When we think of crimes against humanity, we must be aware that governments and governmental groups can be more dangerous than individuals in this regard. Governments have the most power to inflict harm and are most likely to be recidivist. This kind of terrorism is the most dangerous brand. Extrajudicial killing or physical liquidation is the most prevalent practice of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) against the Palestinians. It reveals the immoral nature of the Israeli government. Extrajudicial execution is a policy which is not new or exclusively used since 2000. It is an old, bloody policy that had been implemented by the Israeli army against Palestinian civilians for decades. The list of the victims of this practice is too long to mention here.
Extrajudicial executions or “targeted killing” (as Israeli politicians like to define the practice), is clear evidence of state terrorism. It is execution without trial. It is a policy of killing outside the boundaries of any legal framework. The practice gained unprecedented momentum during the last intifada, beginning in 2000 and experienced an ongoing escalation until it peaked in 2007. Moreover, these crimes closely follow geopolitical developments. The Israeli government has built its policy of extrajudicial executions on a specific understanding of the political situation. Indeed, they have clear political objectives by conducting these cruel crimes of extrajudicial killing — objectives based on having no Palestinian partner for peace. It means they have hidden objectives other than their claim of combating Palestinian terror. They are trying to exploit the general international atmosphere of combating terrorism and depict the Palestinian activists as terrorists. These crimes are question the morality and judicial system of the state of Israel. The killing of civilians, and those who are involved with the Palestinian resistance, without trial, is amoral and an affront to any just legal system. Sadly, these crimes have been openly endorsed by many Israeli leaders. On 4 June 2001 the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot published a statement from the IOF’s spokesman: “We set up a list of Palestinian names of individuals whom the Israeli government has approved for physical liquidation, among the names are included members of Hamas, Fatah, Popular Front and Islamic Jihad.” This statement reflects the bloody nature and the discriminatory mentality of Israeli officers and leadership.
Between the eruption of the second Palestinian intifada on 28 September 2000 and June 2006, the IOF attempted 252 extrajudicial killing operations. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), the IOF killed 603 Palestinians during these crimes. Statistically, the victims of this policy constitute 20 percent of the entire intifada’s Palestinian fatalities. They are classified as follows:
- Extrajudicial killings produced 603 victims total.
- Three-hundred-and-nineteen of the victims were intentionally targeted by the IOF.
- Two-hundred-and-twelve were civilians and passersby unintentionally killed in the process. They constitute 35 percent of all victims.
- Sixty-eight children were among the victims. Presumably, they were also unintentionally killed during the execution of these crimes, whether they were playing in the streets, passing by, or with their families in targeted houses or vehicles.
However, these cases escalated, bringing the overall number of people killed by such actions to 664 from December 2000 to June 2007; 434 of these people were specifically targeted by IOF, the other 230 were killed in the process of the attacks.
It worth recounting some recent Israeli attempts of extrajudicial killing crimes against Palestinian inhabitants in the OPT to demonstrate the IOF’s disregard for Palestinian civilian lives:
At approximately 9:25pm on Sunday, 20 May 2007, an IOF warplane lunched guided missiles at a residential compound belonging to the al-Haya family in the al-Shojaeya neighborhood in the east of Gaza City. The targeted missiles hit the al-Haya tribe’s hall, killing seven members of a single family. Two children were among those murdered. The hall is adjacent to Dr. Khalil Isma’il al-Haya, a member of PLC and an important Hamas figure. At the time of the attack, Dr. al-Haya was not at home. He was in a meeting with Fatah leaders trying to reach an agreement to end the Palestinian crisis.
Israel’s stubborn insistence to continue this policy of killing and to continue intimidating Palestinian civilians in this way is a grave violation of international human rights law. The international community regularly expresses deep concerns over this policy. Prof. John Dugard, the United Nations Special Rapporteur, sharply criticizes the Israeli government for its actions in the OPT. He regards the Israeli practices against the Palestinian as grave violations to Articles 27 and 38 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. According to international humanitarian law, the Palestinians are entitled to significant rights aimed at protecting them from the unnecessary bloodshed committed daily by IOF. Among the rights applicable to the Palestinians are those listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and therefore they include the right to life, security and property.
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “[e]veryone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” Article 6 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 states that “[e]very human being has the inherent right to life.”
The Fourth Geneva Convention is particularly relevant to extrajudicial killing. Article 3 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits any kind of assaults on life or physical security. Article 32 specifically prohibits murder, torture and corporal punishment.
PCHR is deeply concerned over the Israeli government’s crimes of extrajudicial killing in the OPT, and:
- Condemns these crimes of extrajudicial killing by the IOF in the OPT, which disregards the lives of Palestinian civilians, and considers them grave violations of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
- Condemns the IOF’s disregard for civilians’ lives and careless lack of attention to the principles of necessity and proportionality in using excessive force against Palestinian activists, many of whom are often present in densely populated areas.
- Call upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop these crimes which contradict international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
- Call upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1 of the Convention to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances, and their obligation under Article 146 to search for and prosecute those responsible for committing grave breaches of the Convention. PCHR also calls on the High Contracting Parties to uphold their responsibilities as signatories to the protocol Additional to the Convention, such as breaches which constitute war crimes according to Article 147 of the convention.
This report was edited for clarity.