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25 December '09: Palestinians kill an Israeli civilian in Nablus district

B'Tselem strongly condemnss the killing of a an Israeli civilian, Meir Avshalom Chai, yesterday (24 Decebmer 2009) by Palestinians in the Nablus district. Deliberate attacks against civilians are immoral and illegal. Wilful killing of civilians is defined as a "grave breach" of international humanitarian law and is a war crime.

Over the past nine 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.

In addition, some Palestinian spokespersons argue that because the settlements are illegal and many settlers belong to Israel's security forces, attacks against settlers are legal. This argument is readily refuted. The illegality of the settlements has no effect at all on their residents' status as civilians. The settlers constitute a distinctly civilian population, which is entitled to all the protections granted civilians by international law. The Israeli security forces' use of land in the settlements or the fact that some settlers belong to the Israeli security forces does not affect the status of the other residents of settlements, and certainly does not make them legitimate targets of attack.

B'Tselem strongly opposes the attempts to justify attacks against Israeli civilians by using distorted interpretations of international law and demands that the Palestinian Authority do everything within its power to prevent attacks of this kind in the future.