10 November 2003

US turns wrath on resistance fighters

US troops yesterday unleashed their most furious attack in Iraq since the official end of the war. The attacks, which happened in Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit, were carried out in response to the killing of six soldiers whose Black Hawk helicopter was shot down near the town on Friday.

As F16s jets dropped 500lb bombs on the area where the helicopter was shot down, US troops launched a massive sweep operation, designed as a show of force against resistance fighters based in the Sunni Triangle, which saw the arrest of several dozen alleged fighters and the death of five more.

Last night a loud explosion echoed across Baghdad. The sound came from the West bank of the Tigris River, where the coaltion has its headquarters. It follows mortar attacks on the complex earlier in the week.

This kind of response is known as collective punishment. The Fourth Geneva Convention provides:

Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Pillage is prohibited.

Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

Collective punishment is also foolish. In the vast majority of cases where occupying armies have resorted to it all that has resulted has been a growth in resistance.

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