No atrocities in Jenin
So it was in Jenin, where 23 Israelis -- more than all the U.S. battle deaths in Kosovo and Afghanistan combined -- died in 10 days of intense fighting. There was the usual grumbling about ''sticking out our necks for civilians who only hate us,'' but still the reservists fought on. Jenin was cleared, house by house, alley by alley, without the aid of air power or heavy artillery, giving civilians time to get out of the way. Israelis did not question why. It is what their army, and their country, is about.
Israelis have since been stung by accusations of atrocities and massacres in the West Bank, by ''big lies'' that add insult to the pain of their losses. I felt similar resentment in Lebanon, where I saw Israeli soldiers repeatedly risking their lives to reduce civilian casualties, only to be charged with heinous crimes by the United Nations and other ''impartial'' bodies.
So often I would ask myself: ''If we're going to be condemned for what we didn't do, why don't we do it already and save our own skins?''
But I never acted on that thought. Instead, in Lebanon in 1982, we moved out of that garage and into a desperate battle. I came home -- many did not -- and had a son, who today serves in a frontline combat unit. He now faces the same dangers and dilemmas that I grappled with 20 years ago, and he tells me that he and his friends are making the same decisions.
He would not have it any other way, he says. As his father, in spite of my fears, neither would I.
Michael B. Oren, senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of the forthcoming Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East.
(from USA Today, April 24, 2002)
Raffaele Ciriello, aged 42, an Italian freelance journalist, was killed in Ramallah at 9.30am on 13 March when he was shot by a machine gun mounted on an IDF tank about 150 metres away. The IDF reportedly did not allow ambulances to approach him and he was carried to hospital by Palestinians. According to Amedeo Ricucci from the Italian TV station Rai Uno, there was no Palestinian fire at the time Raffaele Ciriello was shot.
In the latest incursions, there seems to have been an even greater readiness to kill. Some extrajudicial executions have taken place. Other killings appear to be cases of what the Israeli army describes as ''death kill verification'' - the extrajudicial execution of those wounded. Amnesty International condemns such practices.
At midnight on 29 March the IDF attacked the Cairo-Amman Bank where members of Force 17, a PA security force, engaged them from the third floor. After the IDF had stormed the building, five bodies of members of Force 17 were found; each one had been wounded and shot at close range with a single shot to the head or throat.
In Jenin on 6 April the IDF demolished Palestinian houses over the heads of people who remained inside. Reports from Palestinians within Jenin Refugee Camp were confirmed by a reporter accompanying the IDF. The report of Ron Leshem of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, was quoted by Agence France Presse: "Two bulldozers demolish homes and sometimes bury beneath them those who refused to surrender. Pillars of smoke climb out of the camp".
The Israeli forces are reported to have often used Palestinians effectively as human shields, endangering their lives and in violation of international humanitarian law.
Among those used in this way was Majdi Shehadeh, whose house was occupied by Israeli soldiers. He said:
"The IDF came to the house at 4am on Thursday [7 March] and collected the family and put us in one room. I have seven children aged between one and seven. They asked what I had on the roof; I said 'Pigeons'. The soldiers came on to the roof, and my neighbour heard them talking and shot and wounded a soldier. The soldiers started shooting and left the roof. One soldier wanted to kill me but the officer told him not to. Then they used me as a shield to go back on the roof and they placed explosives in the pigeon house and destroyed it. The pigeons were killed and the water tank exploded and water came pouring down. The soldiers started shooting in all directions... They made another entrance into my home and told me to go out and then to open the door of the neighbouring home. I couldn't open it so they broke it down. They used me as a shield to open doors to other houses and eventually let me go back home at 8am."
In a house occupied by Israeli soldiers in Balata camp between 28 February and 4 March, the IDF confined about 40 of the residents to one room and then allegedly told some of the men to stand at windows in the top floor flat, which was frequently being shot at by armed Palestinians.
On 8 April at about 1pm, six IDF soldiers entered al-Baq Mosque in the old city of Nablus, where an emergency clinic had been established. In the clinic were 45 wounded people, four doctors, several volunteers, and 10 corpses. Dr. Zahara el-Wawi, a doctor at the clinic, told the Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem, that the soldiers entered the mosque with their guns resting on the shoulders of Palestinian civilians who were forced to march in front of the soldiers as "human shields". The soldiers separated the medical staff from the patients, searched the dead bodies, and checked the identities of the injured patients.
Recent reports by the Israeli army have suggested that a number of Palestinians have blown themselves up while pretending to surrender. Amnesty International condemns this practice.
Targeting of medical personnel
''Each party to the conflict shall be obliged to apply, as a minimum,
the following: ...
(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely...
(2) The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for''.
[Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions]
Articles 20 and 21 of the Fourth Geneva Convention require respect and protection for medical personnel and convoys.
Beautifully argued piece, but I still wonder about the seemingly rampant bulldozing in Jenin and elsewhere throughout this second intifada.
I say this as someone with children and grandchildren in Israel.
ISRAEL AND THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES
The heavy price of Israeli incursions
''The Palestinians must be hit and it must be very painful. We must cause them losses, victims, so that they feel the heavy price''.
Ariel Sharon, Israeli Prime Minister, speaking to the press on 5 March 2002
Since 27 February 2002 the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have launched two waves of incursions into the Palestinian areas occupied by Israel in 1967, using tanks, armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and Apache helicopters. In the six weeks up to 11 April 2002 more than 600 Palestinians may have been killed and more than 3,000 injured.
The declared aim of the incursions into the Occupied Territories, which were continuing as this report was written, was, according to a briefing on 1 March 2002 by the Commander of the West Bank division Brigadier General Yitzhak Gershon:
''To clarify that there isn't and will not be a safe place for the terrorists and their senders. Our intention is to destroy the terror infrastructure in the refugee camps, if they are found''
He added that:
''It is important to clarify that this activity is not intended against the population which is not involved in terrorism. We have done all efforts to prevent causing harm to civilians.''
However, the IDF acted as though the main aim was to punish all Palestinians. Actions were taken by the IDF which had no clear or obvious military necessity; many of these, such as unlawful killings, destruction of property and arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, violated international human rights and humanitarian law. The IDF instituted a strict curfew and killed and wounded armed Palestinians. But they also killed and targeted medical personnel and journalists, and fired randomly at houses and people in the streets. Mass arbitrary arrests were carried out in a manner designed to degrade those detained.
Amnesty International delegates, who visited the area between 13 and 21 March, saw a trail of destruction: homes, shops and infrastructure demolished or damaged; apartments trashed and looted; cars crushed and lamp-posts, walls and shopfronts smashed. The IDF had deliberately cut electricity and telephone cables and water pipes, leaving whole areas without power and water for up to nine days. David Holley, an independent military expert, one of Amnesty International's delegates, said:
''The military operations we have investigated appear to be carried out not for military purposes but instead to harass, humiliate, intimidate and harm the Palestinian population. Either the Israeli army is extremely ill-disciplined or it has been ordered to carry out acts which violate the laws of war."
when people resort to filthy language...is the truest sign of DUMBNESS and a vocabulary of maybe a second grader......NASDAQ_1000 will probably think I,m bragging on him.
Why don,t you crawl back into your hole and pull your palistine buddy with you.
Amnesty International's research
After receiving reports of human rights violations committed by the IDF during their incursions into refugee camps and other areas in February-March 2002, Amnesty International sent three delegates to the region, including Major David Holley, a former member of the British regular army; Curt Goering, Executive Deputy Director of Amnesty International USA; and an Amnesty International researcher. Delegates arrived in the region on 13 and 14 March and visited the Gaza Strip, Ramallah, Bethlehem and its vicinity, Tulkarem, and Nablus and Balata Refugee Camp. IDF action often made travel and research in Palestinian areas difficult and dangerous.
During the period delegates were in the Gaza Strip - and for the previous nine days - the area south of Gaza city, where three-quarters of the population live, including around 300,000 refugees, was effectively cut off from the north and Amnesty International delegates were unable to investigate reports of unlawful killings in that area.
After visiting Ramallah on 15 March to carry out research, it proved extremely difficult for Amnesty International's delegates to leave the town by the only route left open, a heavily guarded checkpoint at Qalandiya. As the delegates waited, a tank shone a blinding light at the Palestinians waiting to cross after the border was opened for the first time in four days and a shot was fired over their heads. The Jerusalem residents were not allowed to cross and only those who approached the tank waving foreign passports were allowed to pass.
Towns and refugee camps
The West Bank extends 130 km north to south, and some 50 km east to west, with a total area of 5,800 square km. The boundary with Israel to north, west and south is the "Green Line" (the 1949 armistice line); to the east lies the River Jordan flowing into the Dead Sea, and beyond that the Kingdom of Jordan.
The present Palestinian population is two million; natural growth is very high at 3.5 per cent per annum. Overcrowding is high especially in the 27 refugee camps where those Palestinians expelled from their homes in 1947-8 have lived for the past 50 years; here educational, health and other services are provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Refugee camps are within or beside existing towns: Nablus (population 110,000) includes Balata refugee camp (population 19,000); Tulkarem hosts Tulkarem refugee camp (population 14,500); Bethlehem (population 45,000) contains Deheisheh refugee camp (population 10,000) and Aida refugee camp (population 4,000). Jenin (population 31,000) contains Jenin refugee camp (population 14,000) while Qalqiliya (population 38,000) has no refugee camp. Both Hebron (population 141,000) and Jericho (population 18,000) also have neighbouring refugee camps.
The Gaza Strip is 45 kilometres long and never more than 12 kilometres wide. More than 20 per cent of this area is occupied by Israeli settlements, with a population of about 5,000 settlers, less than 0.5 per cent of the total population of the Gaza Strip. This area is barred to Palestinians. More than a million Palestinians, including 824,672 refugees, nearly 80 per cent of the total population, live in the remaining area. Jabaliya refugee camp, with some 102,000 refugees, is the largest of all the refugee camps.
Violations of the right to life
''Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life''. [ICCPR, Article 6(1).]
Without proper investigations, which are not taking place, it is impossible to say how many of those killed by the IDF were armed Palestinians who were actively engaged in targeting Israeli forces. However, the use of force by the IDF appears to have been disproportionate and often reckless. There are also reports of extrajudicial executions.
The IDF incursions into Palestinian refugee camps and towns have encountered resistance by Palestinian armed groups. Amnesty International delegates witnessed the exchanges of fire between the two sides on two occasions during their recent visit.
- In Jabaliya on 13 March 2002 five Israeli tanks rolled into Salah al-Din Street, the main street of Jabaliya, flattening a car (a seemingly gratuitous act of vandalism as the road is extremely wide) and terrifying the population, especially the small girls from a primary school who had just ended their morning lessons; the five- to seven-year-olds ran weeping down the street trying to escape. The tanks were fired on from the roofs of houses by armed Palestinians. The Kalashnikov bullets were ineffective against tanks and the IDF clearly had orders not to respond to the fire. The incursion passed off without casualties apart from the material damage and the trauma to the children and the population.
- On 17 March Amnesty International delegates in Deheisheh camp and Bethlehem witnessed heavy exchanges of fire by both members of the IDF and armed Palestinian groups. Delegates saw some 200 armed Palestinians in civilian dress as they passed through the streets of Deheisheh and Bethlehem. Palestinian bystanders, including children, in the town appeared to be at risk of being targeted by the IDF or shot by either side in crossfire.
During Amnesty International's research in other areas its delegates were told that Palestinians who had weapons and who were not members of armed groups had shot at the IDF forces.
During Israel's incursion into Jabaliya on 11-12 March the IDF unlawfully killed bystanders by shooting randomly. Any Palestinian seen by the IDF on the top of a building appeared to be targeted by the IDF. In addition, there were many cases in all areas where Palestinians who apparently misunderstood instructions by the IDF - standing still, or coming forward or retreating when ordered to do something different - were shot. One IDF conscript told Amnesty International in February: ''Any person that is considered a threat can be killed. 'Threat' is a very fluid notion - as big as the ocean''.
Under the Fourth Geneva Convention Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as protected persons, may not be wilfully killed, tortured, ill-treated or suffer humiliating and degrading treatment. They may not be deported. The occupying power may not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. The property of protected persons may not be destroyed unless such destruction is "rendered absolutely necessary by military operations".
In addition, the Fourth Geneva Convention has a categoric prohibition against collective punishment and reprisals. It states, in Article 33:
''No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
Pillage is prohibited.
Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.''
Article 147 of the fourth Geneva Convention sets out a list of "grave breaches'' of the Fourth Geneva Convention:
"... wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."
Israel also has obligations to respect and protect human rights under UN human rights treaties which it has ratified. These include the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This treaty, which Israel has of its own accord made a solemn obligation to uphold, contains several articles which cannot be suspended even "in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation" (Article 4(1)). These non-derogable articles include the duty to protect and respect the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The relationship of the PA to the armed groups which carry out attacks on Israeli civilians has long been a subject of controversy. The Israeli Government alleges that a document reported to have been found by the IDF during its attack on PA offices in Ramallah in April 2002 shows that the official in charge of PA finances helped to finance the making of explosives for bombs. A basic rule of customary international law is that civilians must never be the target of an attack. This principle applies at all times. It is binding on Israel and the PA, but also Palestinian armed groups and Israeli and Palestinian individuals. Palestinian armed groups, and, if its involvement is proved, the PA, have broken this fundamental principle.
The first incursions were ended by a gradual and partial Israeli pullback after the arrival of US envoy Anthony Zinni on 14 March. However, the destruction and gross violations of human rights inflicted by the IDF between 27 February and 20 March (when the IDF finally pulled out of areas round Bethlehem) reached unprecedented levels during the second wave of incursions, ''Operation Defensive Wall'', which started on 29 March 2002 with an attack on President Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. The IDF spread through Ramallah, then entered Bethlehem, Tulkarem and Qalqiliya from 1 April, followed by Jenin and Nablus from the nights of 3 and 4 April. Towns were declared closed military areas, with strict curfews imposed on those within the towns. The IDF showed a widespread disregard for life, law and property. People from outside the invaded areas, including journalists, United Nations agencies, other humanitarian workers and even diplomats, were prevented from gaining access to offer aid or report on what was going on.
With six main cities and many villages effectively under siege, blocked off from the outside world, and with movement within the towns prohibited, a humanitarian disaster loomed as supplies of food and water ran out for many Palestinians. Ambulances, including those of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), were not allowed to move or suffered lengthy and life-threatening delays. Medical personnel or those who tried to help the injured were fired on and the wounded bled to death on the street. With movement banned, those who died could not be properly buried; they remained in houses or morgues or were hastily buried in parking lots or gardens. In the 10 days until 7 April, according to IDF figures, 200 Palestinians were killed and 1,500 wounded; on 12 April the IDF admitted that the real figures of those killed were in hundreds in Jenin alone. As the IDF tried to keep journalists and outsiders away from areas where they were carrying out operations, many of the reports of large-scale human rights violations by the IDF, including extrajudicial executions, expulsions, massive house destruction by the IDF could not be verified.(1) At first the families of Palestinians arrested had no idea where they were or even whether they were alive or dead. On 11 April 2002 official IDF figures stated that, since 29 March, more than 4000 Palestinians had been arrested and more than 350 were in administrative detention. A military order, issued on 5 April, banned visits to detainees by lawyers for the first 18 days of their detention.
In light of the large number of those arrested and detained, but with very little interrogation, Amnesty International is concerned that the aim of the arrests, accompanied as they were by ill-treatment, may have been to collectively punish Palestinians uninvolved in armed opposition, and to degrade and humiliate those arrested. Palestinians sitting in large numbers blindfolded and handcuffed were photographed and their pictures shown on television and published in Israeli newspapers.
Testimony of Jamal Issa, aged 37, from Tulkarem refugee camp:
"The IDF came to my house at 6am [on 8 March]. They gathered everyone, three families, in one room and we stayed there from 6am until 10am when we were moved to another house. They collected 20 people in the same house. Then we were taken to the school where we stayed for four or five hours, blindfolded and with our hands bound. They collected all our IDs and tried to sort us in groups. After three hours they took us to the DCO [District Coordination Office]. We stayed the night at the DCO, about 60 of us, handcuffed and blindfolded, treated as terrorists and humiliated. The basic rights of prisoners in the past were denied us. We asked to go to the toilet and they refused. We spent a night of shouting and crying.
"After that some were transferred by buses to Kedumim and others to Huwara Military Camp. There wasn't a prison in Huwara; it was better than the other place, they removed the blindfolds and handcuffs. We spent six days without any interrogation and then they released us. We hoped that someone would tell us why we were taken. We had been scared the whole time because they had threatened to kill us, but in the event we were more frightened of the release than of detention as we were left at the military camp checkpoint, where we collected our IDs and we had to find taxis and go past all the Nablus settlements. It took us four hours to get home."
Testimony of Majdi Shehadeh, from Tulkarem refugee camp:
"At 9am on Friday [8 March] there was an announcement on the loudspeaker that we had to report. We came on to the street and we were all told to take off the clothes on our upper part. We were about 100. We put on the clothes after about an hour, and then went on foot to the school. They checked all our IDs until 9pm. Then they brought buses and transferred us to Kibbutz Sanaws. We were all handcuffed and we sat on a pebbly ground. We weren't given any food, and when we asked for water they poured it over us. The handcuffs were tight and when the blindfolds were taken off on our arrival I saw some people with hands black and swollen. We told the soldiers that they were cutting into us and they said there was no alternative. We started to shout and cry, begging them to ease the handcuffs. It was very cold and some of us had T-shirts and no shoes. We weren't allowed to go to the toilet and had to relieve ourselves there. By 3.30am we were starting to shake and our teeth were chattering with cold. We huddled up together and then we stood up. The soldiers tried to impose order and shot in the air, but we were not afraid or scared and we did not accept to stay. Among us were some people more than 50 and children under 14. We protested at such arrests. Then an officer came and said, 'You will go home at 7am'; they released the old and the young at 4am. There were no charges against anyone. We protested against the cold. Around 10am they put us into line and a soldier had a stick and beat us all. Then we were released and taken to the DCO."