Weekly report on human rights violations

15 - 21 May 2003

Israeli occupying forces have continued to conduct illegal actions and human rights violations against Palestinian civilians, including collective punishment, shelling of and incursions into Palestinian areas, house demolition and agricultural land leveling.  This week, 15-21 May 2003, 13 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including a woman, 3 children and 2 handicapped men, were killed by Israeli occupying forces.

In a serious escalation in military activity, on Thursday, 15 May 2003, Israeli occupying forces invaded the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun reinforced with military vehicles and supported by Apache gunships. The 5-day military operation left 7 Palestinians dead, including 3 children, dozens injured, 8 houses destroyed and large areas of agricultural land razed.  Israeli forces also caused widespread destruction to the infrastructure of the town. Israeli forces withdrew from the town on Tuesday morning, 20 May 2003, but re-entered the town during the evening of the same day.  They have closed the main entrance of the town, isolating it from the outside world and razed large areas of Palestinian agricultural land.    

Israeli occupying forces conducted a series of incursions into Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, during which they attacked Palestinian civilians and property.  This week, Israeli occupying forces razed and burnt 272 donums of Palestinian agricultural land in Khuza’a and ‘Abasan villages, east of Khan Yunis.  They also demolished 33 Palestinian houses in Rafah, in a continuation of efforts to create a buffer zone along the border with Egypt, south of the town.   

In a continuation of the policy of extra-judicial assassination officially adopted by the Israeli political and military establishments against Palestinian political and field activists of the Intifada, on Thursday afternoon, 15 May 2003, Israeli occupying forces unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate an allegedly wanted Palestinian. The car, in which the targeted person was traveling, turned over and all the passengers were able to escape.  Three UNRWA staff members, who were passing by, were slightly injured.

This week, in various cases of apparent willful killing, Israeli occupying forces killed 6 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  The victims included 2 mentally handicapped men and a woman who bled to death. One of the victims, an old man, died from a heart attack, when Israeli forces chased him and other Palestinian workers.

Israeli occupying forces transferred Mahmoud Suleiman Sa’id al-Sa’di al-Saffouri, 31, from his home in Jenin to the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, 18 May 2003. According to the military order, al-Sa’di will spend two years in Gaza.  Al-Saffouri was arrested on 19 June 2002, when Israeli occupying forces waged a campaign of arrest in Jenin refugee camp.  In his affidavit to PCHR, al-Saffouri stated that he had been detained by Israeli occupying forces in Salem detention center in Jenin for two days and was then transferred to ‘Ofar detention center.  Twelve days later, he was moved to a prison in the Negev Desert, where he was placed under a 6-month administrative detention, which was subsequently renewed for another 6 month period. Al-Saffouri was then transferred back to ‘Ofar detention center pending his transfer to the Gaza Strip.  According to information available to PCHR, al-Saffouri was neither interrogated nor charged by Israeli occupying forces during his detention, and he was denied family visitation rights.

Al-Saffouri is the brother of Haj ‘Ali al-Saffouri, who has been in incommunicado detention in Beer Saba prison since 18 April 2002 and is accused of being a prominent leader of al-Quds Brigade, the military wing of Islamic Jihad. The decision to expel al-Saffouri violates international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, article 33 of which provides that “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed;” article 49 prohibits “individual or mass forcible transfers;” and article 147 considers “unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person” as a grave breach.

In a measure unprecedented since the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupying forces issued a military order expelling a Palestinian from al-Mawasi area in Khan Yunis, giving him 24 hours to leave.  On 13 May 2003, Moqbel Shurrab, a Palestinian farmer from al-Mawasi area of Khan Yunis, received a military order that gave him 24 hours to leave, effectively expelling him from the area. The order also gave Shurrab 7 days to appeal against the decision to expel him from the area for 6 months.  PCHR submitted appeals to the Israeli military legal advisor and the Israeli military appeal court to revoke the order and ensure Shurrab’s right to remain in his place of residence. However, PCHR has not received any response.  On Wednesday, 21 May 2003, the Israeli High Court approved the Israeli military order and rejected an appeal submitted by PCHR against the order.

In further 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 9 houses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including 4 in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.

Israeli occupying forces have maintained a total siege on the OPT.  They have isolated Palestinian communities from one another and have partitioned the Gaza Strip into three separate zones, restricting the movement of people and goods.  They have also maintained curfews on some areas in the West Bank.  Israeli occupying authorities have prevented Palestinians aged 16-35 from traveling abroad.  Israeli occupying forces have imposed severe restrictions on internationals entering and exiting the Gaza Strip and have also restricted their movement inside Gaza. 

To access the full report click here.