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Above all else, innocent civilians must be protected

PUBLISHED: 16:48 29 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:52 07 September 2010

With two shaky and unilateral ceasefires now in place in Gaza, and the scale of the destruction becoming apparent, a key question should be asked: is anyone going to be held responsible for war crimes? Evidence of war crimes has emerged - both of Palesti

With two shaky and unilateral ceasefires now in place in Gaza, and the scale of the destruction becoming apparent, a key question should be asked: is anyone going to be held responsible for war crimes?

Evidence of war crimes has emerged - both of Palestinian armed groups unacceptably launching rockets into civilian areas of southern Israel, and of the Israeli military's inexcusable behaviour.

Amnesty International has eyewitness accounts of Israeli soldiers in Gaza bursting into Palestinian homes, forcing families to stay in a ground-floor room while using the house as a sniper position. In other words, Palestinian men, women and children were used as human shields in violation of the Geneva Conventions - precisely what Israel accused Hamas of doing.

We're urging readers to write to their local MPs calling on them to ask the UK government to lobby for an independent investigation that could help bring perpetrators to justice for crimes committed in Gaza. Meanwhile, there should be an arms embargo on all parties to this conflict.

It isn't about taking sides - it's about calling for justice, for both Palestinian and Israeli civilians. Without the deterrent effect of credible accountability for those guilty of war crimes, it is more likely that conflict will erupt again as future leaders feel they can get away with murder.

Jane Bywaters

Hornsey & Wood Green Amnesty International

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