Weekly report on human rights violations

Qalqilya checkpoint (Photo: Melanie Bartels, 2003)

29 January - 11 February 2004

In the period covered by this report, Israeli occupying forces continued escalated war crimes and human rights violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). Israeli occupying forces conducted incursions into Palestinian areas; shot at Palestinian civilians, which included children; committed more assassinations; 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 while imposing a tight siege on the OPTs. During the period covered by this report, 28 Palestinians, including 2 children, were killed by Israeli occupying forces.

In a serious escalation of force, 12 Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupying forces in al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza city and 3 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in the Rafah refugee camp. Three of the victims killed in al-Shojaeya died when Israeli occupying forces destroyed a house with them still inside. In addition, at least 60 Palestinians, including 33 children, were injured in the two incidents. Medical sources at hospitals in the Gaza Strip described the condition of 20 of those injured as moderate to serious. Israeli forces also destroyed 24 houses and 3 schools in Rafah refugee camp. These developments took place as Israeli occupying forces, supported by helicopters, moved into al-Shojaeya neighborhood in the east of Gaza city and into Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. Israeli military sources claimed that the two incursions were conducted under the pretext of arresting wanted individuals and searching for tunnels. The international community continues to fail to act regarding these human rights violations, and leaving the Palestinians to face their fate alone.

During the period covered by this report, Israeli occupying forces conducted 6 military incursions into Palestinian areas in the Gaza Strip. In 2 military incursions in Rafah, Israeli forces killed 5 Palestinians and injured dozens of others. Israeli forces moved also into Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah and razed areas of Palestinian agricultural land. In an excessive use of force, Israeli forces shot dead 2 Palestinian civilians in the central Gaza Strip, while they were attempting to infiltrate into Israel to search for jobs.

In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces continued to move into Palestinian areas, especially in Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkram and Ramallah. In a major military incursion into Bethlehem, Israeli forces killed one Palestinian and injured another Palestinian in a military incursion into Jericho. They also killed a Palestinian in Jenin, claiming that he fired at workers who work on the construction of the “Separation Wall.” No eyewitnesses were available to verify this claim. In addition, a number of Palestinians were injured and others were arrested by Israeli forces during these incursions.

In a continuation of the policy of extra-judicial assassinations officially adopted by Israeli authorities in violation of international humanitarian law and other human rights instruments, Israeli occupying forces carried out 2 assassinations, which left dead 3 Palestinians, including a child, and injured 11 civilian bystanders, including 3 children. On Friday, 30 January 2004, Israeli occupying forces shot dead a Palestinian in Beit ‘Awa village, southwest of Hebron, after they had surrounded his house then injured and arrested him, and claimed that he had been allegedly wanted. On Saturday morning, 7 February 2004, Israeli occupying forces committed another assassination in Gaza city, which left dead a leader of the Islamic Jihad and an 11-year-old Palestinian child and injured 11 other civilians.

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 that Israel alleges have ordered, facilitated, or carried out attacks against Israeli targets. During the period covered by this report, Israeli occupying forces escalated this campaign of retaliation against families of such individual Palestinians. During the week of the Islamic holiday Eid al-Adha, Israeli occupying forces destroyed 16 houses in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, and Jenin in the West Bank, and two others in the Gaza Strip. As a result, 28 Palestinian families (more than 140 people) have become homeless.

Despite international criticism, including the recent UN General Assembly Resolution referring the case of the “separation wall” in the West Bank to the International Court of Justice, Israeli occupying forces continued the construction of the “Separation Wall” inside the West Bank. For this purpose, they confiscated more Palestinian lands and warned a number of Palestinian families living near the wall that their houses would be demolished. These actions came 2 weeks before the session of the International Court of Justice to consider the case of the legality of the “Separation Wall” according to a UN General Assembly Resolution issued on 8 December 2003. Israeli officials began to claim that the track of the wall might be moved to the west towards the Green Line, and that plans to establish parts of the wall around Palestinian villages would be cancelled, however, they did not refer to parts of the wall that have already been constructed. In the meantime, the Israeli High Court held its first session to consider the case of the “Separation Wall” in response to an appeal submitted to the court by human rights organizations. PCHR reiterates that the construction of the wall on Palestinian lands violates international humanitarian law and asserts that statements by Israeli officials are part of the Israeli media campaign to move the attention of the world from the disastrous human rights violations perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians, including the construction of the wall itself. PCHR also reiterates its position that the Israeli judiciary in general and the High Court in particular are biased to Israeli official positions.

As part of the Israeli settlement activities in the Gaza Strip, on 6 February 2004, Israeli occupying forces handed written notices to 7 Palestinian families, who own agricultural lands to the west of “Kfar Farom” settlement, southeast of Deir al-Balah, informing them that their lands would be confiscated for security and military purposes. The confiscation orders were issued by Major General Dan Harel, head of the Southern Command of Israeli occupying forces. The area of these lands is estimated at 220 donums, owned by the families of Abu Bashir, Abu Sa’id, al-Agha, al-Qedra, al-Tawashi, Abu ‘Obaid and Abu Samra. These lands had already been razed by Israeli occupying forces. In addition, previously on 19 January 2004, Israeli occupying forces had informed 10 other Palestinian families who have agricultural lands near the aforementioned settlement that their lands would be confiscated for the same purposes. The area of these lands is estimated at 700 donums. PCHR has submitted appeals to the Israeli military legal advisor demanding cancellation of these military orders and providing reparation to the families.

In addition, to the construction of the “Separation Wall” inside the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces have continued other settlement activities in the West Bank, and settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property, especially in Hebron. They seized areas of Palestinian land and used violence against Palestinian civilians, while Israeli forces confiscated more Palestinian lands for various purposes.

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 tightened siege, and imposed more restrictions on movement at border crossings and military checkpoints. They have 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. During the period covered by this report, 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. Israeli forces have continued to close al-Tuffah military checkpoint at the entrance to al-Mawasi of Khan Yunis since 19 January 2004.

Furthermore, Israeli occupying forces have continued to impose severe restrictions on travel through Rafah Terminal on the Egyptian border, which has been the only outlet that the Gaza Strip has to the outside world since the beginning of the current Intifada. Palestinian pilgrims coming back from Saudi Arabia were subject to humiliation and prolonged travel procedures. Furthermore, many of them were forced to spend a number of nights on the Egyptian side of the terminal waiting permission to cross into the Gaza Strip. The Israeli restrictions at Beit Hanoun crossing are not limited to workers; rather they also affect patients who are transferred to hospitals in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel.

In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces have continued to impose a strict siege on Palestinian communities in the West Bank. They have also imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians during the Islamic Eid holiday. Many Palestinian employees were not able to go back to their homes before the Eid. Israeli forces also erected new checkpoints and imposed more restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians.

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