The Electronic Intifada remains gravely concerned at the ongoing Israeli attacks, which are resulting in the deaths and serious injury of innocent Palestinian civilians, the damage of family homes and property, and the Israeli state intimidation of the Palestinian civilian population with violence.
The United States of America, being the primary foreign underwriter of the 34-year-old Israeli military occupation, bears no small responsibility for the current carnage.
Ramallah saw an invasion of around 150 Israeli tanks and armoured vehicles and thousands of troops at around midnight last night. Israel’s targeting of journalists is becoming more overt, in parallel to its attacks on refugee camps. This morning at 8:02AM ET, on CNN’s American Morning, veteran correspondent Ben Wedeman reported two incidents to host Paula Zahn where Israel appeared to be targeting journalists and their cameras in Ramallah:
“Paula, that is the City Inn Palace, which is really right across the street from the refugee camp I mentioned. According to our cameraman there, Joe Duran (ph), there were about 40 journalists in the hotel, and they were concentrated in the stairwell on the fourth floor overlooking the camp. Their cameras were rolling. They were all there, and all of a sudden, there were shots coming in their direction from street level from an armored personnel carrier. They dove out of the way, but exactly the spot where all of the cameras were, was hit by that gunfire.
One ABC camera took seven bullets, including one bullet directly in the lens. The Israeli government subsequently apologized. They said it was a mistake. That they were shooting in an area they believed fire was coming from. But the journalists who were there told me that there was no fire coming from that hotel.
Now, also in another incident, and in fact, the building I am in, Israeli helicopters apparently fired upon it. This camera took five bullets, essentially destroyed. This is where the bullets came out of. No explanation from the Israeli army as to why that incident took place. But I can tell you that this area, Ramallah, has been declared a closed military area by the Israeli defense forces. But we are unable to leave the area, because it is simply too dangerous.
There is a lot of firing going on right now. It’s quiet, but over the last hour or two, Paula, there has been some very heavy exchange of fire and also tank fire as well…”
The following press release from Palestinian human rights organisation LAW [www.lawsociety.org] offers an overview of the recent Israeli attacks on densely populated refugee camps and other civilian areas throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip and is a good basis for letter writing.
for The Electronic Intifada
Calls to end the conspiracy of silence and take immediate action
12 March 2002
LAW, MIFTAH and PCHR, today wrote to the EU, US, and other non-EU members of the international community calling upon them to take effective action and intervene in the face of the latest, rapid escalation of attacks by the Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian civilian population in the densely populated refugee camps and other civilian areas throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli occupying forces have attacked, invaded and placed under siege key Palestinian cities and adjacent refugee camps in the past few days, including within and near Tulkarem, Nablus, Jenin, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Ramallah, Al Bireh, Qalqilya, Hebron and the Gaza Strip.
The organizations highlighted the even more extreme, intensive, Israeli methods of attacking civilians, that first started at Balata refugee camp in Nablus on 28 February 2002, but are now being employed in other refugee camps (including Tulkarem Nur al Shams; Jenin; Aaza, Aida and Deheisha in Bethlehem; Al Arrob in Hebron; Khan Younis, Rafah and Jabalya in Gaza), and other civilian areas. These tactics are being used pursuant to Sharon’s “new” stated policy of “hitting Palestinians hard [until it is] very painful. We must cause them losses, victims, so that they feel the heavy price”.
Military tactics used more intensively, include:
LAW, MIFTAH and PCHR have condemned the so-called “justification” of all these methods that violate international humanitarian law, being used on the flimsy pretext of rooting out “terrorists” and “terrorist bases”. The attacks are being used in effect to punish the entire, defenseless population. Moreover, so-called security or military purposes cannot justify these methods employed that constitute violations of international humanitarian law, in particular where they constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Protocol 1 to the Conventions (i.e. war crimes).
The organizations referred to key violations of international humanitarian law and apparent grave breaches (war crimes) they are documenting during the course of these operations, including willful killings, willfully depriving protected persons of rights of fair and regular trial, disproportionate use of force intended to cause “great suffering or serious injury to body or health”, as well as “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”
The organizations also referred to other forms of grave breaches (war crimes) that are being perpetrated as a result of the massive attacks against the Palestinian civilian population, and through the denial or restrictions in access to key food, water supplies and humanitarian aid, including “making of the civilian population the object of attack”, launching of “indiscriminate attacks affecting the civilian population or civilian objects in the knowledge that such attacks will cause excessive loss of life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects”, “making non-defended localities and demilitarized zones the object of attack”, making persons the “object of attack in the knowledge that [they are] hors de combat”, and “making the clearly-recognised historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples and to which special protection has been given, the object of attack”.
LAW, MIFTAH and PCHR have urged the international community to immediately intervene by:
investigating, and bringing the perpetrators of such war crimes to trial, and by establishing a War Crimes Tribunal to prosecute such war criminals; and
LAW is a Palestinian human rights organisation. Nigel Parry lived in Ramallah and worked at Birzeit University during the transition from Israeli occupation of the town to Palestinian autonomy, 1994-1998. His photodiary from the period can be found at nigelparry.com/diary. Parry is one of the four founders of The Electronic Intifada.