Rights org: Eight years of intifada, international failure

Huwwara checkpoint outside the West Bank city of Nablus, September 2008. (Rami Swidan/MaanImages)

On Sunday, 28 September 2008, the second intifada (uprising) entered its ninth year in the midst of the Israeli Occupation Forces’ (IOF) gross violations of international humanitarian law and the international community’s failure to intervene.

Monitoring and documenting work of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) shows that the IOF continue to kill civilians and demolish civilian property especially homes. This is in addition to arbitrary arrests and degrading treatment of civilians that IOF carry out during military incursions and at checkpoints.

Tight siege and blockade were the most remarkable practices over the last year of the intifada. The IOF tightened their siege on the Gaza Strip since the outbreak of the intifada in September 2000. They deprived the Strip’s population from freedom of movement and travel. They imposed a trade blockade on the Strip by severely reducing, and sometimes banning, imports and exports. The IOF continued to close the Rafah Terminal, the Strip’s sole outlet to the outside world. Exceptional openings of this terminal did not help change the closure’s negative impacts on a large number of human rights, including the right to education, health, work and family life.

Moreover, humanitarian and economic conditions and the standard of living continue to deteriorate. For instance, in spite of the partial openings of crossings and allowing a number of goods and commodities into the Strip, the agricultural and manufacturing sectors still suffer from the same crisis due to shortage of raw materials, fertilizers and medicines. At the same time, exports are still blocked. Furthermore, the crisis of internal transportation and movement still exists, resulting in the rise of fares, given that transport vehicles are available for one area or another. Both the agricultural and manufacturing sectors are disrupted. Agricultural production remains unchanged from their previous levels, which led to price increases for some of them. Therefore, products became above the purchasing power of the public. In addition, trade, construction and tourism are still paralyzed and air and sea pollution levels are still high.

Al Mezan Center’s information on victims, killed either by the IOF or during confrontations with it, as well as material damages of the Strip’s civilians during the intifada shows that the death toll amounts to 3,143, including 611 children, 113 women and 22 disabled persons. It also shows that there are 7,650 demolished homes, including 3,014 pulled down. Furthermore, 33,948 dunums (a dunam is the equivalent of 1,000 square meters) were bulldozed, including 9,684 dunams that were bulldozed more than once. The IOF destroyed 378 public facilities, 647 vehicles of different types and 899 manufacturing and commercial facilities.

The IOF continue to construct the Apartheid Wall in the occupied West Bank in defiance of the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion of 9 July 2004 on the legal consequences of the construction of the wall by the IOF on the OPT. The IOF accomplished the construction of approximately 57 percent of the wall’s final route. It is noteworthy that 329 kilometers of the wall are built in the occupied West Bank.

It is also important to note that the construction of the separation wall by the IOF not only changes the status quo of the OPT, but also inflicts gross damages to the civilian residents and their properties. Upon the completion of this Wall, the IOF would confiscate 50 percent of the West Bank. The Wall divides the West Bank, turning it into ghettos where villages are separated from their agricultural land and other cities. The Wall affects 875,000 Palestinians in addition to confiscating water resources and denying access of tens of thousands of Palestinians to medical centers, hospitals, universities and schools. Based on the resources of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, only 20 percent of farmers who used to cultivate their lands in those areas prior to the construction of the Wall were granted permits to cross through the Wall’s gates to reach their farms. Moreover, the number of stationary military checkpoints, built by the IOF on the roads inside and between the West Bank’s cities and villages, amounts to 630 checkpoints mainly used to humiliate and punish the Palestinians.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights strongly condemns the IOF’s continuous, grave breaches of the principles of international humanitarian law and standards of human rights, which are tantamount to war crimes. The Center calls on the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to take immediate action to bring an end to the IOF’s crimes and particularly the continuous collective punishment of the Gaza Strip that violates all human rights. Therefore, based on the repeated evidence proving that the IOF deliberately commit war crimes and that the Israeli judiciary overlooks them and fails to prosecute those responsible, Al Mezan Center calls on the international community to consider the establishment of war crimes tribunals for Israel and cease from politicizing the issue of human rights in the OPT and treating it as subject to political and economic interests of the international parties.

This press release was edited for clarity.

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