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, 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.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupying forces conducted 7 military incursions into Palestinian areas, during which they razed areas of Palestinian agricultural land and destroyed a number of civilian facilities. They also raided houses and arrested a number of Palestinians. Israeli forces continued to shell Palestinian residential areas, injuring 9 Palestinian civilians, including 4 children. On 21 February 2004, Israeli occupying forces shot dead a Palestinian from al-Boreij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip while he was near the eastern border of the Gaza Strip. Reasons for the victim’s presence in the area are not clear, but he was not armed.
On 22 February 2004, Israeli occupying forces handed written orders to a number of Palestinian families living near “Netzarim” settlement, south of Gaza City, informing them that their land would be seized for “military purposes” until the end of December 2005. Such orders mean that the land will be effectively permanently confiscated. The orders provide seven days for appeal. PCHR submitted appeal on behalf of the owners of these lands to the Israeli military legal advisor. According to the orders which were issued by the Head of the Israeli Military Southern Command, Dan Harel, “the seizure of land is carried out in light of the current security situation and for absolute military needs (security wall – Netzarim, Gaza) to establish security facilities.” The area of land subject to these orders is estimated at 27 dunums. However, the construction of a “security wall” around the Netzarim settlement is likely to involve seizure of additional Palestinian land and/or denial of access to other Palestinian land in this area. The maps annexed to the military orders show that the wall will encircle the southern part of “Netzarim” settlement; expanding an existing buffer zone around the settlement. The construction of the wall is expected to isolate hundreds of dunums of Palestinian land, which will be trapped between the settlement and the new security wall.
There has been a clear increase in the use of land seizure orders in the Gaza Strip in 2004. On 19 January 2004, Israeli occupying forces issued written orders to 10 Palestinian families in Deir el-Balah ordering the confiscation of land located northeast of “Kfar Darom” settlement. The total area affected is approximately 700 dunums. On 6 February 2004, Israeli occupying forces handed land seizure orders to 7 Palestinian families who own agricultural land to the west of “Kfar Darom” settlement, southeast of Deir al-Balah, informing them that their land would be confiscated for security and military purposes. The area of this land is estimated at 200 dunums.
In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces conducted a series of military incursions into Palestinian areas. In an unprecedented military action ordered by a government, on 25 February 2004, Israeli occupying forces moved into the Arab Bank and the Cairo – Amman Bank in Ramallah. They checked the ID cards of the staff and clients. According to Israeli official sources, Israeli forces confiscated 40 million NIS (approximately US$ 9.1 million), which will be transferred to Israel Central Bank. The Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz claimed that “the military operation in Ramallah targeted 390 bank accounts belonging to Palestinian charitable societies.” He further claimed that intelligence revealed that “these amount of money were devoted to fund hostile attacks against Israel.”
PCHR is concerned for this action which will cause further deterioration to the Palestinian economy, which has been targeted by Israeli occupying forces since the beginning of the current Intifada. PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to provide immediate protection for Palestinian civilians and property and bring back the stolen money.
Israeli forces also raided and searched houses in the West Bank and arrested a number of Palestinians. They also used excessive force to disperse demonstrations organized by Palestinian civilians. As a result, a number of civilians were injured.
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. This week they destroyed 4 houses in the West Bank.
As the International Court of Justice commenced consideration of the issue of the “Separation Wall” being constructed by Israeli occupying forces in the West Bank, on Tuesday, 24 February 2004, Israeli occupying forces began constructing part of the wall extending from “Alkanah” settlement, southeast of Qalqilya, to “Ofar” detention center, southwest of Ramallah. The length of this part is expected to 42km and its construction will lead to more Palestinian land confiscation.
One day before the sessions of the International Court of Justice in move intended to mislead, Israeli occupying forces began to dismantle a part of the wall to the east of Baqa al-Sharqia village, north of Tulkram. However, this part is one of two walls established around the village, therefore the village will remain separated from the Green Line. In the meantime, Israeli occupying forces have continued to raze and confiscate areas of Palestinian land for the purpose of the wall construction.
On Thursday morning, 24 February 2004, Israeli occupying forces transferred Lu’ai Tayseer ‘Ali Salama, 32, from Qariout village near Nablus to the Gaza Strip, implementing an order that “assigned his residence” to the Gaza Strip for a period of 4 years. Salama had been arrested by Israeli occupying forces in Ramallah on 12 March 2002, and detained at ‘Ofar detention center near Ramallah. One week later, a 6-month administrative detention order was issued against him and he was transferred to Negev Prison. The administrative detention order was renewed for 6 months and then twice more for 4 months in each. In the past two years, Israeli occupying forces have escalated the use of unlawful transfers against Palestinian civilians living in the West Bank. They unlawfully transferred dozens of Palestinian civilians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip for periods that ranged between 6 months and 2 years. Salama has been the second Palestinian civilian deported by Israeli occupying forces from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip in 2004. Israeli occupying forces transferred Anwar ‘Abdul Latif Salama Abu Zahu, 31, from Jenin to the Gaza Strip confining him there for a period of two years starting on 20 January 2004.
PCHR reiterates its position that the unlawful transfer of a protected person constitutes a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and a war crime, as further clarified in the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions.
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.
Israeli occupying forces have continued to impose a tightened siege on the Gaza Strip, 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.
On Wednesday, 24 February 2004, Israeli occupying forces closed Rafah Terminal on the Egyptian border and Sofa crossing on the eastern border of the Gaza Strip, northeast of Rafah.
In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces have continued to impose a strict siege on Palestinian communities. They have also imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians. They have blocked a number of roads using cement blocks, sand barriers, and trenches. They have also erected temporary checkpoints and arrested a number of Palestinians.
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