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Amnesty calls for arms embargo on Israel and Palestinians after Gaza offensive

Article published on the 2009-02-23 Latest update 2009-02-24 07:25 TU

 Israeli weapons explode over Gaza in January(Photo: Reuters )

Israeli weapons explode over Gaza in January
(Photo: Reuters )

The human rights campaign Amnesty International has called for an international arms embargo on Israel and Palestinian armed groups after civilian deaths in January's Gaza offensive. The London-based group says that Israel used white phosphorous and other weapons supplied by the US.

"Israeli forces used white phosphorus and other weapons supplied by the USA to carry out serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes," said Donatella Rovera, who headed Amnesty's fact-finding mission to southern Israel and Gaza.

"Their attacks resulted in the death of hundreds of children and other civilians, and massive destruction of homes and infrastructure."

Rovera also noted that Hamas and other Palestinian groups fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, killing civilians.

"Though far less lethal than the weaponry used by Israel," she said, "such rocket firing also constitutes a war crime and caused several civilian deaths."

Amnesty has called on the UN Security Council to slap an immediate and comprehensive arms embargo on Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until "effective mechanisms" are created to ensure that arms are not used in violation of international law.

The Israeli army carried out an air raid on the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Monday after an army patrol came under fire along the border of the territory. The attacks are the latest violations of ceasefires declared at the end of the offensive.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has suspended Amos Gilad, his chief negotiator in efforts to prolong the truce, Amos Gilad.

The suspension comes after Gilad criticised Olmert for changing positions  by making the release of kidnapped Franco-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit a condition for a permanent ceasefire. Gilad said that the changes amounted to "insulting the Egyptians", who have brokered ceasefire talks.