Palestinian Center for Human Rights 29 September 2004
This report coincides with the 4th anniversary of the eruption of the al-Aqsa Intifada, which broke out following the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to al-Aqsa Mosque (the Holy Sanctuary) in occupied Jerusalem, which provoked outrage among Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims around the world. Over the last 4 years, Israeli occupying troops have perpetrated grave breaches of international law against Palestinian civilians, in a manner unprecedented since 1967.
The second year of the Intifada witnessed an increasing escalation in Israeli war crimes, when Israeli troops seized control over some towns in the West Bank, as the international community remained silent and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 failed to meet their obligations to ensure respect for the Convention in the occupied Palestinian Territory (OPTs) and provide protection for Palestinian civilians.
The international silence has served to encourage the Israeli government and its occupying troops to escalate the number of attacks against Palestinian civilians, while acting with impunity.
Over the last 12 months, Israeli occupying troops have stepped up illegal operations in the OPTs, employing highly developed heavy weaponry, such as warplanes, helicopter gunships, tanks, etc.
By the end of the fourth year of the al-Aqsa Intifada, 2872 Palestinians, including 2480 civilians, have been killed by Israeli occupying troops. 622 Palestinians, including 507 (342 in the Gaza Strip and 165 in the West Bank) were killed in the 4 th year of the Intifada. PCHR attributes the high number of the victims in the Gaza Strip to the Israeli military escalation that accompanied the Israeli Prime Minister’s claim on the disengagement plan. Many civilians were killed as a result of retaliatory acts by Israeli troops.
According to PCHR’s documentation, 119 Palestinians were killed in extra-judicial assassination, a policy which is officially adopted by the Israeli political and military establishments. Among the victims of these assassinations were prominent political figures, such as Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas, and Dr. ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-Rantissi, who succeeded Sheikh Yassin in leading Hamas.
The fourth year of the al-Aqsa Intifada witnessed an unprecedented escalation in violations of human rights perpetrated by Israeli occupying troops against Palestinian civilians, especially in the Gaza Strip, which was subject to wide scale offensives, such as the offensive on the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun and the offensive on the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah.
In Rafah, Israeli occupying forces launched a fierce offensive against the town and its refugee camp. They used excessive force against Palestinian civilians, killing dozens. They also destroyed hundreds of Palestinian houses, leaving hundreds of Palestinian families homeless. Israeli troops destroyed large areas of agricultural land and dozens of economic facilities.
In the fourth year of the Intifada, Israeli troops continued to shell Palestinian residential areas. Four Palestinian schoolchildren were either killed or injured while sitting at their desks at schools. Israeli troops also committed most of the extra-judicial executions inside densely populated areas, which caused many casualties among Palestinian civilians, especially children.
In the West Bank, Israeli occupying troops continued to construct the annexation wall inside the West Bank territory, in violation of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and the advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in Hague, which considered the construction of the wall illegal and called for its dismantlement.
Israeli military actions have violated the political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinian civilians. The four years of the al-Aqsa Intifada have been characterized by the following Israeli military attacks:
Gaza Strip: 7,886 (Total) 1,560 (4th year)
West Bank: 11,781 (Total) 2,500 (4th Year)
Total: 19,667 (Total) 4,060 (4th year)
Land leveling (in donums): 29,813 (Total) 8,961 (4th year)
House demolitions (Total): 2,441 (Complete) 2,105 (Partial)
House demolitions (4th year): 1,210 (Complete) 1,014 (Partial)
Industrial facilities destroyed: 561 (Total) 241 (4th year)
Educational facilities destroyed: 70 (Total) 22 (4th year)