Gaza, Beirut, 4 September 2002 (UN Information Centre)- Statement by Terje Roed-Larsen, United Nations Special Co-ordinator, on the killing of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military:
I am deeply disturbed by the recent Israeli military attacks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that killed at least 12 Palestinian civilians. I send my sympathies and condolences to the families who lost loved ones. I urge the Government of Israel to fully investigate these incidents and if breaches of international law are found, hold accountable those in violation. On this, I welcome the announcement by Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israel’s Defense Minister, that he is conducting a speedy inquiry.
Major recent incidents include: the deaths of four members of one family in the Gaza Strip by an IDF tank which Israeli newspapers report fired flechette ammunition; the killing of four children by a helicopter-fired missile in Tubas in the northern West Bank; and the shooting deaths of four workers near Hebron. At least 15 civilians have also been wounded in these incidents.
Israel’s prolific use of tank and helicopter munitions in areas with heavy civilian presence has frequently caused significant numbers of civilian casualties. For example, the flechette allegedly used in the Gaza incident is ordnance that fires thousands of small darts designed to maximize injury and death. Military action that fails to take reasonable measures to minimize civilian casualties is a violation of international law.
While the killing of so many Palestinian civilians in such a short period has focused the world’s attention on this issue, deaths of innocents on both sides has been recurring phenomenon of the current conflict. I have consistently condemned suicide bombings by Palestinian groups as morally reprehensible acts of mass murder. Such attacks, however, are no validation for the killing of more innocents. I must remind both Israeli and Palestinian authorities that whatever the threat, both must act in accordance with the standards of conduct prescribed by international law. No justification can be offered for the intentional or unintentional killing of civilians.