March 28 - April 3, 2002
Since 29 March 2002, Israeli occupation forces have launched an unprecedented all-out offensive on the West Bank cities. Israeli occupation forces also encroached into Palestinian National Authority (PNA) controlled areas in the Gaza Strip.
At least 54 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including five women, six children and two handicapped young men, were killed, although full information is not yet available.
The Israeli offensive has been enabled by political cover provided by the US government – as demonstrated President George Bush’s statement that ‘Israelis have the right to defend themselves by all available means’ – and under a conspiracy of silence by the international community, which failed to take any concrete steps to ensure Israel’s respect for the international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention.
On 29 March, approximately 200 Israeli tanks and armored personnel carriers invaded the compound of PNA President Yasser Arafat in Ramallah and imposed a complete curfew on the city. They opened fire indiscriminately at Palestinian civilians, medical personnel, civil defense and journalists and arrested many Palestinian civilians and security officers. The detainees were taken to local schools, where they were interrogated. Hundreds of the detainees were taken to unknown destinations. Later, some of the detainees were expelled to the Gaza Strip, and said that had been humiliated and subjected to ill-treatment by Israeli occupation forces. Thousands of Palestinian civilians are facing the prospect of death, starvation, and disease. Israeli occupation forces extra-judicially killed a number of Palestinian security officers, including five members of the Palestinian National Security Force killed inside an apartment building. Israeli forces arrested some of the wounded. At least 23 Palestinians killed in Ramallah were buried in a mass grave.
Other West Bank cities, including Beit Jala, Bethlehem, Qalqilya, Tulkarm, Salfit, Jenin and Nablus, were also subjected to the Israeli full-scale offensive. Israeli occupation forces shelled these cities and cut electricity and water links. A church in Bethlehem is still under a strict siege by Israeli occupation forces. Israeli forces have killed at least 19 Palestinians in these cities, including a woman and her son, whose evacuation to hospital or burial was prevented.
In violation of international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestinian medical personnel and denied them access to the wounded. They also reportedly commandeered ambulances to raid Palestinian houses. They also raided a number of hospitals, especially in Ramallah. Israeli forces arrested five paramedics of the Palestine Red Crescent Society.
In violation of the right of free expression, and in an attempt to silence the press, Israeli occupation forces attacked journalists and media institutions. Four journalists were wounded by Israeli occupation forces in Ramallah and Bethlehem.
On 31 March, they declared Ramallah a closed military area, preventing journalists from entering the city and ordering those present to leave. Israeli forces also seized a number of local television channels and replaced normal programming with pornographic films as a form of psychological warfare against the civilian population.
In a continuation of the policy of assassination formally adopted by the Israeli government, on 30 March, Israeli occupation forces assassinated two Palestinian civilians in Saida village near Tulkarm. An Israeli spokesman claimed that one of the victims was wanted for attacks against Israelis.
In five incidents of willful killing, Israeli occupation forces shot dead five Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
This week, Israeli forces also tightened the siege imposed on the OPT. Israeli forces separated Palestinian areas, transforming them into Bantustans. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupation forces divided the strip into four isolated zones. A Palestinian patient, Jaber ‘Abed al-Nabahin, 50, from al-Boreij refugee camp, died due the abstraction of his access to hospital by Israeli occupation forces at al-Shuhada junction. An infant also died upon his birth after Israeli occupation forces at a military roadblock northwest of Bethlehem obstructed the access of his mother to hospital.
This week, Israeli occupation forces arrested many Palestinian civilians during house raids.
PCHR reiterates its call for the international community to immediately intervene to stop violations of human rights, including war crimes, perpetrated by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinian civilians. Israeli occupation forces are launching a full-scale war against the Palestinian people.
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