20-26 March 2003
For the past three months, amidst anticipation of war on Iraq, Israeli occupying forces dramatically escalated their illegal military actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Since the beginning of the US-British war on Iraq, PCHR has closely monitored Israeli violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, concerned that Israeli occupying forces may exploit the current circumstances to escalate violations while the world is busy observing the war.
Although these forces relatively decreased their pressure on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the past three months have shown that this week of “relative” calm is an anomaly.
Israeli occupying forces have perpetrated more illegal actions and human rights violations against Palestinian civilians, including willful killings, shelling of and incursions into Palestinian areas and agricultural land leveling. This week 20-26 March 2003 7 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children, were killed by Israeli occupying forces.
In a continuation of the policy of extra-judicial assassination officially adopted by the Israeli political and military establishments against Palestinian field and political activists, on Tuesday, 25 March 2003, an undercover unit of the Israeli occupying forces shot dead 4 Palestinians, including two targeted persons and a child, and injured two other civilians. Less than two weeks earlier, undercover units of Israeli occupying forces killed 10 Palestinians in Tammoun village and Jenin refugee camp.
In an excessive use of lethal force, Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinian boys in Jenin, when a number of boys threw stones at Israeli tanks that had moved into the town and imposed a curfew.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces conducted a series of large encroachments into Palestinian areas, using heavy military vehicles and combat helicopters, during which they arrested a number of Palestinians. A Palestinian civilian died from a heart attack when Israeli soldiers attacked him while they were raiding his house. Israeli occupying forces also razed large areas of Palestinian agricultural land in Deir al-Balah, and destroyed a concrete factory in the eastern part of Gaza city.
In violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits collective punishment, Israeli forces took retaliatory measures against families of Palestinians who have carried out attacks against Israeli targets in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and those wanted by Israeli forces. In this context, they destroyed two Palestinian houses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israeli occupying forces have maintained a total siege on the OPT. They have isolated Palestinian communities from one another. They have partitioned the Gaza Strip into three separate zones and have restricted the movement of people and goods. They have also maintained curfews on some areas in the West Bank. Since Saturday, 15 March 2003, Israeli occupying authorities prevented Palestinians aged 16-35 from traveling abroad. Israeli occupying forces have also maintained a strict siege on al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip for several months, which has caused a deterioration of the living conditions of Palestinians civilians in the area.
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