that several civilians were killed and dozens of people were injured when Hezbollah fired rockets into cities in northern Israel.

The ICRC urges Hezbollah to treat the two Israeli soldiers that they are detaining humanely, and to respect their lives and dignity. It has informed all parties that it stands ready to provide its services, in accordance with its humanitarian mandate and the provisions of international humanitarian law. It is a priority for the ICRC to gain access to the captured soldiers and assess their condition and the treatment they are receiving. The soldiers must also be allowed to contact their families.

Following reports from southern Lebanon of injuries to first-aid workers and severe damage to ambulances, the ICRC reminds the Israeli authorities that the emblems of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement must be respected at all times. Staff, installations and vehicles bearing these emblems are protected under international humanitarian law. All parties must respect their medical and humanitarian mission, and this includes granting access to people affected by military action.

The ICRC reminds the parties to the conflict that it is illegal to attack civilians who are not taking a direct part in hostilities and that it is illegal to attack civilian property. It further reminds the parties of their obligation to exercise precaution and to respect the principle of proportionality in all military operations, so as to prevent unnecessary suffering among the civilian population. In particular, all precautions must be taken to spare civilian life and property, and to ensure that the wounded have access to medical facilities. The obligation to distinguish between civilians and civilian property on the one hand, and military objectives on the other, is at the core of international humanitarian law and must be complied with at all times.

The ICRC is very concerned by the possible consequences for the civilian population of Israel’s establishment of a sea and air blockade on Lebanon. The ICRC reminds Israel of its obligations under international humanitarian law, notably the obligation to respect the principle of proportionality when establishing a blockade.

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  • BY TOPIC: Israel invades Lebanon (12 July 2006)