Since Wednesday evening, 20 August 2003, Israeli occupying forces have escalated their illegal military actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, following an Israeli governmental decision taken in the aftermath of a bombing that occurred in West Jerusalem on Tuesday evening, 19 August 2003. Israeli forces have killed a Palestinian child in Tulkarm refugee camp, imposed a total siege on the OPTs and destroyed a number of houses belonging to families of Palestinian activists.
Recent Israeli illegal military actions were initiated a few hours after the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Defense Minster Shaul Mofaz took a decision to escalate military operations against Palestinians, including a continuation of the policy of extra-judicial assassinations. PCHR’s field workers in the West Bank reported that Israeli occupying forces have encroached into the old town of Nablus and the town of Jenin, Ramallah and al-Bireh. Israeli occupying forces called the new military operation “Directed Tone.” Commander of the Israeli military paratroops is currently leading the operation. The operation is expected to be carried out in the following days, with no date being specified as to when the operation would come to an end.
This week, Israeli occupying forces resumed the policy of extra-judicial assassinations against Palestinian activists, a policy which had been halted since the conclusion of a security understanding between the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Israeli forces have also imposed a total siege on the OPTs, raided Palestinian houses and arrested more Palestinians. This week, 14-20 August 2003, 2 Palestinians, including a child, were killed and 10 others were wounded by Israeli occupying forces. In addtiong, Israeli forces destroyed 4 Palestinian houses and arrested dozens of Palestinians.
In resumption of the policy of extra-judicial assassinations officially adopted by the Israeli political and security establishments, and 6 weeks following the start of the implementation of a truce between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, according to which Israeli occupying forces halted this policy, Israeli occupying forces assassinated a Palestinian in Hebron. On Thursday morning, 14 August 2003, Israeli occupying forces assassinated Mohammed Ayoub Seder, 28, claming that he was wanted for his activities in al-Quds Brigade, the military wing of Islamic Jihad.
This week, Israeli occupying forces continued to shell Palestinian residential areas in the Gaza Strip, especially in Rafah and Khan Yunis. Whereas no casualties were reported, a number of houses were damaged and wide spread fear of such attacks persisted among Palestinian civilians, especially children, in the effected areas. Such tactics represent the use of a system of terror inflicted on the general population of the OPTs by Israeli authorities. Israeli occupying forces conducted 2 incursions into Palestinian areas along the Egyptian border, south of Rafah, during which they destroyed a Palestinian house. Palestinians living along the border in Rafah have endured the continuous presence of belligerent Israeli occupying forces in the area.
In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces conducted a series of incursions into Palestinian controlled areas, accompanied by indiscriminate shelling and shooting. As a result of these incursions, 8 Palestinian civilians, including 4 children and an old man, were wounded. Israeli occupying forces also raided some houses and arrested a number of Palestinians.
In violation of international humanitarian law, especially the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949, article 33 of which prohibits punishing any protected person for “an offence he or she has not personally committed,” Israeli forces took retaliatory measures against the families of Palestinians Israel alleges have ordered, facilitated, or carried out attacks against Israeli targets. In this context, they destroyed 3 Palestinian houses in Nablus.
Israeli occupying forces have continued work on the “security fence.” They have confiscated more areas of Palestinian land and isolated more Palestinian residential areas for this purpose. They also declared that they would begin to establish a fence north of ‘Eizariya and Abu Dis villages, east of Jerusalem, and have confiscated areas of Palestinian land in al-Sawahra and Sour Baher villages. Palestinian sources expect that 173 donums of land will be confiscated in the area by Israeli occupying forces to establish the “security fence.” Furthermore, a number of Palestinian villages will be isolated from both Jerusalem and the West Bank if the fence is established in the area.
Israeli occupying forces have maintained a strict siege on most of the OPT, especially in the West Bank, in violation of Palestinian economic, social and cultural rights. On Tuesday evening, 19 August 2003, after a bombing occurred in West Jerusalem, Israeli occupying forces imposed a strict military siege on the OPTs and closed all crossings into Israel. 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. They often obstruct movement of people at al-Matahen and Abu Houli checkpoints on Salah al-Din Street, north of Khan Yunis. They moved the military observation tower at al-Matahen junction approximately 20m to the west, and the observation tower at Abu Houli checkpoint approximately 20m to the northeast. At al-Shuhada (Netzarim) junction, south of Gaza city, Israeli occupying forces have established two iron gates, approximately 200m away from the junction. They moved an Israeli military location in the area to the east of junction.
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. In al-Sayafa area, Israeli occupying forces have begun to issue magnetic cards for residents of the area, to be used to move into and outside the area.
Israeli occupying forces have 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 work in Israel. Israeli occupying forces have continued to restrict the passage of goods through commercial crossings of the Gaza Strip. Rafah terminal, on the border with Egypt, has recently witnessed a growing humanitarian crisis.
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, despite Israeli claims that a number of military checkpoints were dismantled. They re-closed a number of roads and erected dozens of roadblocks. On Wednesday morning, after Israeli occupying forces had allowed dozens of Palestinian civilians to cross Israeli military checkpoints erected at entrances of Palestinian towns and villages, they closed these checkpoints and prevented the civilians that had crossed the checkpoints from returning to their homes.
In a further escalation of aggressive measures against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, on Wednesday afternoon, 20 August 2003, Israeli police and prison guards, supported by helicopters, broke into Mageddo Prison, northwest of Jenin, using tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets. A division in the prison was burnt and more than 100 Palestinian prisoners suffered from tear gas inhalation. Palestinian prisoners were protesting an Israeli decision to transfer 100 prisoners to a desert jail in the Negev Desert.
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