[JURIST] Amnesty International issued a scathing statement on Thursday condemning Israel and Lebanese political group Hezbollah [Wikipedia backgrounder] for causing civilian deaths and taking hostages in violation of Geneva Convention protections. Israeli air strikes killed 40 civilians and injured 60 in southern Lebanon on Wednesday after Hezbullah crossed the Israeli border, kidnapping two Israeli soldiers and killing eight others. Amnesty said the Israeli and Hezbollah actions violated Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention [text], which bans "collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism," as well as Article 147, which bans hostage-taking and "extensive destruction…not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly." Amnesty called on the Lebanese government to "take concrete measures to ensure that Hezbollah complies with [its] obligations under international law."
Meanwhile, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has urged [press release] that those responsible for killings in Israel and the Palestinian Authority be held accountable. Philip Alston said that both sides must cooperate with procedures established by the Human Rights Council [official website], which held a special session last week where the Council condemned the West Bank conflict [JURIST report] as breaching international law, and adopted a resolution [PDF text] calling for the end of violence against civilians.
5:44 PM ET – Also Thursday, the US vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution advanced by Qatar and supported by Arab countries that would have accused Israel of a "disproportionate use of force" against Palestinian civilians and called for a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. The veto was the first for the US in almost two years. Read US UN Ambassador John Bolton's explanatory statement. Denmark, Peru, Slovakia and United Kingdom abstained from voting on the draft, which additionally called on Israel to free Palestinian Hamas lawmakers it had seized and urged the Palestinian Authority to act to stop rockets being fired into Israel from Gaza. AP has more. The UN News Center has additional coverage.