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Middle East
Arms embargo against Israel urged
Amnesty International asks US to investigate misuse of weapons by Israel during Gaza war.
Last Modified: 23 Feb 2009 13:02 GMT
There are renewed calls for a UN investigation into possible war crimes in Gaza [AFP]

Amnesty International has released a report calling for a global arms embargo against Israel because of its conduct during the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip.

The rights group also said US weapons had been misused by Israel during its 22-day assault on the Palestinian territory.

Amnesty International (AI) further called on the UN to launch an immediate investigation into allegations of war crimes by Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian group which governs Gaza.

The group appealed to the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on both Israel and armed Palestinian groups such as Hamas.

"In addition, all states should suspend all transfers of military equipment, assistance and munitions to Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until there is no longer a substantial risk of human rights violations," Malcolm Smart, AI's Middle East director, said.

'White phosphorus'

Donatella Rovera, who led the AI's investigation in Gaza, said: "Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.

"States should suspend all transfers of military equipment ... until there is no longer a substantial risk of human rights violations"

Malcolm Smart, Middle East director for Amnesty International

"Their attacks resulted in the death of hundreds of children and other civilians, and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure."

The war in Gaza ended on January 18 after both sides announced they would hold fire, but not before more than 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

The AI report said fragments and components of artillery, tank shells, mortar fins and airborne missiles and bombs were found in school playgrounds, hospitals and homes in Gaza.

Rovera also condemned armed Palestinian groups for firing hundreds of rockets at civilian areas in Israel.

"Though far less lethal than the weaponry used by Israel, such rocket firing also constitutes a war crime and caused several civilian deaths," she said.

Appeal to US

AI called on Washington to investigate Israel's use of US weapons in Gaza.

Colby Goodman, a policy director for military security at AI, said the US has done so at least six times previously.

"According to the Arms Export Control act, when there's a potential violation by another country of that act, using US weapons, the state department is required to investigate those allegations," he said.

Washington gives $3bn a year in military aid to Israel.

Israel has rejected the findings of the AI report and criticised its methodology.

It said the report "presents a biased version of the events, and does not adhere to professional criteria and objectivity".

"Armaments employed by the IDF [Israel's military] comply both with international law and with its usage by Western armies," a foreign ministry statement said on Monday.

Critical of report

Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland, reporting from Jerusalem, said AI has been criticised by Israel for not taking into account the full extent of Palestinian rockets and mortars - around 10,000 - fired over the last eight years.

"Israel is also very critical of Amnesty for not mentioning what Israel says was Hamas' use of civilians in Gaza as human shields," she said.

Hamas has also rejected AI's criticism of its actions.

It said the report is unfair, and that there is no comparison between the Israeli war machine and Palestinians who "defend themselves with some rifles and other primitive means".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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