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From the field

23 Oct. 08: Israeli civilian stabbed to death by a Palestinian in East Jerusalem

B'Tselem severely condemns the Palestinian terror attack today in Gilo neighborhood in East Jerusalem, in which an elderly Israeli civilian was stabbed to death.

Over the past seven years, Palestinian terror attacks perpetrated in Israel and in the Occupied Territories have killed hundreds and injured thousands of Israeli civilians, among them men, women, and children.

Attacks aimed at civilians are immoral, inhuman, and illegal. Intentional killing of civilians is a grave breach of international humanitarian law and is considered a war crime that can never be justified, whatever the circumstances may be.

The main justification raised by Palestinian organizations for attacks on Israeli civilians is that "in the struggle to end foreign occupation and achieve independence, all means are legitimate." This argument is baseless and undermines the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, which requires that civilians remain outside the sphere of hostilities, and therefore stipulates that a distinction must be made between combatants and civilians and that intentional attacks on civilians are prohibited. These rules are part of international customary law and apply to every state, organization, and person.

The Palestinian organizations must immediately stop attacks on civilians.

Persons who are involved in committing war crimes bear personal criminal responsibility for their acts. Since the attack was carried out by Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority has the obligation to prosecute the persons responsible for planning and carrying it out. Because of the severity of such attacks, and given that they constitute an international crime, all states have the right to prosecute the persons responsible. If the Palestinian Authority or Hamas (which has de facto control of the Gaza Strip) does not prosecute the perpetrators according to appropriate standards, it is the duty of other states to do so.