This week, Israeli occupying forces continued to violate the human rights of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). Throughout the week, the Israeli army conducted incursions into Palestinian areas; shot at Palestinian civilians, including children; indiscriminately shelled residential areas; demolished houses; and leveled agricultural land. This week, 17 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including a child and an old man, were killed and a number of others were wounded by Israeli occupying forces. Occupying forces have also continued construction of the “separation wall” inside the West Bank and have continued to impose a tight siege on the OPTs.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupying forces conducted 5 military incursions into Palestinian areas, during which they killed a number of Palestinians and destroyed civilian property. On Tuesday, 23 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced by heavy military vehicles and helicopter gunships, invaded Rafah refugee camp, adjacent to the Egyptian border. This large-scale incursion continued until Wednesday, 24 December 2003, during which Israeli occupying forces killed 9 Palestinians, including 7 civilians, injured 27 others, including a number of women and children, and destroyed 39 houses and a 3-story apartment building. As a result, 576 people (116 families) have become homeless. In addition, the civilian infrastructure of the camp and 3 civilian facilities, including 2 UNRWA centers, were severely damaged. This was the second major incursion into Rafah refugee camp this week, two days earlier Israeli occupying forces had invaded the camp and destroyed 7 Palestinian houses.
These recent Israeli invasions are part of an Israeli military strategy implemented in Rafah since the beginning of the current Intifada in September 2000. In the past three years Israeli occupying forces have destroyed over 800 Palestinian homes along the Egyptian border south of Rafah. Israeli authorities claim that this massive destruction is conducted for security reasons. However, PCHR’s analysis of the facts on the ground strongly suggests that the Israeli occupying forces are establishing a large “buffer zone” on Palestinian land along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. All Palestinian structures along the border have been demolished and the land has been leveled by Israeli bulldozers. Furthermore, Israeli occupying forces have constructed cement sniper towers and an iron wall on Palestinian land inside the border.
On Monday evening, 22 December 2003, Israeli occupation forces attacked areas in the central Gaza Strip. Following an armed clash between members of the Palestinian resistance and Israeli soldiers on “Kissufim” settler road, southeast of Deir al-Balah, which left 2 Palestinian resistance men and 2 Israeli soldiers dead, Israeli occupying forces moved into Wadi al-Salqa village, southeast of Deir al-Balah. They destroyed 7 Palestinian houses and razed about 40 donums of Palestinian agricultural land.
In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces conducted a series of incursions into Palestinian communities. These raids focused especially on the towns of Nablus, Jenin, Bethlehem and Hebron. During a wide-scale incursion into Nablus on Thursday, 18 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces committed 1 willful killing and used excessive force in the slaying 3 other Palestinians. Israeli soldiers also shot dead a 5-year-old Palestinian child during an Israeli military incursion into Balata refugee camp. Another Palestinian man died from tear gas inhalation when Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters inside his home during their attack on Balata camp. In another Israeli military incursion, a Palestinian civilian was shot dead by occupying forces in Jaba’ village, south of Jenin. In addition, a Palestinian child died from a previous injury he sustained by Israeli occupying forces last week in Deir al-Hatab village, east of Nablus. This week, Israeli occupying forces also arrested a number of Palestinians, who are allegedly wanted by Israeli occupation authorities.
In violation of international human rights law and humanitarian law, Israeli occupying forces continued the second stage of the construction of the “separation wall” on Palestinian land in the West Bank. The second stage includes the construction of a section of the wall extending from “Alkanah” settlement, southeast of Qalqilya, to “Ofar” detention center, southwest of Ramallah. This section is 40-45km long. The barrier will pass through the villages of al-Zawia, Rafat, Deir Ballout, Kufor al-Dik and Bourqin in Qalqilya district, and al-Lubban, Rantis, ‘Aabood, Deir Abu Masha’al, Shaqba, al-Qebia, Badras, Sabtin, Deir Qiddis, Na’lin, al-Midia, Bal’ein, Safa, Beit Siera, Kherbat al-Musbah, Beit Leqia, Beit Nouba, Beit ‘Anan, Qutna, al-Qubaiba, Beit Sourik, Biddu, Beit Ajza, Beit Diqqu, al-Tira, Beit ‘Our and ‘Ein ‘Arik in Ramallah district. Most of these villages will be left outside the wall and isolated from Palestinian communities and towns in the West Bank. According to information recently revealed by the Israeli military establishment, the total length of the wall will be 728km extending from the Jordan Valley to the south of Hebron, including 106km that will incorporate Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Israeli occupying forces have also continued to impose severe restrictions on movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupying forces have continued to impose a strict siege on Palestinian communities and restrict movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip. They have also maintained the closure of a number of main and branch roads in the Gaza Strip by Israeli soldiers stationed at illegal military checkpoints. Such restrictions on freedom of movement are in contravention of international human rights law to which Israel is a state party, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
This week, Israeli occupying forces imposed more restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians between the north and south of the Gaza Strip. Israeli occupying forces positioned at the Abu Houli and al-Matahen checkpoints on Salah al-Din Street, the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip, continued to obstruct movement of Palestinian civilians. The two checkpoints, which are open for a maximum of a few hours each day, have become notorious for acts of humiliation and harassment by Israeli soldiers.
On Friday afternoon, 19 December 2003, and Monday afternoon, 22 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces again closed the two checkpoints and held and searched a number of Palestinian vehicles. They ordered Palestinian civilians to get out of the vehicles, checked their ID cards, and then forced them to stand for many hours in the rain. Hundreds of Palestinian vehicles were also forced to wait at the two checkpoints. On Monday evening, after long hours of waiting, hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including workers, attempted to cross the two checkpoints on foot. Israeli soldiers opened fire at these civilians, wounding 5.
In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces have continued to impose a strict siege on Palestinian communities in the West Bank. They have also continued to impose a curfew on Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus, Ethna village, west of Hebron, and Housan village, west of Bethlehem. This week, Israeli occupying forces blocked Amman Street in the east of Nablus, dividing the city into two isolated areas. A Palestinian woman gave birth to 2 dead twins at Israeli military checkpoints when Israeli soldiers denied her passage to a hospital.
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