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August 11, 2006

Parties to Conflict in Lebanon Must Aid Humanitarian Assistance to Civilians

Human Rights First is deeply concerned by reports that the parties to the conflict in southern Lebanon are hindering access to humanitarian assistance for the civilian population. Both the continuing Hezbollah attacks from within populated civilian areas and denial by the Israel Defense Forces of access to humanitarian convoys into southern Lebanon are exacerbating the mounting humanitarian crisis. This week, U.N. Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, reiterated the urgent need for such access in order to “help 120,000 people in southern Lebanon.”

Human Rights First calls upon Hezbollah, the Lebanese government of which it is a part, and the government of Israel to facilitate the provision of humanitarian protection and assistance to the affected civilian population. Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stressed this week that his organization faces “enormous obstacles to bringing aid convoys loaded with essential foodstuffs, water and medicines for trapped civilians.” He urged “the time for improved access is long overdue.”

Human Rights First calls on Hezbollah and the government of Israel to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population. Specifically, we urge all parties to cooperate with and support efforts by international humanitarian agencies, including the United Nations and the ICRC to provide necessary services and care to civilian populations. All parties should respect the humanitarian corridors established to deliver this necessary assistance to civilians. We also urge governments to contribute to the U.N.’s special humanitarian appeal for Lebanon to supply food, healthcare, water and sanitation to the victims of the conflict.

Human Rights First reiterates its call on Hezbollah to cease immediately the indiscriminate rocket bombardment of civilian population centers in Israel. We urge also that they refrain from using civilian populations to shield their military activities. Hezbollah is bound by the rules of international humanitarian law and they must not target civilians or civilian infrastructure.

We also renew our call on the Government of Israel to respect the principle of proportionality in its military operations, so as to prevent the unnecessary suffering among civilian populations in Lebanon. Even where there are legitimate military objectives the Government of Israel must refrain from attacking when the degree of civilian harm likely to be inflicted outweighs the military advantage to be gained.