Palestinians suffer renewed collective punishment

As Israel reoccupies villages and towns in the West Bank the Palestinian population suffers the effects of widespread security measures such as prolonged curfews, house demolitions or administrative detention that amount to collective punishment, said Amnesty International today.

“No abuses, however atrocious, by armed groups can justify Israel’s indiscriminate punishment,” said Amnesty International. All major West Bank towns have by now been reoccupied and are placed under curfew for up to 24 hours a day, preventing a population of 500,000 from pursuing their daily life.

“The curfews are forcing Palestinians to spend long periods under virtual house arrest,” Amnesty International stated.

The right to freedom of movement is further curtailed by closures — army barriers blocking all movement between towns and villages — and the introduction of a new rule that requires every Palestinian travelling to another town in the West Bank to obtain a permit from the Israeli Civil Administration.

“Economic, social and psychological consequences of closures are extreme. Palestinians cannot go to work, products cannot be transported and agricultural produce cannot be harvested and sold. Cultural and social life is severely limited while children lose weeks of schooling,” the organization said.

In response to a spate of suicide bomb attacks by Palestinian armed groups killing dozens of Israeli civilians, Israeli authorities have begun to construct a heavily protected security fence in the Occupied Territories. Some Palestinian communities have been placed on the Israeli side of the barrier, virtually cutting them off from the rest of the West Bank.

By demolishing houses of families of suicide bombers or wanted Palestinians the Israeli authorities punish the families collectively. The demolition of houses is prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention except for cases of absolute military necessity.

In addition to violating the Fourth Geneva Convention the security measures taken by Israel also violate its obligations under international human rights standards. The reoccupation has been accompanied by the rounding up and arbitrary detention of hundreds of Palestinians, who are held often in degrading conditions without charge or trial.

Curfews and house demolitions have also led to violations of the right to life. On 21 June a Palestinian man aged 60 and two children, aged 11 and six, were killed in Jenin by a tank round. They came out to shop when the curfew was reportedly lifted. The Israeli Defense Forces have admitted that the shelling of the market place was a mistake. But it is not clear whether anyone will be held accountable for the killing. On the same day a 12-year-old child was crushed to death during an Israeli army demolition of a house in Jenin.

Israel appears to have resumed its policy of “targeted killings” of suspected members of Palestinian armed groups. On 24 June the car of an alleged Hamas activist in Rafah was attacked by a missile killing six people, including the driver of a passing car and the Hamas activist.

“Unlawful killings of Palestinians continue as a result of the virtually complete impunity offered to Israeli soldiers who kill Palestinians,” said Amnesty International.

“Durable security cannot be addressed by more repression and more walls and barriers,” commented Amnesty International. “It can only be achieved if the human rights of all are guaranteed.”

Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: