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Friday, 1 November, 2002, 01:58 GMT
Palestinian suicide attacks condemned
A bombing at a Jerusalem falafel stand in July
Suicide attacks have killed scores of Israelis
A leading human rights group has condemned Palestinian suicide bombings as crimes against humanity.

A strongly-worded report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch says those who plan such attacks - which have killed scores of Israeli citizens over the past two years - should face criminal investigation.


Arafat and the Palestinian Authority took no effective action to bring to justice those who incited, planned or assisted in carrying out bombings and other attacks on Israeli civilians

Human Rights Watch report
The group says that even during a time of conflict, all attacks against civilians are crimes against humanity and should be treated as such.

Its report - entitled Erased in a Moment - concludes that those who carry out suicide bombings are not "martyrs" but war criminals, as are people who plan such attacks.

Human Rights Watch says the leaders of groups, such as Islamic Jihad and Hamas, should face criminal prosecution.

'Responsibility'

The 170-page report also makes uncomfortable reading for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

It says his Palestinian Authority (PA) failed to take measures to stop the suicide bombings and failed to bring those responsible to justice.

Destroyed houses in Jenin
Israel has flattened the houses of suicide bombers and militants
"The failure to take those steps implies a high degree of responsibility," the report says.

"Even when their capacity to act was largely intact, Arafat and the PA took no effective action to bring to justice those who incited, planned or assisted in carrying out bombings and other attacks on Israeli civilians," it adds.

However the Palestinian Authority denies the charge, saying arrests of prospective bombers have taken place, but blames what it calls Israeli aggression for creating an environment in which suicide bombers can be recruited.

In its report, Human Rights Watch also flatly rejects the widely-held Palestinian view that Jewish settlers who choose to live on occupied Palestinian land are legitimate targets.

The group says that while the settlements are illegal, people living in them are entitled to protection under international law.

'Shoot-out'

In renewed confrontation on Thursday, the Israeli army said a Palestinian gunman from the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades was killed in a shoot-out with an Israeli soldier near the Jewish settlement of Beit El in the West Bank.

And several Palestinian civilians were wounded in Israeli raids on Qalqilya and a village near Nablus, Palestinian sources said.

In the Gaza Strip, three people were killed in a blast at the house of an alleged Hamas militant.

Hamas officials said it was caused by explosives being prepared for use against Israeli tanks.

A number of other people were injured in the explosion in the Zeitun area of Gaza City.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jim Fish
"For many suicide bombers remain martyrs not war criminals"
Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch
"An atmosphere of impunity that has allowed these suicide bombings to continue"

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