New Amnesty Report: Out of all proportion - civilians bear the brunt of the war

The 34-day war between Hizbullah and Israel in July/August 2006 caused widespread death and destruction in both Israel and Lebanon, with civilians bearing the brunt of military operations.

This report, the third published by Amnesty International on aspects of the conflict, focuses on Israeli attacks in which civilians were killed as well as the impact on civilians of other attacks by Israeli forces. It also examines allegations that Hizbullah used civilians as “human shields”. Previously Amnesty International focused on Israel’s attacks on the infrastructure in Lebanon and on Hizbullah’s rocket bombardment of northern Israel.

More than 1,000 civilians in Lebanon were killed, around a third of them children, during intense Israeli bombardment of Lebanon by land, sea and air. Some of the victims were killed in their homes, others in their vehicles when seeking to comply with Israeli orders to evacuate their villages. Still others were killed when ambulances, factories, schools and other civilian buildings were hit by Israeli missiles and bombs.

The bombardment devastated Lebanon’s infrastructure, major roads and bridges, power stations and water plants. Thousands of homes and commercial properties were reduced to rubble. A million people were displaced during the conflict and many families found themselves destitute and homeless after the ceasefire.

This report is based on extensive fieldwork carried out in Lebanon and Israel during and after the war, including discussions with Israeli and Lebanese officials, and analyses relevant legal standards. It concludes that Israeli forces committed serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes. In particular, Israeli forces carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on a large scale. These include the sustained artillery bombardment of south Lebanon and, in particular, the widespread use of cluster bombs in civilian areas in the last days of fighting, leaving a lethal legacy which continues to blight civilian lives.

The report recalls Amnesty International’s findings published earlier that Hizbullah fighters also committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes such as indiscriminate attacks and direct attacks on civilians. The evidence examined in this report suggests that, in at least some cases, Hizbullah fighters stored Katyusha rockets within villages and fired from civilian areas, although the extent of such conduct is not clear.

The report ends by calling for all those involved in the conflict to conduct prompt, independent, impartial and thorough investigations of reported violations; bring perpetrators to justice; and ensure victims receive full reparations.

The report also calls on the UN to set up an international commission to investigate the evidence of violations of international human rights, humanitarian and criminal law by the parties to the conflict; make recommendations for addressing impunity for violations committed and preventing future violations; and make recommendations on the form of reparation, including financial compensation. Amnesty International urges all states and the parties to the conflict to co-operate with such an inquiry.

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