Weekly report on human rights violations

11 - 17 September 2003

This week, Israeli occupying forces perpetrated more violations of human rights against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs), including willful and extra-judicial killings, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, incursions into Palestinian areas, house demolition and arrests. They also seized more Palestinian land for the purpose of the construction of the separation wall. They continue to maintain a total siege on the OPTs. This week, 5 Palestinians, including a child and an old man, were killed and a number of others were wounded by Israeli occupying forces.

This morning, Thursday, 18 September 2003, Israeli occupying forces, supported by helicopters, moved into Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip to arrest Jihad ‘Ezzat Abu Swaireh, 34, allegedly wanted by Israeli forces. They surrounded his house and seized a neighboring house, using it as a military site from which they opened fire at Abu Swaireh’s house. Israeli forces called on Abu Swaireh through a megaphone to surrender, but he remained inside to resist the Israeli forces, while his wife and children left the building. Soon after, Israeli helicopter gun-ships attacked the house, killing Abu Swaireh who was reportedly within close proximity to the house and Israeli soldiers ordered one of his relatives to identify him. They then planted explosives inside the house and destroyed it, leaving Abu Swaireh’s body amongst the rubble of the building. A number of neighboring houses were severely damaged and Abu Swaireh’s father and brother were wounded in the incident.

In a continuation of the policy of extra-judicial assassinations officially adopted by the Israeli political and security establishments, on Tuesday morning, 16 September 2003, Israeli occupying forces committed another assassination, which left dead Ahmed Fawzi ‘Abdul Latif Abu Doush, 25, from Dura village, southwest of Hebron. They also destroyed his house, leaving 5 families homeless. Israeli occupying forces claimed that they killed Abu Doush as he attempted to escape. They further claimed they surrounded the house and called on members of an armed Palestinian cell, who were hiding inside the house to surrender, but an exchange of fire occurred, during which time Israeli soldiers shot Abu Doush dead as he attempted to escape.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupying forces conducted 8 incursions into Palestinian areas, during which they destroyed a number of Palestinian houses. This week, Israeli occupying forces completely or partially destroyed 40 Palestinian houses in Rafah near the Egyptian border, leaving more than 350 Palestinians, mostly children, homeless.

This area of Rafah adjacent to the Egyptian border has witnessed the largest number of house demolitions in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli occupying forces have demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes in Rafah since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada; in most cases the justification given was “security.” In reality, the facts on the ground indicate that these demolitions represent a strategic policy to clear a large area of Palestinian land near the border with Egypt to facilitate a wide buffer zone that increases Israeli military control in the area. In particular, Israeli forces have begun construction of a concrete and metal wall parallel to the border with Egypt on land cleared of Palestinian homes in similar demolition operations.

In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces conducted a series of incursions into Palestinian controlled areas, accompanied by indiscriminate shelling and shooting. They raided houses and arrested a number of Palestinians. This week, 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child and an old man, were killed by Israeli occupying forces in Ramallah and Nablus.

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 7 Palestinian houses in the West Bank and 1 in Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, bringing to the total to 8.

While the international community and the United Nations Security Council are caught up in the debate over the Israeli decision to deport President Arafat from the OPTs, Israel continues to execute plans to annex yet more Palestinian land in violation of international law. Israeli occupying forces continued to build the separation wall in the West Bank, issuing new orders concerning the confiscation of land privately owned by Palestinians. Israeli forces warned a number of Palestinian civilians that property standing in the way of the proposed path of the wall or within close proximity to it will be destroyed. On Thursday, 11 September 2003, the Israeli security cabinet decided to hasten construction of the wall.

Israeli media sources had revealed an Israeli plan to build the separation wall from the area surrounding “Alkinah” settlement, east of Qalqilya, in the north to Hebron mountain in the south. The wall is to extend from the aforementioned settlement to the area surrounding ‘Ofra camp southwest of Ramallah. Another sector of the wall extends from the south of Jerusalem to “Karme Ma’on” settlement, south of Hebron. There is an ongoing debate within Israel as to whether or not to include “Ariel” settlement in the northern West Bank, which lies 20 km inside Palestinian territory.

Israeli occupying forces have maintained a strict siege on the OPTs, especially in the West Bank, restricting movement of Palestinian civilians. 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, last week, Israeli occupying forces re-erected 2 observation towers at Abu Houli and al-Matahen junctions on Salah al-Din Street north of Khan Yunis. Salah al-Din Street is the main road between the northern and southern regions 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. Enforcing the 2 checkpoints allow Israeli occupying forces to retain complete control over Salah al-Din Street, partitioning the Gaza Strip into 3 isolated zones.

Israeli occupying forces have also restricted movement at border crossings in the Gaza Strip. Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip has been closed for 2 weeks, denying thousands of Palestinians access to their places of work in Israel. On 14 September 2003, Israeli occupying forces closed al-Mentar crossing, the only commercial crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The crossing was reopened on the following day.

In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces continued to impose a strict military siege on Palestinian communities. This week, they declared Ramallah a closed military zone, preventing Palestinian civilians, Israeli, Palestinian and international peace activists and international delegations from entering the town to express solidarity with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat against an Israeli decision to deport him. Thousands of Palestinian patients, employees, school and university students were unable to reach hospitals, work, schools and universities.

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