Governments and organizations from around the world have condemned the July 23 Israeli attack on five apartment buildings in a highly populated area of Gaza City. The F-16 fighter jet bombing killed 15 Palestinian civilians, including nine children, and wounded 150 people, and occurred at a time when seven of eight cities in the West Bank have been occupied for over one month.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said, “Under international human rights and humanitarian law the reckless killing of civilians is absolutely prohibited, regardless of the military significance of the target being attacked.”

She continued, “Israel must not abandon its core standards and values, even in the face of the serious security threat to its own civilian population. The current cycle of savagery must end.”

The Associated Press reported that, just prior to the bombing, a ceasefire proposal was presented to the Israelis by the Palestinians. The proposal stated that Israel would end its occupation of Palestinian cities, withdraw to the lines that existed before violence erupted in September 2000, release prisoners and stop killing terror suspects. In exchange, the Palestinians would restructure their security services, resume security cooperation with Israel, collect illegal weapons and arrest militants.

Palestinian sources said President Yasser Arafat was close to an agreement with Hamas to stop attacks on Israeli civilians. An aid to President Arafat, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said Israel knew agreement was near, but Sharon sabotaged it because “his only solution is violence and more violence.”

Gush Shalom, a peace organization in Israel, said, “Less than 24 hours ago, the Hamas leader Sheikh Ahamad Yassin made an unprecedented public call for a ceasefire with Israel. That call was the culmination of long, patient negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas leadership, aimed at achieving a ceasefire between the Palestinians and Israel, putting an end to suicide bombings and paving the way to a resumption of some kind of political process.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the statement said, “with his endless string of provocations … bears the responsibility for this missed opportunity of ending the cycle of bloodshed.”

Sharon has called the bombing “one of our biggest successes.”

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana reacted to the bombing, saying, “This extra-judicial killing operation, which targeted a densely populated area, comes at a time when both Israelis and Palestinians were working very seriously to curb violence and restore co-operative security arrangements.”

Mohammad Adwan, a spokesman for the Jordanian government, echoed this concern. He told the BBC, “The Jordanian government condemns this attack and casts doubt over its timing, especially [as] it coincided with new signs for a peaceful settlement and Arab and international agreement to end the escalation.”

This was the second time in less than two weeks that the Israeli occupying forces used F-16 fighter jets to attack homes in highly populated areas. The Palestine Center for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza City reported, “The Israeli forces have stepped up the excessive and disproportionate use of force once again. These latest attacks have set grave precedent.” PCHR reported that on July 14, an Israeli F-16 attacked a three-story house in Khan Yunis in an attempt to assassinate one of its residents, who was wanted by the Israeli occupying forces. He survived the assassination attempt but the house was destroyed.

PCHR expressed grave concern about Israel’s ongoing and escalating violations of international human rights and humanitarian law against Palestinian civilians, including war crimes, saying that “the failure of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to take concrete steps to stop these crimes serves only to encourage Israel and its occupying forces to commit more war crimes and other violations against Palestinian civilians and their property. The cover provided for Israel by the U.S., the U.S.’ deliberate obstruction of the enforcement of the international humanitarian law … have all effectively put Israel above international law, allowing it to act with total impunity.”

In reaction to the Gaza City bombing, Deputy Defence Minister Dalia Rabin-Pelosof resigned, charging the Sharon government with destroying the life work of the late Yitzhak Rabin, her father.

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