* News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International * 21 February 2001 MDE 15/007/2001 30/01

The targeting of Palestinians suspected of attacking Israelis amounts to a policy of state assassination, Amnesty International said today.

In a new report out today the organization is urging the Israeli authorities to put an end to this liquidation policy and to investigate all unlawful killings of Palestinians.

During a recent visit to the region Amnesty International delegates examined several cases of individuals targeted for extrajudicial execution. They found that some of those killed could have been arrested and, in a reckless and disproportionate use of force, six Palestinian bystanders were also killed.

Taxi driver and alleged Hamas activist, Hani Abu Bakra, was gunned down on a road in the Gaza Strip in December 2000 by five soldiers standing only two metres away. Not only could the soldiers have arrested him, but they appeared to have no qualms about aiming their fire at a minibus full of people. Hani Abu Bakra was killed, another Palestinian wounded in the attack died later and a third was permanently disabled.

The organization also investigated other killings through excessive, random or negligent use of force by Israeli security forces, especially at checkpoints or during shooting at residential areas.

Delegates found disturbing evidence that Israeli forces had used high explosive air burst weapons like the M203 grenade launcher. When these grenades are aimed to burst 15 metres or less above the ground they will cause injuries or death to any people in the area. This appears to have happened on more than one occasion.

Five youths were wounded and one, Hani al-Sufi, 15, was killed when they were hit by shrapnel in a narrow alley between houses. Witnesses described the typical loud explosion, downward air pressure, and temporary deafness caused by these weapons. An examination of the shrapnel collected suggested that the weapon had been an M203 grenade launcher.

Other killings investigated by delegates involved a woman shot in a car passing a checkpoint and a child harvesting vegetables killed from about 800 metres away.

Amnesty International rejected the argument of the Israeli Defence Force and government that the situation was one of armed conflict which allows the government to liquidate those who may have targeted Israelis and to kill without investigating each death.

"The acceptance by Israel of unlawful killings and the failure to investigate each killing at the hands of the security services is leading to a culture of impunity among Israeli soldiers and is fuelling a cycle of violence and revenge in the region," Amnesty International said .

The report also condemns Palestinian armed groups which have targeted Israeli civilians and shot at Israeli settlements, often from residential areas.

More than 350 Palestinians have been killed, including nearly 100 children, by Israeli security services and more than 60 Israelis, including more than 30 civilians, have been killed by Palestinian armed groups.

"Israeli security forces and Palestinian armed groups are showing an appalling disregard of the supreme human right - the right to life," Amnesty International said.

You may repost this message onto other sources provided the main text is not altered in any way and both the header crediting Amnesty International and this footer remain intact. Only the list subscription message may be removed. ********************************************