Victims of insecurity increase in oPt

Armed men in Ramallah (Naela Khalil/IRIN)

RAMALLAH - The number of people killed in crimes in occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) has increased exponentially in 2006 compared to the previous years, according to statistics released Wednesday by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens’ Rights (PICCR).

“This year has witnessed a significant rise in the number of insecurity victims,” said Ma’moun Iteily of the PICCR’s department which documents cases of insecurity and human rights violations.

According to the PICCR statistics, 270 people were killed in the oPt by 10 October. By contrast, 93 people were killed in 2004 and 176 in 2005.

The PICCR, the first national human rights institution in the Arab world, is funded by aid agencies in the Nordic countries, the European Union and the Ford Foundation. It collected its statistics on insecurity crimes by deploying field researchers in all areas of the West Bank and Gaza and also relied on its complaints departments in five of its branches in the oPt.

Iteily said that their research showed that the illicit proliferation of small arms led to 68 killings in Gaza and 19 in the West Bank. In Gaza, 42 people were killed as a result of family feuds and in the West Bank 24. In addition, the political conflict between Fateh and Hamas, the Islamist party that has formed the government in the oPt, has caused 21 deaths in Gaza but none in the West Bank.

Iteily added that “the number of people killed in revenge cases and mysterious circumstances was 37 in Gaza and 16 in the West Bank.” By the end of September, 21 women and 26 children were also killed in Gaza and the West Bank. Some of the women were killed the so-called honour killings.

The increase in the killings, said Iteily, was due to the proliferation of small arms in the oPt as the Palestinian authorities have not confiscated unlicensed weapons or the ones used in party and family feuds.

“The statistics we have are very worrisome and show a defect in the Palestinian community as the Palestinian authorities are not doing their job properly of keeping order and protecting the citizens,” added Iteily.

He denied that poverty was the cause of insecurity saying that “The arms that proliferate in the territories are expensive. As examples, an M16 [semiautomatic rifle] costs US $10,000 while a Kalashnikov [Russian-made assault rifle] costs US $4,000.”

However, a spokesman for Palestinian police in the West Bank, Colonel Adnan al-Dhamiri, denied that negligence by the police was the cause of the increase in the deaths.

“The killings are a result of political parties owning arms which they say they use against the Israeli occupation. In reality, they use their weapons to settle scores in political conflicts, especially between Hamas and Fateh and they refuse to hand over their arms.”

“We [the Palestinian police] do not confiscate the arms because we want to avoid clashing with the armed [political] parties.” He added.

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