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Reoccupation Update:
Attacks on Ramallah and Al Bireh
One Palestinian killed; civilian homes damaged; other houses occupied including that of LAW's financial director

 
Law Society
13 Mar.2002

Today Israeli troops continued their attacks on Ramallah, Al Bireh and the Al Am'ari and Qadura refugee camps, as well as on surrounding villages. Since the incursion into Ramallah in the early morning hours of 12 March 2002, Israeli troops have been shelling residential houses with artillery and ammunition. Moreover, male residents including children, in particular those from refugee camps, have been arbitrarily arrested and subjected to practices that constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The men had been asked to gather at schools from which they were taken to a detention center.

This morning a member of the Force 17, Fu'ad 'Ideili (45), from Ramallah, was killed by gunshots in the abdomen. According to information gathered by LAW, 'Ideili was shot when Israeli soldiers stationed at the Casablanca Hotel opened fire at some members of Palestinian security services who were standing in the so-called "clock square", at a distance of about 150 meters from the Casablanca hotel. Afterwards, Israeli troops hindered Palestinian ambulances from evacuating the injured. So people carried him by foot to hospital but he died at the entrance to the hospital.

The shelling of civilian homes continued in Ramallah and Al Bireh as well as in the nearby refugee camps. The following houses sustained severe damage: · The house of Abdul Mu'ti Abu Srur · The house of Iyyad Al Haddad · The house of Muhammad Al Haddad · The house of Ahmad Farahat · The house of As'ad Farahat

Moreover, Palestinian civilian homes continued to be occupied by the Israeli army and to be turned into military outposts:

· Ramallah Secondary Boys' School was turned into a center for tanks; heavy ammunition was placed on the roof of the school.

· A 3-story-residential building located northeast of the Casablanca Hotel, which belonged to Tayseer Ma'ali and his two brothers, was also occupied. The three families living there were kept in one apartment.

· A residential building located in the Al Walid Housing, at the northwestern entrance to Ramallah, was occupied. Five families of the Al Tirawi clan including the family of Tawfiq al Tirawi, the head of the Palestinian Intelligence in the West Bank, live in the building. Thirty persons were kept in one flat.

· Yesterday, at around 10 a.m. Israeli tanks besieged the house where LAW's financial and administrative director, Nadim Hammoudeh, lives. A number of soldiers broke into the 3-storey-house and forced its residents to gather on the ground floor. Four families consisting of 24 people live in the house. Nadim Hammoudeh stated that when the soldiers broke into his house they damaged the windows and furniture in a way not justifiable by military necessity.

· In addition, the Al Sabe building, in the northwest of Al Am'ari refugee camp, was occupied and five families consisting of 40 people were captured on the ground floor.

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN THE OTs URGENT APPEAL TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY FOR INTERVENTION

One of the most basic principles of international humanitarian law refers to the obligation of states to ensure access to medical treatment to any injured person, including evacuation if need be; protection of civilian hospitals and their staff; medical transportation and the consignment of medical supplies and equipment.

It is therefore in clear violation of international humanitarian law, that the Israeli security forces have systematically obstructed access to medical treatment since the escalation of assaults, which started with the attacks on Balata refugee camp on 28 February 2002. A more recent example of violations of medical neutrality is the situation in Ramallah where access to medical treatment has been obstructed in a number of ways:

· After attacks on medical personnel on ambulances during the last days, PCRS ambulances decided to coordinate every movement with the Israeli army; this has led to delays between 30 minutes and 2 hours. In the case of seriously injured patients, where time is certainly a critical factor, such delays can cause the patient's condition to significantly deteriorate.

· Despite prior coordination with the Israeli authorities, ambulances have been shot at. For example, yesterday, at 5.15 p.m., an ICRC jeep escorting a PRCS ambulance was hit by three bullets. Since then the PRCS has suspended all movement until the Israeli authorities guarantee the security of their ambulances. Yesterday night, the PRCS recorded 19 calls from Ramallah and Al Bireh, which received no response.

· Due to the restrictions of movement and the attacks on medical personnel and ambulances, injured and dead cannot be evacuated. For example, yesterday, at around 10 p.m., Shefa Ratha Tawil (56), a resident in Al Bireh whose house was surrounded by tanks, had a heart attack. The family called an ambulance but when it arrived at the scene it was denied passage. At around 12 p.m., the woman died. Till today 12 o'clock no evacuation of the corpse had been allowed.

· Due to the closures and curfews imposed on Ramallah, hospitals are cut off from medical supplies and food. For example, Ramallah Government Hospital said that they urgently needed oxygen supplies to be allowed into Ramallah. At 3 p.m. today LAW was assured that UNRWA and the ICRC would be allowed to transport oxygen, food and water to the hospital. However, hospital sources told LAW that the amount of oxygen allowed to be supplied to the hospital today would be consumed in about six hours. Yesterday, when one of the hospital ambulance drivers, Hani Hamadi, tried to bring medical supplies and food to the hospital, his vehicle was shot at and he had to return.

· Hospitals have been attacked. For example, tanks shot yesterday afternoon at the Ramallah Government Hospital destroying the water pipe system. As a consequence, the hospital suffers from lack of water since yesterday afternoon. The telephone lines have also broken down.

· From today, 11 a.m., the Israeli army has prohibited the evacuation of injured to Ramallah Government Hospital, which is the biggest and most important hospital in town. For this reason, some patients have had to be taken to the Arab Medical Care Hospital, which is in the center of town and is less well equipped. At the time of writing (3.30 p.m.) LAW has received reports of 32 people injured in Ramallah today alone, 9 of which are in critical condition.

· As the Arab Medical Care Hospital does not have enough surgeons and medical staff, e.g. anaesthetists, medical staff from the Ramallah Government Hospital and the Sheikh Zayed Hospital tried to assist, but were barred by the Israeli army from entering the Arab Medical Care Hospital.

In view of the humanitarian crisis in the OPTs including Ramallah and Al Bireh, LAW urgently requests the intervention of the international community, in particular the United States of America and member states of the European Union, in order to receive guarantees from Israel that access to medical treatment to all those who need it is not obstructed and that attacks on hospitals, ambulances and medical personnel cease immediately.

Moreover, LAW urges the international community to investigate and prosecute any instances of attacks on ambulances, medical staff and institutions, which have led to death or serious injury, in order to determine whether they were deliberate. Any such deliberate attacks amount to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and are thus war crimes.

Israeli Occupation Forces Kill an Italian Journalist 13 March 2002

Israeli troops opened tank fire today on Palestinian and foreign journalists reporting on the latest Israeli offensive in Ramallah and adjacent refugee camps. Italian freelance journalist Rafaele Ciriello died when he was hit in the chest and abdomen and left bleeding for 30 minutes. Israeli troops refrained from rescuing him and banned ambulances from evacuating him. Palestinians from Kadura refugee camp risked their lives and carried the wounded journalist to the Arab Care Hospital in Ramallah where he passed away. Ciriello was clearly identifiable as a journalist and was carrying cameras at the time of the attack.

Israeli troops also opened fire on 50 Palestinian and foreign reporters on Tuesday 12 March 2002 staying at the City Inn Palace Hotel that overlooks Al Amari refugee camp. No casualties were reported in that incident; however, an ABC camera was destroyed.

The number of journalists killed during the Intifada has risen to four, including Jamal Mansoor, Mohammad Al Bishawi, and Othman Katnani.

LAW strongly condemns the brutal killing of the Italian journalist and reiterates the following: 1. Israeli troops continue to commit blatant human rights violations against Palestinian and foreign journalists in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including individuals involved in fact finding missions, with the aim of silencing them and terrorizing others. These attacks aim to conceal Israeli war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; 2. Israeli troops use firearms against journalists, threatening their lives; 3. Israeli occupation forces are violating the right to freedom of expression; 4. Israeli occupation authorities have not taken any action to bring Israeli perpetrators or their superiors to justice;

LAW Society demands the following: 1. The Israeli government to stop its crimes and collective punishment against Palestinian and foreign journalists; 2. An immediate investigation into the killing of the Italian journalist and the perpetrators brought to justice; 3. Compliance with the international standards that protect journalists and allow them to perform their duties freely; 4. Journalists associations worldwide to act immediately in order to ensure Israel's compliance with international conventions and to immediately halt attacks against journalists reporting in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

CALLS TO END THE CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE AND TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION 12 MARCH 2002

LAW, MIFTAH and PCHR, today wrote to the EU, US, and other non-EU members of the international community calling upon them to take effective action and intervene in the face of the latest, rapid escalation of attacks by the Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian civilian population in the densely populated refugee camps and other civilian areas throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli occupying forces have attacked, invaded and placed under siege key Palestinian cities and adjacent refugee camps in the past few days, including within and near Tulkarem, Nablus, Jenin, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Ramallah, Al Bireh, Qalqilya, Hebron and the Gaza Strip.

The organizations highlighted the even more extreme, intensive, Israeli methods of attacking civilians, that first started at Balata refugee camp in Nablus on 28 February 2002, but are now being employed in other refugee camps (including Tulkarem Nur al Shams; Jenin; Aaza, Aida and Deheisha in Bethlehem; Al Arrob in Hebron; Khan Younis, Rafah and Jabalya in Gaza), and other civilian areas. These tactics are being used pursuant to Sharon's "new" stated policy of "hitting Palestinians hard [until it is] very painful. We must cause them losses, victims, so that they feel the heavy price".

Military tactics used more intensively, include: · Use of heavy weaponry in intensive strikes, including ground missiles and tank shells from tanks, missiles from helicopter gunships and F-16 warplanes, deployment of tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and heavily armed paratroopers, and use of high velocity live ammunition; · High numbers of civilian casualties and fatalities, as a result of the disproportionate and lethal use of force in contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Between 28 February 2002 to 10 March 2002 at least 113 killed and 368 injured. Since September 2000 to date 1,160 Palestinians killed and 18,307 injured. · Assassinations carried out during these operations where arrests or other means of restraint could have been used. Since November 2000 to 11 March 2002 at least 70 have been assassinated, with at least 20 bystanders (including 5 children). · Mass arbitrary arrests of all male Palestinians between age about 14 to about 48 years. The detainees, including children, have apparently been arbitrarily arrested, and held in detention camps outside their areas before it is determined whether they should be held or even questioned for suspected 'terrorist' activity, contravening their rights against arbitrary arrest and detention. Since 28 February 2002 to date about 2,200 have apparently been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Cruel, inhuman and degrading methods used during these mass arrests have included blindfolding, hand-cuffing, strip-searching with removal of upper clothing, and writing of numbers on their arms (reported by the BBC and Ha'aretz, 12 March 2002). · Extensive destruction of property, wantonly and without military necessity, with destruction and/or damaging of civilian homes, workplaces, hospitals, ambulances, fieldclinics, schools, universities, churches and mosques; key infrastructure including water pipes/supplies and electricity lines. New methods used since Balata has included the destruction of all the walls between adjoining homes as soldiers move from home to home. Family homes have been blown up or otherwise destroyed by Israeli forces in situations where they state that 'suspects' have been in those homes, rather than attempting to enter and arrest the purported suspects. · Access to vital services and supplies, such as electricity, water and food have been restricted or denied altogether, exacerbating the existing humanitarian crisis in all areas. · Movement of Palestinian vehicles throughout the West Bank has been banned since about 8 March 2002, except for those with express permission. Those traveling without such permission are being shot on sight without warning. Ambulances are also being attacked and denied permission to reach injured and sick patients or move them to hospitals. This ban intensifies the pre-existing severe restrictions on movement (including the hundreds of checkpoints; unmanned dirt blockades and trenches, and few irongates) and siege - that have made access to work, schools, universities, food and water, and other key humanitarian and health services severely restricted if not impossible, since September 2000. · Attacks on paramedics, medical staff and patients in ambulances, fieldclinics and hospitals have intensified. Since 28 February 2002 to date it is estimated that about 6 paramedics have been killed, 12 injured and 5 ambulances totally destroyed, and 10 partially damaged. From September 2000 to 1 March 2002 the PRCS estimate that about 165 of their ambulances have been attacked with about 69 destroyed (c. 68% of their fleet); about 122 emergency medical personnel injured. It is estimated that from September 2000 to 6 March 2002, about 17 medical staff have been killed.

The hindering and denial of access to humanitarian assistance and medical treatment are in violation of international humanitarian law. Deliberate attacks constituting willful killings or willfully caused serious injuries committed against the wounded or sick, or "against those medical or religious personnel, medical units or medical transports which are under the control of the adverse Party", constitute grave breaches (i.e. war crimes) of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and article 85, Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions. The International Committee of the Red Cross and PRCS have publicly stated that all ambulances were clearly marked and were coordinating their movements closely with the Israeli authorities. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel lodged a second petition in the Israeli High Court on 9 March 2002 on the issue of Israeli attacks on ambulances and prevention of evacuation.

LAW, MIFTAH and PCHR have condemned the so-called 'justification' of all these methods that violate international humanitarian law, being used on the flimsy pretext of rooting out "terrorists" and "terrorist bases". The attacks are being used in effect to punish the entire, defenseless population. Moreover, so-called security or military purposes cannot justify these methods employed that constitute violations of international humanitarian law, in particular where they constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and Protocol 1 to the Conventions (i.e. war crimes).

The organizations referred to key violations of international humanitarian law and apparent grave breaches (war crimes) they are documenting during the course of these operations, including willful killings, willfully depriving protected persons of rights of fair and regular trial, disproportionate use of force intended to cause "great suffering or serious injury to body or health", as well as "extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."

The organizations also referred to other forms of grave breaches (war crimes) that are being perpetrated as a result of the massive attacks against the Palestinian civilian population, and through the denial or restrictions in access to key food, water supplies and humanitarian aid, including "making of the civilian population the object of attack", launching of "indiscriminate attacks affecting the civilian population or civilian objects in the knowledge that such attacks will cause excessive loss of life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects", "making non-defended localities and demilitarized zones the object of attack", making persons the "object of attack in the knowledge that [they are] hors de combat", and "making the clearly-recognised historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples and to which special protection has been given.the object of attack.".

LAW, MIFTAH and PCHR have urged the international community to immediately intervene by: · Undertaking to unequivocally denounce these brutal actions, in particular the grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention (i.e. war crimes); · Ensuring the Israeli occupying power's respect of its obligations by taking effective measures, in particular economic sanctions such as the immediate suspension of key trade agreements including the EU-Israel Association Agreement; · Ending these grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention (war crimes) and other serious violations of international humanitarian law by immediately sending an independent, effective international protection presence to the area; · Providing an alternative that is capable of dealing with the core of the problem and ending the Israeli occupation, illegal settlement policies and providing refugee rights of return. · Complying with their own obligations by: o investigating, and bringing the perpetrators of such war crimes to trial, and by establishing a War Crimes Tribunal to prosecute such war criminals; and o ending all aid used to perpetrate such crimes in particular by ending the supply of all arms used against the Palestinian civilian population.

 
 
 
 
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