24 July - 6 August 2003
Despite the sharp decrease in direct clashes, Israeli occupying forces continue to conduct illegal actions and human rights violations against Palestinian civilians, including firing at Palestinian civilians, collective punishment, shelling of and incursions into Palestinian areas and arrests. Israeli forces have also refused to redeploy troops from towns and villages in the West Bank. Over the period covered by this report, 24 July – 6 August 2003, 4 Palestinians, including a child, were killed and 5 others, including a woman, were wounded by Israeli occupying forces.
In three cases of apparent willful killing, Israeli occupying forces shot dead three Palestinians, including a child. On 25 July 2003, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian child and wounded his sister near Jenin. The 2 children were traveling with their family in a civilian car, when Israeli soldiers positioned at the entrance of Barta’a village fired at the car. On 3 August 2003, the Israeli police shot dead a Palestinian civilian, while he was traveling in his car, approximately 700m south of Qalandya military checkpoint, north of Jerusalem. They claimed that he did not obey their orders to stop. On 4 August 2003, Israeli occupying forces killed an activist of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the military wing of the Fatah movement, near Far’oun village, south of Tulkarm, claiming that he was on his way to plant a bomb in the area. According to Palestinian medical sources, he was shot by several live bullets in the head and throughout the body.
The Israeli government continues to ignore the illegality of settlements under international law and the fact that they constitute a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, particularly article 147, focusing instead on so-called “illegal settlement outposts.” Despite the fact that the Israeli government undertook to dismantle a small number of these “outposts” and to stop some settlement expansion, the so-called “Israeli Lands Administration” published a tender in Israeli newspapers on Thursday, 31 July 2003, to establish 22 new housing units in “Neve Dekalim” settlement, west of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli daily Yediot Aharanot reported on its Arabic webpage that the tender was published in Israeli newspapers. The advertisement offers a 3-year contract to those who are interested in the tender, after which the land can be monopolized for 98 years. This was the first tender to establish new housing units in Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip since 2001 and the proposed construction of the new units will allow an additional 120 settlers to live in the aforementioned settlement (current population: 1500).
Palestinians living in areas adjacent to Israeli settlements and military locations established on Palestinian lands in the Gaza Strip have suffered from aggressive actions of Israeli forces, including shelling, house raids and searches and curfews. Israeli occupying forces have also maintained control over two Palestinian houses in Gaza City and Deir al-Balah, and two buildings north of Khan Yunis.
Israeli occupying forces have maintained a strict siege on most of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, especially in the West Bank. While Israeli forces redeployed from the main roads in the Gaza Strip, they have continued to restrict movement on these roads and at border crossings. Israeli forces also continue to maintain the strict siege imposed on al-Mawasi area in the southern Gaza Strip, where more than 8,000 Palestinians live, as well as al-Sayafa area in the northern Gaza Strip. Rafah terminal, on the border with Egypt, has recently witnessed a growing humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of Palestinian travelers are forced to spend days on the Egyptian side of the crossing, waiting to be allowed by Israeli occupying forces to enter the Gaza Strip. There are no facilities on the Egyptian side of the terminal and travelers have been forced to sleep on the ground at night and spend long hours in the sun during the day. The lack of basic sanitation facilities in particular poses a serious health concern.
Israeli occupying forces have also restricted the access of Palestinian fishermen to the sea and Palestinian workers continue to face humiliating measures at “Erez” (Beit Hanoun) crossing in the northern Gaza Strip on their way to their work in Israel. Israeli occupying forces have continued to restrict the passage of goods through commercial crossings of the Gaza Strip.
In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces have maintained a strict siege on Palestinian communities, isolating them from one another. They have restricted movement of Palestinians at military checkpoints. Palestinians under 35 cannot cross Israeli military checkpoints without obtaining permits issued by the so-called “Israeli Civil Administration.” In an attempt to mislead the public, two weeks ago, Israeli occupying forces dismantled 3 military checkpoints in Ramallah and Bethlehem, while 147 other military checkpoints remained on the ground. Israeli soldiers often fire at Palestinians traveling through these checkpoints.
In another misleading step, on Wednesday afternoon, 6 August 2003, Israeli occupying forces released 336 of the 7000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. This number includes a number of criminal prisoners and does not include long-term detainees, females or ill prisoners. The periods of detention of most of the released prisoners were expected to end within the next few weeks.
In the meantime, Israeli occupying forces encroached into the West Bank towns of Jenin, Tulkarm, Nablus and Jericho, and arrested dozens of Palestinians, including 29 in Tulkarm and 14 in Jericho. On Wednesday morning, 6 August 2003, Israeli occupying forces moved into the eastern part of Jericho and imposed a curfew. They raided houses and arrested 14 Palestinians. It is worth noting that Jericho is the only town in the West Bank that has not been reoccupied by Israeli occupying forces. The incursion into Jericho is the first in the past two years.
In spite of international criticism, Israeli occupying forces have continued to establish the so-called “security fence” in the West Bank. According to local estimations, the fence is expected to annex more than 13% of the West Bank to Israel.
In a continuation of the Israeli attempts to Judaize Jerusalem, the Israeli Minister of Internal Security Tsahi Hanegbi signed a decision of Tuesday, 5 August 2003, to renew the closure of Orient House and 4 other Palestinian institutions in Jerusalem by 6 months. Hanegbi claimed that the decisions aimed at “preventing the Palestinian Authority from carrying out activities that undermine the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.”
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