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Israel/PA: Hamas Must End Civilian Attacks
(New York, August 7, 2002) Human Rights Watch today urged armed Palestinian factions to immediately stop all attacks on civilians.

Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the spiritual leader of the militant group Hamas that has claimed responsibility for many of these attacks, calling on him to publicly disavow the attacks and direct his followers to end them.

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"There is no justification ever for attacking civilians. International humanitarian law explicitly prohibits reprisals against civilians."

Hanny Megally
Executive Director
Middle East and North Africa

"There is no justification ever for attacking civilians," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch. "International humanitarian law explicitly prohibits reprisals against civilians."

Human Rights Watch made its appeal after a weekend in which multiple shooting and bomb attacks killed at least 13 civilians and injured scores of others. The attacks included a suicide bombing on a bus in northern Israel on August 4, which Hamas claimed it had carried out. Hamas also claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria on July 31, which killed seven students and injured 80. Hamas said that the attacks were in retaliation for an Israeli air strike on Gaza City in which 15 people were killed, including the group's military leader.

Human Rights Watch urged Sheikh Yassin to use his considerable influence to publicly oppose attacks on civilians and to call on Hamas members to cease such attacks immediately. Yassin and other Hamas leaders should then take concrete steps to bring these crimes to an end.

According to two recent surveys, the level of Palestinian public support for attacks on civilians, while high, has dropped in recent months. In mid-June, a group of more than 50 Palestinians, including academics, legislators and activists, signed a petition calling for an end to suicide bombings. In the following weeks, more than 400 signatories added their names to the petition, and the issue has become the focus of public debate.

"As public discussion of the utility and morality of these attacks grows, real leadership is needed," Megally said. "Palestinians leaders, including those involved with armed groups, must speak out against these inhumane and illegal attacks on civilians. And they should do it now."

The letter to Sheikh Yassin can be found on the Human Rights Watch website at: