As a human rights organisation dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq is gravely concerned by the actions of Israeli soldiers during an arrest raid in Hebron early this morning, which left one person dead and several others seriously injured. Based on first hand testimony gathered by staff members in the aftermath of the event, Al-Haq has documented the incident, the facts of which are summarised below.
At approximately 12:20 am on Wednesday, 6 June 2007, a large Israeli military force, comprising at least 50 soldiers, came to the house of Yehia al-Jabari. Yehia, who was 72-years-old, lived with his family in a two-storey house in the B’er Haram area of Hebron city. Upon opening the front door of the house to the soldiers, Rajih al-Jabari, the 26-year-old son of Yehia, was dragged outside. Without any warning or justification, the Israeli soldiers began to beat Rajih, violently hitting his head against the wall of the house. At this point, Yehia, who had only moments earlier returned home from visiting a relative, came outside with his wife Fatima to see what was happening. Seeing the soldiers attacking his son, Yehia, who was unarmed, attempted to intervene and protect his son. While doing so, he was shot once in the forehead by an Israeli soldier; the bullet exiting the rear of his head. He then fell to the ground, where he lay motionless, presumably having been killed instantly. Immediately afterward, his wife, who was also unarmed, began screaming and attempted to reach Yehia’s body. An Israeli soldier, however, opened fire on her, hitting her six times. Fatima, who was hit in numerous parts of her body, including the head and chest, fell to the ground.
At this time, two of Yehia’s sons, 24-year-old Kamil and 36-year-old Radi, exited the front door of the house. There, they found their parents lying in pools of blood on the ground, surrounded by a large number of Israeli soldiers. In attempting to move their father’s corpse from the front steps, where it was lying, the two brothers were screamed at by an Israeli soldier who ordered them to stop. Radi ignored the soldier, pushing him away. In response, however, the soldier opened fire on the brothers, hitting Kamil in the foot. After Kamil had fallen to the ground, Radi knelt beside his father’s body and began to cry. The soldiers, however, began to beat him in an attempt to move him away.
By this stage, a number of other family members and neighbours had gathered nearby. They were prevented from reaching the injured persons by the Israeli soldiers who forced them back violently, in some instances, beating the men and women with the butts of their guns.
Soon after the aforementioned events had taken place, the injured were transferred to ambulances that had arrived at the scene. Despite the serious condition of several of the wounded, the Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulances to leave the area for a full 15 minutes after they were ready to do so.
Once the injured persons were eventually transferred to hospital, the soldiers gathered the remaining family members, as well as a number of other individuals who were present, inside the house. There, the women were kept in a single room, while the men were kept under guard in the corridor outside. They remained there for 45 minutes while the Israeli soldiers carried out an extensive search of the house, in the course of which they found no weapons, nor did they arrest any individuals. Only after the soldiers had completed the search did they inform the Palestinians present that they were looking for Salih al-Jabari, the 17-year-old son of Yehia. At approximately 2:30 am, the soldiers finally agreed to leave the area after receiving assurances that Salih would present himself to the Israeli authorities the following day.
Regarding those Palestinians taken to hospital for treatment, a number of individuals were released after being treated for shock and/or for the injuries they sustained having being beaten by the Israeli soldiers. More worryingly, 57-year-old Fatima al-Jabari is presently in a critical condition, while her son, Rajih al-Jabari, remains in an extremely serious condition.
Al-Haq is deeply disturbed by the nature of this and other recent military operations in the OPT where the intention to kill and/or the indifference to preserving civilian life on the part of the Israeli forces has been all too evident. Al-Haq strongly condemns this morning’s unprovoked and unjustifiable attack on civilians as an egregious violation of the fundamental principles of international law. The non-derogable right to life, that most basic of human rights from which all others stem, was brazenly disregarded by the Israeli soldiers involved.
Under customary international humanitarian law, the Israeli army is obliged to distinguish at all times between civilians and combatants, and to in all circumstances refrain from directing attacks against civilians. The use of force in a situation such as this, whereby the Israeli soldiers were met with no resistance, cannot be justified on the grounds of military necessity and is clearly unlawful.
Thus, the arbitrary execution of Yehia al-Jabari amounts to a ‘wilful killing’ and thereby constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention under Article 147. Grave breaches are essentially the most heinous of war crimes, for which the perpetrators are individually criminally responsible. The grave breaches regime obliges all High Contracting Parties to the Convention to search for and prosecute such perpetrators.
The shootings and severe beatings of other members of the al-Jabira family, as well as the obstruction of the ambulance that came to transport them to hospital, amount to further contraventions of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law towards protected civilians and injured persons. In addition, the prohibition on cruel or inhuman treatment and the right to health, both firmly enshrined in the lexicon of international human rights law, were recklessly disregarded by the Israeli military forces. Forty years on from Israel’s invasion and occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, the rights of the Palestinian population continue to be violated systematically and with impunity.