Weekly report on human rights violations

4 - 10 September 2003

Following the 2 bombings that took place inside Israel on Tuesday, 9 September 2003, Israeli political and military officials escalated their threats against Palestinians, indicating that the war crimes that are being perpetrated against Palestinian civilians may continue. PCHR is concerned that Israeli occupying forces may continue to escalate their aggression towards Palestinian civilians and increasingly employ excessive force against civilian targets, including the use of warplanes. This comes at a time when the Israeli political and military establishments have declared that they will continue to take whatever measures necessary against the leaders of Palestinian groups such as Hamas.

Only a few hours after issuing these threats, on Wednesday morning, 10 September 2003, Israeli warplanes launched missiles at the house of Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahhar, a senior leader of the Hamas movement, in the densely populated al-Sabra neighborhood in central Gaza City. Al-Zahhar managed to survive, but his son and one of his bodyguards were killed in the aerial attack. This attack came only a few days after the assassination attempt targetting Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The tactics used in both these attacks are reminiscent of an assault that occurred on 22 July 2002, when Israeli forces used F-16 fighter jets to target a house in the densely populated al-Daraj neighborhood in the center of Gaza City. This attack resulted in the deaths of 18 Palestinians, including Sheikh Salah Shehada, a leader of the military wing of the Hamas movement, along with his wife, daughter and bodyguard. The other victims, mostly children, were residents of neighboring houses.

This week, Israeli occupying forces conducted a series of incursions into Palestinian Authority controlled areas, during which they killed a number of Palestinian civilians, raided and destroyed houses and arrested dozens of Palestinians, razed areas of Palestinian agricultural land and demolished a number of houses. Israeli occupying forces continued to shell Palestinian residential areas and have maintained the total siege imposed on the OPT. This week, 4-10 September 2003, 11 Palestinians were killed and dozens of others were wounded by Israeli occupying forces.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupying forces conducted 7 incursions into Palestinian areas, during which they razed large areas of agricultural land, especially in Deir al-Balah and Khan Yunis. Israeli occupying forces continued to shell Palestinian residential areas, particularly in Khan Yunis and Rafah. A number of Palestinian civilians, including children, were wounded.

In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces conducted a series of incursions into Palestinian controlled areas, accompanied by indiscriminate shelling and shooting. On 4 September 2003, Israeli occupying forces destroyed a 7-storey apartment building in Nablus in which 8 families lived. The destruction took place following an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and a Palestinian gunman. The gunman was killed during the fire-fight after sustaining several gunshot wounds. On 9 September 2003, Israeli occupying forces surrounded and opened fire at an 8-storey apartment building in Hebron. 3 Palestinians, including an 11-year-old child in a neighboring house, were killed in the attack and 2 other civilians were wounded. Israeli occupying forces planted explosives in the building and destroyed it, leaving 98 people (14 families) homeless.

In 2 cases of apparent willful killing, Israeli occupying forces shot dead 2 Palestinian boys in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On 6 September 2003, Israeli occupying forces fired at a 17-year-old Palestinian civilian near the border with Israel, east of the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabalya. He was wounded by a number of gunshots and Israeli soldiers left him at the scene, without offering him any medical help. As Palestinian ambulances were not able to reach the area the victim bled to death. The circumstances of the incident indicate that Israeli soldiers fired at the victim without making any attempt to apprehend him.

On 10 September 2003, Israeli occupying forces shot dead a Palestinian boy while he was attempting to cross the separatiion wall near Seilat al-Harthia village in the northern West Bank. They also wounded and arrested another boy.

Israeli occupying forces shelled Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus, while Palestinian civilians were exiting a mosque after the evening prayer, killing 2 Palestinian civilians and wounding 2 others seriously.

In violation of international humanitarian law, in particular 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 continued to take retaliatory measures against the families of Palestinians Israel alleges have ordered, facilitated, or carried out attacks against Israeli targets. In this context, they destroyed a 3-storey house in Tulkarm and a shop in Hebron, in addition to the 2 apartment buildings destroyed in Nablus and Hebron.

Israeli occupying forces continue to maintain a strict siege on the OPT, especially in the West Bank. On 7 September 2003, Israeli occupying forces imposed a comprehensive closure on the OPT and prevented all Palestinians from entering Israel.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupying forces re-erected 2 observation towers at Abu Houli and al-Matahen junctions, north of Khan Yunis, on Salah al-Din Street – the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip. This reinstates the situation that was in place prior to 30 June 2003. In accordance with Palestinian-Israeli security negotiations concluded on 30 June 2003, Israeli occupying forces had redeployed from Salah al-Din Street and the 2 observation towers were moved 15-20m away from their original sites. Following these latest developments, Israeli occupying forces have retained complete control over Salah al-Din Street.

While Israeli occupying forces continue to perpetrate violations of human rights against Palestinian civilians, they have also continued to establish a separating wall between the West Bank and Israel. For this purpose, they confiscated more areas of Palestinian land and demolished more Palestinian houses. After the suicide bombings, the Israeli chief of police, Shlomo Aharoneski, stated that the construction of the separation wall must continue and added that the Israeli Prime Minister had ordered that the construction be expedited. This week Israeli occupying forces closed gates separating Palestinian villages, fencing them in between the wall and the Green Line and cutting them off from the rest of the West Bank.

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