Weekly report on human rights violations

23 - 29 October 2003

This week, Israeli occupying forces have escalated violations of human rights against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs), including extra-judicial and willful killings, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, incursions into Palestinian areas, house demolitions and land leveling. They have also continued to impose a tightened siege on the OPTs. This week, 11 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children, were killed by Israeli occupying forces.

In a continuation of the policy of extra-judicial assassinations officially adopted by the Israeli political and security establishments in violation of international humanitarian law and human rights instruments, on Tuesday, 28 October 2003, Israeli occupying forces killed a Palestinian and wounded a passing civilian in Tulkarm refugee camp. Israeli military sources claimed that the victim that was killed was wanted and that he fired at an undercover unit of Israeli forces that came to the area to arrest him. They further claimed that the Palestinian that was wounded fired at the unit from a nearby store before Israeli soldiers fired at him. However, eyewitnesses denied that an exchange of fire occurred.

This week, 4 Palestinian civilians died from injuries they sustained on 20 October 2003 in a failed assassination carried out by Israeli occupying forces in Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip that targeted Palestinians, allegedly wanted by the Israeli military. The attack left dead 7 Palestinian civilians, including a child and a physician, and injured 50 others, including 10 who sustained serious injuries. With these recent deaths, the number of Palestinian civilians killed in this attack is now 12.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupying forces moved into al-Qarara village, north of Khan Yunis. They razed areas of Palestinian agricultural land, destroyed civilian facilities and searched a house. Two Palestinian civilians were wounded by Israeli gunfire during the incursion.

In another attack on Palestinian civilian property, on 26 October 2003, Israeli occupying forces destroyed 3 apartment buildings in al-Zahara town, south of Gaza City. The three buildings were owned by al-Zhafer Contracting Company and were in the final stages of construction. Each building was composed of 13 floors, each of which had 4 apartments; the total number of apartments that were destroyed is 156. A number of neighboring houses and buildings were also damaged in the explosion. In addition, 2 Palestinian civilians were wounded by the Israeli gunfire that accompanied the incursion.

The Israeli High Court rejected an appeal submitted by PCHR to stop the demolition of the 3 apartment buildings in al-Zahra. In an attempt to prevent the demolition of the three buildings, on 25 October 2003, PCHR submitted a petition to the Israeli High Court. As they had numerous times in the past, the Israeli prosecution claimed that the three buildings were to be demolished on grounds of security necessity.

In violation of international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 (Fourth Geneva Convention), 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 demolished a house in Hebron and arrested two bothers of a detainee.

The construction of the “separation wall” continued this week. The Israeli Prime Minister revealed an Israeli plan to construct a wall along the Jordan Valley, several kilometers into the eastern territory of the West Bank. The Israeli Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that Israel will retain control over the Jordan Valley in any permanent solution with Palestinians. PCHR asserts that the construction of the wall is a de facto annexation of Palestinian areas, in violation of international law and humanitarian law. The wall divides the West Bank into 3 isolated territories.

As part of the systematic settlement program in the OPTs, Israeli authorities granted “permanent status” to some “illegal settlement outposts” in a decision that ensures that the outposts will be provided with state funds and will not be dismantled.

In an example of excessive use of force, this week, Israeli occupying forces shot dead 4 Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including a mentally handicapped civilian. This week, Israeli occupying forces continued to shell Palestinian residential areas, especially in Khan Yunis.

In violation of articles 16 and 18 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, Israeli occupying forces surrounded 3 hospitals in Nablus, broke into one and arrested a Palestinian who was receiving medical treatment for a serious injury.

Israeli occupying forces have continued to impose severe restrictions on movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem. Israeli occupying forces have continued to humiliate Palestinian civilians at checkpoints, have continued to close a number of branch roads in the Gaza Strip, and have restricted movement of goods at commercial crossings of the Gaza Strip. They have maintained the closure of Erez crossing in the north of the Gaza Strip for the second consecutive month, denying access of thousands of Palestinian workers to their work places in Israel. Israeli occupying forces have also continued to deliberately hamper movement of Palestinians at Rafah Terminal on the Egyptian border, resulting in hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, being forced to wait on the Egyptian side of the crossing for long periods of time without basic facilities in order to come back into the Gaza Strip. The Israeli intelligence often summon and interrogate or arrest Palestinian travelers at this terminal without a legal pretext.

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