Since the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada on 29 September 2000, the Israeli security forces have committed blatant violations of the basic provisions of international humanitarian law against the Palestinian civilian population. According to information gathered by LAW, the Israeli army does not abide by minimal international standards governing the use of force. The types of weapons used to disperse demonstrators are lethal and should only be used for armed battles, not for maintaining order and security during demonstrations. The Israeli authorities have responded to Palestinian demonstrations with military force, intentionally departing from required policing methods. By using combat tactics, Israeli forces have perpetrated a wide range of violations of international humanitarian law, especially of the 4th Geneva Convention that is supported by a strong international consensus, applicable to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
In the first 110 days of the current crisis, Israeli forces killed 321 and injured approximately 11,000 Palestinians, as well as imposing tight military closure on the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Such arbitrary measures are blatant breaches of international humanitarian law, especially Article 32 of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which stipulates, “The High Contracting Parties specifically agree that each of them is prohibited from taking any measures of such a character as to cause physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in their hands. This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishment, mutilation and medical or scientific experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment of protected persons, but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilians or military agents.” Furthermore, it is a violation of Article 75, Paragraph 2 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, which stipulates, “The following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever, whether committed by civilian or by military agents:
Violence to the life, health, or physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular:
(ii) Torture of all kinds, whether physical or mental;
(iii) Corporal punishment; and
Paragraph 3 of Article 85 of the same Protocol states, “In addition to the grave breaches defined in Article 11, the following acts shall be regarded as grave breaches of this Protocol, when committed willfully, in violation of the relevant provisions of this Protocol, and causing death or serious injury to body or health:
Making the civilian population or individual civilians the object of attack.”
Based on its field documentation and information gathered on 8 - 9 December 2000, LAW investigated the death of 15 year-old Ahmad Al Qawasmi from Hebron, who was shot in the head on Friday 8 December by an Israeli soldier.
In a sworn affidavit, Ashraf Julani, an eyewitness to the shooting,
told LAW, “On Friday, December 8, 2000, at 13:45, while I was sitting on
the balcony of my home in Harit Al Sheik, downtown Hebron, I heard intensive
gunfire. I saw an Israeli soldier standing with his foot pressed against
the neck of a young Palestinian; I then saw the soldier shoot the child
in the forehead. There were four other soldiers shooting eastward into
an alley leading to the Ali Baka mosque. I went down to the street to take
the injured child to safety; he was only 15 meters away. I carried him
for almost 30 meters.
“A number of soldiers ran after me and ordered me to put the child down. They searched the injured child and then searched me. They also pointed their guns at us. The search went on for five minutes. Then I was told to take the child and leave. I carried him for another 100 meters to Bab Al Zawyi where an ambulance took the child to hospital. I later learned that the victim’s name was Ahmad Al Qawasmi. He was 15 years old. He was in critical condition. Ahmad was shot in H1, which is under Palestinian control. He was not threatening the lives of any Israeli soldiers when he was shot.”
The eyewitness said that Ahmad was bleeding heavily. LAW’s field researcher was in the area when the soldiers opened fire but was prevented from reaching the site where the incident had occurred due to heavy gunfire. However, the researcher went to Al Ahli Hospital, where the wounded child was admitted.
Dr. Mohammad Dwaik explained the child’s condition to LAW’s researcher as follows: “The child was shot at point-blank range. The bullet penetrated his forehead, damaged part of his skull and lodged in his brain”. On 11 December 2000, Qawasmi was pronounced dead. The circumstances of his death, the fact that he did not pose imminent danger to the soldier concerned and the fact that he was shot in the head at point-blank range indicated that the soldier shot him with the intent to kill. Such killings are known as ‘willful killings’ under the 4th Geneva Convention, and are regarded as grave breaches of the Convention (article 147). Article 146 of the 4th Geneva Convention stipulates, “The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention…Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts.”
LAW Society’s data
Israeli forces killed 321 Palestinians between 29 September 2000 and 17 January 2001. 191 of those killed were Palestinians from the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 117 were from the Gaza Strip, and 13 were Palestinian citizens of Israel. Of the dead, 105 were children and 8 were women. According to LAW’s information, 38 Palestinians were killed away from clash points, including children playing near their homes (such as Samir Tabanja), children on their way home from school (such as Mu’aiad Al Jawareesh), children walking in the street away from the confrontations (such as Omar Khalid), and one case a girl hanging the washing out on the roof of her home, Areej Al Jabali.
This report concentrates on those individuals who were killed away from clash points, uninvolved in any form of demonstration or clashes in the West Bank. It does not include those killed in Gaza or within the Green Line, the assassinated Intifada leaders, or the members of the Palestinian National Security Forces who died when Israeli forces opened fire on their outposts.
Killed away from clash points
Five Palestinian women were killed away from clash points. Two women died when an Israeli helicopter bombed the car of Fatah activist Hussein Abyat, one died in a bombing of a residential area, one died when Israeli soldiers opened fire at a Palestinian car, and one died of severe teargas inhalation.
On 5 January 2001, as a result of Israeli shelling on residential areas in Hebron, Areej Al Jabali (18) was killed. Ahlam Al Jabali, Areej’s cousin, was injured in the same incident. According to LAW’s information, at 18:45 Israeli forces stationed at the Hagay settlement bombed Hebron’s Al Haraika quarter, killing Areej and wounding her cousin.
21 year-old Fatma Abu Jeesh, from Beit Dajan village near Nablus, was killed by Israeli fire on Sunday 7 January near Salem village. According to an eyewitness, she was mortally wounded when Israeli soldiers opened fire on vehicles traveling near Salem.
Rahma Shaheen, 51, and Aziza Jubran, 56, both from Beit Sahour, died when an Israeli helicopter bombed the car of Fatah activist Hussein Abyat.
Three-year-old Maram Hasuna died of a heart attack caused by teargas inhalation. Her father Imad, 28, told LAW, “Between three and four o’clock in the afternoon of Thursday 23 November 2000, my wife and mother came to my garage carrying my three-year-old daughter, Maram, who had already passed out due to teargas inhalation. I put her in my car and left quickly for the hospital. On the way, clashes were taking place and more teargas was fired. When we arrived at the Al Mustaqbal Hospital in Al Bireh we realised that Maram had already passed away.”
At least 10 Palestinian children have died because of indiscriminate fire by Israeli forces during the current Intifada. Thirteen-year-old Samir Tabanja from Nablus was killed by a bullet fired from an Israeli gunship on 1 October 2000. Samir’s father told LAW, “On 1 October 2000, at 14:55, Samir was playing around the house. At that time confrontations were taking place near Joseph’s Tomb and an Israeli gunship was hovering over the area. The gunship stopped in the air above our house and opened fire; Samir was hit. He died instantly.”
Israeli forces killed 18 year-old Arafat Al Atrash from Hebron on 4 October 2000. Arafat’s brother, Hussein, told LAW, “On Wednesday 4 October 2000, I left home with my two brothers Arafat and Wajeeh and went to watch clashes. There was a huge crowd of people about 50 metres from the confrontations. The Israeli soldiers opened fire at the crowd from the back from an army post at the marketplace in Hebron. I was five metres away from Arafat when the shooting started. I ran looking for a place to hide from the shooting, but when I looked back, Arafat was lying on the ground. The heavy shooting made it impossible to reach him. When the shooting eased and we got to Arafat we found out that he had been shot behind the ear and his head was bleeding.”
Eyewitnesses told LAW that on October 6, 2000, 15-year-old Majdi Al Maslimani from Beit Hanina, Jerusalem, was beaten to death by special Israeli forces after being arrested. First Israeli forces injured him after the Friday midday prayer. The eyewitnesses saw Majdi being handcuffed and five minutes later, he was lying on the floor surrounded by the Special Forces. The “musta’ribeen” (Israelis dressed as Palestinians) preventing any aid from reaching him.
Saeed Al Atawni, 26, from Hebron, gave the following statement to LAW about an incident on November 11, 2000: “I was unloading metal bars used in construction when I heard a gunshot and I was hit in the leg. Then I heard a second gunshot; this time my colleague Muneeb was hit. I learned in the hospital that Muneeb had died. The shooting was definitely unprovoked.”
Fifteen-year-old Sabir Ibrash from Al Am’ari refugee camp died of a bullet in the heart at the northern entrance to Al Bireh on Monday November 14, 2000. According to LAW’s documentation, on that day the Israeli soldiers stationed at the northern entrance to Al Bireh opened fire at a group of Palestinian children near the Ministry of Local Government, away from the clash point. Ibrash died though he was not taking part in the clashes. Hamza Zeidan, 20, from Kufur Ni’ma, told LAW: “At midday on November 14, 2000, confrontations between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian demonstrators were taking place near the City Inn hotel, north of Al Bireh. The soldiers were firing teargas and rubber-coated steel bullets. I was standing away from the confrontations with Sabir and a little boy named Mohammad. Suddenly, a bullet brushed Mohammad’s shoulder and penetrated Sabir’s chest.”
On October 16, 2000, Israeli soldiers killed 13-year-old Mu’ayad Jawareesh from Bethlehem while he was on his way home from school. Mu’ayad was still carrying his school bag when he was killed.
Eleven-year-old Mohammad Khalid was pronounced dead on January 14, 2001 due to head wounds incurred on January 7, 2001. LAW’s documentation showed that Mohammad was shot when Israeli soldiers opened fire at a group of Palestinian children near the northern entrance of Al Bireh. An eyewitness stated to LAW that a sniper, stationed 200 meters away, fired at the children hitting Mohammad in the left eye; the bullet penetrated the child’s head. Dr. Husni Al Atari, manager of Ramallah Hospital, stated that Mohammad was clinically dead when he was admitted to the hospital; he died on January 14, 2001.
Deaths caused by Shelling
Many Palestinians have died because of Israeli bombing or shelling on Palestinian residential areas. On October 23, 2000, Abdul Aziz Abu Snainih, 55, from Hebron, died when his home was shelled; his four children were also injured in the incident.
Amal, Abu Snainih’s daughter, told LAW, “At 20:45 we heard shooting coming from Usama Ben Munkith School, which was turned into an army barracks. When my father went to answer the telephone, we heard an explosion in the house. I found my father bleeding as he had been hit in the head.”
The German doctor, Harry Fisher, 55, died on November 15, 2000, after being hit by shrapnel while attempting to rescue his wounded Palestinian neighbours.
Death in varying circumstances
Israeli soldiers stationed near Al Fawar refugee camp, Bethlehem, shot and killed Shadi Al Wawi, 21, while he was talking on a mobile phone to his uncle in Gaza. Shadi’s friend, Yacob Al Aza, 25, told LAW, “I was with Shadi on top of his house while he was talking on the phone on the night of Friday October 13, 2000. The Israeli soldiers shot flares in the sky and then let off a round of bullets. Suddenly, I heard Shadi yelling, “I’ve been hit, help me.” With the help of his uncle and others, we took Shadi down and called an ambulance. We put him into an ambulance that happened to be passing by and went to Hebron hospital.” Samir, Shadi’s brother, accompanied him in the ambulance. He told LAW, “At the entrance to Al Fawar, Israeli soldiers prevented us from passing through. The ambulance driver had no choice but to take another long mountainous road to avoid the Israeli soldiers stationed at the entrance to Al Fawar. Unfortunately, the road was very rough and the ambulance broke down. It took 50 minutes to repair it. The road to the hospital would have taken only 10 minutes if we had not been prevented from passing through the Israeli military blockade.”
On Saturday October 21, 2000, Israeli forces killed 30-year-old Fayez Mohamad Al Qemary from Hebron. The American Andrew F. Getmat told LAW, “My name is Andrew F. Getman. I am an American citizen from Washington, DC with passport # 014897903. I am 31 years old and I live in Hebron as part of the Christian Peacemaker Team. The team is based in Harit Al Qazazzin in the Old City of Hebron.
“On Saturday 21 October 2000 at about 1:35 p.m. I was standing in Baab Al Zawiyye in the centre of Hebron with a group of young men and my colleague Dianne Roe, talking about the situation. We were about 100 metres from the soldiers at the border area on Shallaleh Street between H1 and H2. Soldiers were stationed on the ground and on the rooftop at the border area. Our position was about 50 metres from the Al Andalus Mall, where about twenty young boys were throwing rocks in direction of the Israeli soldiers. The position where we were standing was not in the direct firing line of the soldiers positioned on the ground.
“There were many people watching the clashes or engaging in usual market day activities well out of the range of the stone throwers and soldiers. Suddenly we heard a shot fired. We did not know where it came from, but the crowd of about 200 people began running away from Baab Al Zawiyye. As those with whom we were talking did not start running, we could not see a reason for people to flee. The crowd gathered about 40 meters further away from where we were standing, and 140 meters from where the soldiers were positioned.
“At first, it was impossible to see through the crowd clustering around the spot where the injured man had fallen. By the time I arrived there, his body had already been put into an ambulance, leaving only a thick stream of blood. Looking back towards the soldiers it appeared that the only clear shot could have been from a sniper on the rooftop, and that the man could not have been hit accidentally.
“Later, I found out that the victim was a taxi driver named Fayez Mohamad Al Qemary, and that he was cleaning his car when a bullet hit him in the back of the head. He fell in the street. He was standing at least 90 meters from the demonstrators, and 140 meters from the soldiers. Mr. Al Qemary was 30 years old, the father of three children. He was shot at 1:45 pm and declared dead at Alia Governmental Hospital in Hebron at 2:45 pm.”
Other Palestinian civilians killed:
Ibraheem Abdul Rahman Al Alami, 25, from Beit Umar in Hebron district, shot on Oct. 18, 2000.
Wa’Al Ghneim, 28, from Al Khader in Bethlehem district, shot on Nov 1, 2000
Marwan Assaf, 21, from Wadi Fukeen in Bethlehem district, shot on Nov 1, 2000
Ra’ed Al Muhtaseb, 22, from Hebron, shot on Nov 10, 2000.
Yousef Abu Awwad, 24, from Beit Ummar in Hebron district, shot on Nov 16, 2000.
Hussein Barad’iyeh, 39, from Surif in Hebron district, shot on Nov 21, 2000.
Firas Abu Hatab, 25, from Al Hara al Shar’yeh in Jenin, shot on Nov 23, 2000.
Walid Al Ja’afra, 32, from Hebron, shot on Nov 27, 2000.
Shhadeh Al Ja’fari, 27, from Bitunia shot on Dec 2, 2000.
Muhammad Taleb, 21, from Jenin, shot on Dec 8, 2000.
Muhammad Nuri, 22, from Tal village in Nablus district, shot on Dec 14, 2000.
Abd Al Mu’een Ibrahim, 32, from Tal village in Nablus district, shot on Dec 14, 2000.
Sa’ed Al Kharouf, 32, from Nablus, shot on Dec 14, 2000.
Muhammad Maali, 67, from Ijja in Jenin district, shot on Dec 16, 2000.
Ahmad Awad, 48, from Khirbet Jbara in Tulkarem district, shot on Dec 21, 2000.
Najib Ubeido, 19, from Sinjer neighborhood in Hebron, shot on Dec 22, 2000.
Muhammad Ghanim, 75, from Selit AL Thaher, shot on Jan 11, 2001.
The Israeli security forces have targeted Palestinian civilians who
were far from the clash points and uninvolved in any
Israeli forces have used excessive, disproportionate and, as indicated above, indiscriminate force against Palestinian civilians.
Israeli forces have shelled Palestinian residential areas from tanks, gunships and heavy machine guns.
LAW calls on the High contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to abide by their obligation under Article 1 and ensure Israel’s adherence to the Convention’s provisions pertinent to the territories under belligerent occupation.
In light of the above, LAW demands the following:
The Israeli Government to immediately stop the use of excessive and indiscriminate force and collective punishments against Palestinian civilians.
The establishment an international investigation committee based on United Nations Security Council resolution 1322 of Oct 7, 2000, to investigate the violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Israeli forces inside the occupied Palestinian territories.
The international community must hold a conference for the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to take practical measures to ensure Israel’s adherence to the Convention.
The international community must pressurise Israel to immediately put an end to the occupation of the Palestinian territories and effectively support the implementation of the Palestinian right to self-determination.
LAW – The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy.LAW is affiliate to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Fédération Internationale des Ligues de Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and Member of the Euro- Mediterranean Human Rights Network.