18 - 24 March 2004
This week, Israeli occupying forces escalated their aggression on Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs). They extra-judicially assassinated the leader of Hamas movement Sheikh Ahmed Yassin; willful killings perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces are human rights violations. 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 “Annexation Wall” inside the West Bank and have continued to impose a tight siege on the OPTs. This week, 24 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 3 children and a journalist, were killed by Israeli occupying forces.
In an act of state terrorism, on Monday morning, 22 March 2004, Israeli occupying forces assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, 66, founder and political leader of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), immediately after he had left the mosque after finishing the dawn prayer. In addition to Sheikh Yassin, 7 Palestinian civilians, including 3 of Sheikh Yassin’s bodyguards, were killed and 17 others injured, including two of Sheikh Yassin’s sons. This illegal and belligerent act is an actual implementation of the Israeli authorities’ threats to assassinate Sheikh Yassin, which were recently articulated by Israeli political and military officials.
In the Gaza Strip, Israeli occupying forces conducted 6 military incursions into Palestinian areas in the context of a plan known as “Continuous Story.” They killed a number of Palestinians and destroyed civilian properties. The widest of these incursion targeted Abasan village, east of Khan Yunis, on 22 March 2004. Israeli forces killed 5 Palestinians, including a man and his wife, and injured 9 other civilians. They also destroyed 5 houses and razed areas of agricultural land. In the other incursions, Israeli forces razed about 70 donums of Palestinian agricultural land and destroyed 11 houses. In addition, 4 Palestinians died from injuries sustained in previous incursions into Rafah and Gaza city.
As a result of Israeli indiscriminate shelling, this week, 3 Palestinian civilians, including 2 children in Khan Yunis, were killed, and a number of other civilians were wounded.
In the West Bank, Israeli occupying forces conducted a series of military incursions into Palestinian areas. A number of Palestinian civilians were injured. Israeli forces also arrested dozens Palestinians. Israeli forces used excessive force against demonstrations organized by Palestinian civilians in protest to the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. As a result, 4 Palestinian civilians, including a child and a journalist, were killed by the Israeli gunfire.
In violation of article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, 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 the West Bank.
Israeli occupying forces have continued construction of the “Annexation Wall” inside the West Bank. The Israeli High Court issued a temporary injunction stopping the construction of the wall in Kahrabtha Bani Hareth village, west of Ramallah, and ordered Israeli forces to bring 500 uprooted olive trees to their Palestinian owners. Israeli forces used excessive force against Palestinian civilians and international solidarity activists who protested against the construction of the wall.
Israeli settlers escalated their attacks against Palestinian civilians and their properties. In addition, Israeli occupying forces confiscated 8866 donums of Palestinian agricultural land in the west of Jenin, for the purpose of the construction of an industrial zone.
This week, Israeli occupying forces have tightened the siege imposed on the OPTs and imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem.
In the Gaza Strip, following the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin on Monday morning, 22 March 2004, Israeli occupying forces imposed a total siege on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They closed all border crossings of the Gaza Strip, and portioned it into 3 isolated zones. They also closed all entrances to Palestinian areas located near Israeli settlements and denied movement of Palestinian civilians. 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.
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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