Weekly report on human rights violations

25 - 31 December 2003

This week, Israeli occupying forces continued to violate the human rights of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs).  Human rights violations included the use of extra-judicial assassinations and willful killings.  Throughout the week, the Israeli occupying army also conducted incursions into Palestinian areas; shot at Palestinian civilians, including children; indiscriminately shelled residential areas; demolished houses; and leveled agricultural land.  This week, 8 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli occupying forces.  Five of the victims were killed in an extra-judicial assassination perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces in Gaza city.  Israeli 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 a continuation of the policy of extra-judicial assassinations officially adopted by the Israeli political and security establishments Israeli occupying forces carried out 2 assassination attempts this week.  The attacks left 5 Palestinians dead, including 3 civilian bystanders, and injured 30 others.  On Thursday evening, 25 December 2003, Israeli helicopter gunships fired 2 missiles at a civilian car in northern Gaza city.  5 Palestinians, including 3 civilian bystanders, were killed in this attack and 15 others were injured.  According to medical sources and PCHR investigations, the missiles used in this crime were similar to those used in the assassination committed in Nuseirat refugee camp on 20 October 2003, which also resulted in numerous casualties among civilian bystanders.   Unlike most previous Israeli assassinations carried out by helicopter gunships, which usually result in the total burning of the body, the bodies were not burned in this attack.  On Tuesday evening, 30 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces carried out another assassination attempt.  The attack targeted a member of the ‘Ezziddin al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of the Hamas movement.  The targeted individual and 13 Palestinians civilians were injured.  Two civilians sustained serious injuries. 

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupying forces conducted 10 military incursions into Palestinian areas, during which they destroyed 7 houses and a school in Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah and razed more than 100 donums[1] of agricultural land.  The main effects of this destruction were in Deir al-Balah.  They also raided Palestinian houses and arrested a number of Palestinians.  

Israeli occupying forces continued to shell Palestinian residential areas using various kinds of weapons.  This week, 2 Palestinian civilians were killed by indiscriminate shelling from military establishments around Khan Yunis, and dozens of other civilians were injured in various areas of the Gaza Strip. 

In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces conducted a series of incursions into Palestinian communities, especially Nablus.  A Palestinian civilian was killed and dozens of others were injured by Israeli attacks in Nablus throughout the week.  From time to time, Israeli forces imposed a curfew on the city and raided houses.  Furthermore, the Israeli military operation in Nablus coincided with the time of university and school exams. 

Also this week, Israeli settlers launched several attacks against Palestinian civilians and property, especially in Hebron.  They also erected new mobile homes at a number of settlement “outposts”. 

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 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 houses in Nablus. 

In a step that anticipates the consideration of the case of the “separation wall” by International Court of Justice in accordance of the UN General Assembly Resolution adopted on 8 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces have continued construction of the wall, while the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention have failed to take any step to fulfill their legal obligations under the Convention. 

In addition, Israeli occupying forces have 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.  The Israeli military has also maintained the closure of a number of main and branch roads in the Gaza Strip by Israeli soldiers stationed at Israeli 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.

Israeli occupying forces have also maintained the siege imposed on the al-Sayafa area between “Dogit” and “Elli Sinai” settlements in the northern Gaza Strip.  On Friday, 26 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces closed the area and denied movement of Palestinian civilians out and into the area.  They closed the area again on Tuesday, 30 December 2003, claiming unspecified “security” concerns.  

On Thursday, 25 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces closed the Beit Hanoun crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, denying access of more than 13000 Palestinian workers to their work places, as a punitive measure following a bombing that occurred in Tel Aviv.  On Sunday morning, 28 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces reopened the crossing under new conditions, which included that any person wishing to work in Israel must be married and over 35 years old. 

In the West Bank, following a bombing that occurred in Betah Tekva town near Tel Aviv on Thursday, 25 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces tightened the siege imposed on the OPTs.  The closed most military checkpoints in the West Bank and erected new ones.  These Israeli measures coincided with the Christmas celebrations, so thousands of Palestinian Christians were not able to travel to Bethlehem to celebrate the Christmas.

To download the full report click here.