Since the beginning of this month, Israeli forces have killed 44 Palestinians, including women and children. According to data from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and the Ministry of Health, 30 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and 14 in the West Bank. Among those killed are 18 minors. More than 197 Palestinians, mostly children, were wounded in the same period. In February 2004, Israeli forces killed 52 Palestinians. Since the beginning of 2004, Israeli forces killed 128 Palestinians.
In his recent report, John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, who visited the region in February, noted that the situation is characterized by serious violations of general international law, of human rights law and of international humanitarian law. “It is not helpful to suggest that a solution can be found to the conflict in the region by ignoring norms of international law”, he wrote. Dugard’s report, which is an addendum to the Special Rapporteur’s report of 8 September 2003, stated that Israeli forces have “inflicted a reign of terror upon innocent Palestinians in the course of their assassination of militants in densely populated towns, their destruction of homes, and their random firing in built-up areas - not to mention the methodical intimidation and humiliation of civilians at checkpoints.”
The mandate of the Special Rapporteur is to investigate Israel’s “violations of the principles and bases of international law, international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons of 1949” in the occupied territories.
On Saturday, March 13, Israeli forces killed two Palestinians near the Nahal Oz crossing east of Gaza city. According to medical sources at Shifa hospital, Israeli forces handed over the bodies of 22-years old Sa’eed Moreish and 20-years old Mohammad Habbous, hours after killing them. The Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that medical sources said that the two civilians were shot in the head and that the Israeli army had disfigured their bodies.
On March 3, Israeli forces shot dead Qays O’ufa (18), a resident of Tulkarem refugee camp. He was shot in his forehead and chest. About twenty Israeli armoured vehicles invaded the camo and randomly fired on houses. Neighbours told the Palestinian news agency WAFA that O’ufa’s brother, Hashem, was killed by Israeli forces a year ago. Three days later, on March 6, Israeli forces killed two Palestinians and wounded nine othes near Beit Hanoun. Israeli tanks opened fire at a Palestinian security post, killing two Hussam Ileiwa (28) and Basheer Abu al-Amrein (28).
A week ago, on Sunday March 7, Israeli forces raided Nusseirat and Bureij refugee camps. Israeli forces moved from Netzarim settlement in central Gaza southwards, raiding three residential buildings, detaining its residents and forcing Majed Aliyan to walk in front of soliders as they searched the three buildings. Israel continues to use Palestinian civilians as human shields, eventhough, the Israeli army issued an order in 2002, stating that soldiers “are absolutely forbidden to use civilians of any kind as a means of ‘living shield.’” During the raid on the two refugee camps, Israeli forces randomly fired into the streets. Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli helicopters flying overhead also opened fire in the area. Israeli gunfire killed four children, Mahmoud Younis (11), Mohammad Abu Zuraiq (12), Mohammad Bedawi (15) and Haitham al-Issawi (16), and wounded more than 80 residents, including 26 children. During the invasion, Palestinian fighters resisted Israeli forces, in which ten members of the resistance were killed.
On March 10, Israeli forces in Jenin opened fire at a civilian car, killing five Palestinians. An Israeli undercover unit attacked and opened heavy fire at a civilian car travelling on the eastern part of Jenin city. The bodies of the victims were taken to al-Raze and Khalil Suleiman’s Hospitals. Witnesses told the Palestinian news agency WAFA that there was another fifth injured inside the car but that this person has not been identified and was kidnapped by Israeli soldiers. That same day, a one-month-old Palestinian infant, Hussam Al-Najjar, died as Israeli soldiers prevented an ambulance from taking him to a hospital in the city of Khan Younis, south of Gaza. Israeli soldiers positioned at the Tuffah checkpoint prevented the ambulance for more than an hour to carry the infant and his family to the Mubarak children’s hospital.
According to John Dugard “there are limits to the measures that may be taken to achieve security. Israel cannot under international law advance its security by forcibly seizing the land of its neighbour and subjecting its neighbour to an oppressive regime in which basic human rights are violated.” In his view many of the measures taken by Israel against Palestine are seriously disproportionate to the dangers to which Israel is subjected. Moreover, he notes “the question must be asked whether some of the actions taken by Israel”, described in his report, “are primarily concerned with the achievement of security.” Checkpoints seem to have as one of their goals the humiliation of the Palestinian people while the Wall, when it enters Palestinian territory, seems to be mainly aimed at the seizure of land for purposes unrelated to security. “These are serious matters,” Dugard notes.
Although over 2,500 Palestinians have been killed by Israel since the start of the second intifada in September 2000, only 15 soldiers have been indicted for causing death or grievous injury to Palestinians. Impunity of this kind in an international order committed to accountability for international crimes and the criminal responsibility of commanders for crimes committed by their troops is a matter of serious concern.