Amnesty International head visits Israeli victims

TEL AVIV — Responding to criticism that human rights groups ignore Israeli victims, the head of Amnesty International on Monday visited Israelis hurt in Palestinian terror attacks.

Throughout 19 months of battles, Israeli officials have complained that international human rights groups have not condemned suicide bombings and shooting attacks, which many Palestinians support as a legitimate means in their struggle for an independent homeland.

"There is no excuse for human rights abuse whether in the name of security or in the name of liberation," Irene Khan, Amnesty's secretary-general, said Monday.

Khan said that the Palestinian Authority and armed Palestinian groups have a responsibility under international law to protect the rights of civilians.

Khan, who also toured the Jenin refugee camp on her visit to the region, came to a Tel Aviv hospital Monday and talked with two Israelis recovering from Palestinian attacks.

Aviad Ohayon, 18, remembered pleading with a tall gunman, just a year older than him, who cut through the fence of the Jewish settlement of Atzmona in the Gaza Strip.

"We said to him that we were just students, we don't have a weapon," he said from a hospital bed two months after the attack. The gunman shot into a crowd of teens studying religious texts, killing five of Ohayon's classmates. The attack left blood on the walls, white tile floors and on the pages of prayerbooks.

It took 15 minutes for the gunman, Mohammed Farhat from the Islamic militant Hamas group, to toss six grenades and empty nine ammunition clips from his M-16 assault rifle before he was gunned down by Israeli soldiers.

Ohayon was hit in the leg by a bullet. A grenade scrapped shrapnel on his arms, legs and abdomen. Rescuers first put Ohayon's limp body with the dead until a friend saw he was still breathing.

Down the hall, 25-year-old Anna Vaishlaine, in a red and black running suit, sat in a wheelchair. She is paralyzed.

The immigrant from Simferopol, Ukraine, was on her first day of work as a waitress at the Park Hotel in the coastal town of Netanya. A suicide bomber entered the hotel dining room behind some 300 guests who had arrived to eat a ritual Seder meal at the start of Passover on March 27.

"My friend said, 'Look at this strange man at the entrance. He looks like a suicide bomber.' And I told her you're crazy, it couldn't be," Vaishlaine remembered.

The man wore a heavy coat, a long wig and yellow glasses.

"Now when I think about it…he was looking to see where the best place would be to stand in order to cause the most damage," she said.

Vaishlaine leaned over to hear a diner's order when the bomber exploded. She was buried under tables and debris. She couldn't feel her legs. Even calling for help was painful — a nail pierced her lungs.

Vaishlaine will have to move with her husband and 1-year-old son to a new apartment with an elevator. Doctors don't think she'll ever walk again.

"Thanks for sharing your story," Khan told her. "We admire your courage."