Amnesty International report blasts Israel, Palestinians

May 23, 2013 at 5:32 AM
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NEW YORK, May 23 (UPI) -- Uprisings that swept across North Africa and the Middle East starting in 2011 still are shaping human rights developments, an Amnesty International report said.

While addressing the situation across the Middle East, Amnesty International, in its annual report on the region, accused both Israel and the Palestinians of "violating international humanitarian law" and "committing war crimes," in the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip last November.

Israeli air force strikes "were disproportionate" and caused heavy civilian casualties, the report said. The Hamas military wing and other Palestinian armed groups fired rockets and other weapons into Israel, the report stated.

Amnesty International criticized Israel for restricting the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the continued expansion of West Bank settlements and the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

There was no official Israeli government response to the report.

In Syria, Amnesty International said, "gross human rights abuses and war crimes by all parties" as well as "crimes against humanity by government forces," persist in the civil war between government and rebel forces.

Widespread destruction and terror led to the displacement of more than 2 million people in Syria and, by the end of 2012, had forced almost 600,000 people to seek refuge outside the country, the report said.

Greater media freedom, expanding opportunities for civil society were noted in countries such as Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen where autocratic rulers had been ousted, the organization said.

At the same time there are setbacks, such as challenging freedom of expression on religious or moral grounds.

In Persian Gulf states, activists, poets, health workers and others were imprisoned simply "for calling for reform or for expressing their views." In Bahrain, authorities continue to detain prisoners of conscience, including leading members of the opposition and human rights activists, the report said.

New laws in Algeria and Jordan tightened controls on the media, and the Moroccan authorities clamped down on journalists and dissidents, Amnesty International said.

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