Red Cross Official Criticizes Israel over Rights Abuses in Territories

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross has told top Israeli officials during a visit here that Israel’s closure of the administered territories has led to human rights abuses that violate the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Red Cross President Cornelio Sommaruga made the comments to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and President Ezer Weizman in separate meetings Sunday and Monday.

The 1949 international treaty signed in Geneva outlines the obligations of an occupying power toward people living under occupation in its control.

Israel has repeatedly rejected the notion that it is an occupying power as defined under the convention. At the same time, though, Israel has said it accepts the human rights principles that are delineated by the provision.

Sommaruga told Weizman he was particularly concerned about denying Palestinians access to eastern Jerusalem. He cited the denial of access to health services, places of worship, schools and commercial activity.

Coincidentally, the Cabinet on Sunday loosened regulations for Palestinians who wish to enter Israel proper for precisely these purposes.

Meanwhile, Weizman reminded Sommaruga that the closure was triggered by a wave of Arab terrorist violence that threatened the safety of Israelis even in the heart of Tel Aviv.

“I explained to my guest the problems we had here prior to the closure and that eventually things will be solved when we talk about the future of the countries in the Middle East,” Weizman said.

The president also raised with Sommaruga the issue of missing Israeli airman Ron Arad, captured in 1986 in a raid over Lebanon.

Weizman complained that Syria would not give any information to Israel about Arad’s whereabouts or condition, despite its control over territory held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, which Weizman charged has been holding Arad.

For his part, Sommaruga said the Red Cross is doing everything it can to locate Arad and return him to Israel.

On Sunday, Sommaruga told Rabin he was concerned about the excessive violence committed by Israeli soldiers against the Palestinian population for the preservation of “law and order.”

The Red Cross president also pressed his concerns about the practice of destroying homes of wanted terrorists, the conditions of administrative detainees and Red Cross access to Lebanese detainees in southern Lebanon and Israel.

Rabin told Sommaruga: “The injury of innocent civilians is a tragedy and we are doing everything to reduce it.”

At the same time, he noted that in the last year there had been an increase in the use of live weapons, grenades and explosives used by Palestinians.

Rabin also defended the destruction of the homes of wanted fugitives, saying a home is destroyed only after a complete evacuation.

He added that the occupants of destroyed homes who did not in fact shelter wanted people were entitled to compensation.

He said that as soon as terrorist violence ceased, there would no longer be a need to employ administrative detention.

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