A human rights group on Wednesday accused Israel of excessive force against the Palestinians during the 10-week intifada but also took Yasser Arafat's self-rule authority responsible for failing to stop anti-Israel attacks or keep children away from conflict zones.
"In spite of claims to the contrary, Israel has not adopted a policy of restraint in its response to events in the occupied territories," the Israeli group B'Tselem said in a report on the violence that has so far claimed the lives of more than 300 people.
"Israel uses excessive and disproportionate force in dispersing demonstrations of unarmed Palestinians," it said in a 40-page report that called for an international commission of inquiry into the unrest.
But B'Tselem, which monitors human rights in the occupied territories of the Gaza Strip and Israel, also criticized the Palestinian Authority for failing to make "serious efforts to prevent children from participating in demonstrations, in spite of the grave danger."
"The Palestinian Authority does almost nothing to prevent Palestinians from attacking Israeli civilians," it added, nor to prevent armed Palestinians from shooting from populated areas, which exposes civilians to the brunt of Israeli retaliation.
B'Tselem said while the establishment of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories was a violation of international law, it did not justify attacks on settlers.
The rights group also denounced the crippling blockade slapped on the Gaza Strip and West Bank by Israel soon after the violence erupted at the end of September.
"Collective punishment, in the form of Israel's severe restrictions on Palestinians' movement in the occupied territories, makes life unbearable for hundreds of thousands with no justification," it said, complaining that the restrictions were also imposed on medical teams and ambulances.
It also branded a curfew on Palestinians in the West Bank of Hebron and other villages imposed to protect settlers as "blatant discrimination" and denounced the failure of Israeli solders to prevent settler attacks on Palestinians.
B'Tselem complained that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority prevent journalists from freely covering the events, thereby restricting freedom of speech.
An international commission headed by former US senator and Northern Ireland peace process mediator George Mitchell is due in the region next week to begin an inquiry into the violence – JERUSALEM (AFP)
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