Weekly report on human rights violations

8 - 14 January 2004

This week, Israeli occupying forces continued to violate the human rights of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs) carrying out various violations, including extra-judicial assassinations and willful killings. Throughout the week, Israeli occupying forces also conducted incursions into Palestinian areas; shot at Palestinian civilians, including children; indiscriminately shelled residential areas and demolished houses; and leveled agricultural land. 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. This week, 3 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli occupying forces. 1 of the victims was killed in another extra-judicial assassination. A number of other civilians were also wounded. A British peace activist was also pronounced dead, nine months after being shot in the head by Israeli occupying forces in Rafah refugee camp.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupying forces conducted 3 military incursions into Rafah refugee camp and Wadi al-Salqa village. On 12 and 13 January 2004, Israeli occupying forces moved into Rafah refugee camp and demolished 9 houses, 3 of them completely and 2 shops. In addition, 3 Palestinian civilians were injured by the Israeli gunfire and the electricity and water networks were severely damaged. Israeli occupying forces also moved into Wadi al-Salqa village, southeast of Deir al-Balah, where they raided and searched a number of houses and forced the residents out. They also used a Palestinian civilian as a human shield while searching the houses and upon withdrawing from the village, they arrested 2 Palestinians.

Israeli occupying forces have continued to shell Palestinian residential areas, especially in Rafah and Khan Yunis in the south of the Gaza Strip. This week, a Palestinian civilian from Rafah was killed by Israeli shelling while he was inside his house. A number of other civilians were also injured.

On Tuesday, 13 January 2004, medical sources at a UK hospital declared that British peace activist, Thomas Peter Hurndall, 22, had succumbed to an injury he sustained in April last year in Rafah refugee camp. Hurndall was shot in the forehead by Israeli forces while attempting to remove young Palestinian children from the line of fire.

For the 3rd consecutive week in the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces have continued to conduct incursions into Nablus and neighboring refugee camps and villages. During these incursions, Israeli troops arrested a number of allegedly wanted Palestinians. They have also imposed a curfew on the city and neighboring refugee camps since Thursday, 25 December 2003. Palestinian civilians are only able to leave their houses when Israeli troops temporarily withdraw from the centre of the city. In a military incursion into Bita village, south of Nablus, Israeli troops shot a Palestinian civilian and refused to provide him with medical assistance. The victim died from his wound. This week, Israeli occupying forces began a wide scale military operation against Tulkarm and Nour Shams refugee camps in the north of the West Bank. They raided and searched many Palestinian houses and interrogated Palestinian males. During the interrogations, Israeli forces drew marks on the hands of those Palestinians who had been questioned.

In a continuation of the policy of extra-judicial assassinations officially adopted by the Israeli political and security establishments, on Thursday, 8 January 2004, Israeli occupying forces committed another extra-judicial assassination, which left dead a Palestinian activist from Jaba’ village in Jenin. They claimed that he attempted to escape when they moved to arrest him. However, according to eyewitnesses, the soldiers immediately fired at the victim, without any prior warning or any attempts to apprehend him.

In violation of article 33 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949, 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 blatant disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians, on Monday morning, 12 January 2004, Israeli occupying forces destroyed a house in Yatta village, south of Hebron. Israeli troops first shelled the house, claiming that a relative of the owner was hiding inside. They then destroyed the house and arrested the owner, along with his father and one of his brothers.

Despite the fact that the International Court of Justice is preparing to consider the case of the “separation wall” in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution adopted on 8 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces have continued construction of the wall. PCHR’s field workers reported that construction is continuing in numerous areas from the Jordan Valley in the north, to Hebron in the south. Since Sunday, 11 January 2004, the construction company hired by Israeli authorities to construct the section of the “Separation Wall” surrounding Jerusalem began to work 24 hours per day in the hopes of completing the construction in 6 months. The length of this section of the wall is expected to be 76km, 25km of which have already been constructed. The exact path of the wall around Jerusalem has not been decided; however, it is expected to incorporate “Ma’ale Adomim” settlement, which means moving 15km to the east of the areas under the authority of the Municipality of West Jerusalem.

In addition, Israeli occupying forces have continued to impose severe restrictions on the 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 the movement of Palestinian civilians. Israeli troops have also maintained the closure of a number of main and branch roads in the Gaza Strip by stationing Israeli soldiers 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. This week, Israeli occupying forces arrested a number of Palestinian civilians at Rafah Terminal on the Egyptian border, which has been the only outlet for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip to the outside world since the beginning of the current Intifada.

In the context of collective punishment measures against Palestinian civilians, Israeli occupying forces prohibited 386 of a total of 6210 pilgrims from the Gaza Strip, from traveling to Saudi Arabia to attend the Hajj through Rafah Terminal. This denial of access to the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia represents a clear violation of the right to freedom of religion, as enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as numerous other provisions of international human rights and humanitarian law.

In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces have continued to impose a strict siege on Palestinian communities in the West Bank. They have continued to impose a tightened siege on Nablus and neighboring refugee camps and villages for the 3rd consecutive week, denying Palestinian civilians, including medical personnel and patients, the right to freedom of movement. On Sunday, 11 January 2004, Israeli occupying forces further restricted the movement of Palestinian civilians. They erected more military checkpoints and infantry units were deployed on dirt roads, which are often used by Palestinian civilians as an alternative to main roads. Israeli troops held hundreds of civilians for long hours, before forcing them to travel back to their areas. These restrictions on freedom of movement were not limited to Nablus, as other cities, towns and villages in the West Bank were faced with similar measures. Israeli occupying forces also imposed curfews on some areas. This week, Israeli troops positioned at military checkpoints arrested a number of Palestinians, claiming that they are wanted by Israeli occupying authorities.

To download the full report click here.