MILITARY SIEGE OF THE WEST BANK AND GAZA CONTINUES
LAW CONDEMNS COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT
12 September 1997
A total blockade and internal siege was re-imposed on the West Bank and Gaza Strip following the bombing in West Jerusalem on 4 September, just four days after the internal siege was fully lifted on Bethlehem after the
last bombing on 30 July. Total blockade means that no Palestinians may enter Jerusalem or Israel proper. Siege means that residents from Area A cannot enter or leave their areas (a kind of Area A arrest), and people from the surrounding areas (B and C) cannot enter the towns. The results are that, after nearly a month of siege and blockade, the Palestinian economy and standard of living has plummeted and medical services and treatments have been seriously disrupted.
LAW has provided extensive information on the results of this type of siege and blockade. This kind of collective punishment has proved inefficient in reducing tension and
minimizing violence, as it punishes the 2.5 million innocent Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. On the contrary, violence inside and outside the West Bank and Gaza can be traced to this Israeli policy and
the additional hardship it entails. Collective punishment is actually another method contributing to the spread of violence, increase in tensions, and reduction in confidence in the Israeli-Palestinian
LAWs fieldworkers have documented a series of human rights abuses which have taken place already during this past week of siege. Fieldworkers for LAW obtained affidavits about the following cases:
Restrictions on Movement: On 5 September 1997, Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint in Hebron fired on a local bus on its way to a wedding in el Ram, near Ramallah. The driver, Adel Nassar, 41, was injured in the face from shattered glass from the windshield. The driver, speaking from St. Josephs Hospital in Jerusalem, stat ed that the Kawasmi and Nassar families were on their way to the wedding. He was ordered back into Hebron at the main checkpoint in Hebron, although he pointed out to the soldiers that several other cars had been allowed to pass before him. He got out to discuss the issue with the soldier. He w as unsuccessful, and got back into the bus. At this point one soldier became angry and broke the window on the drivers side of the car. Mr. Nassar again got out of the bus to register a complaint and demand to speak to the commanding officer. An argument ensued, in which several others from th e bus also got out. Finally all of them got back into the bus and, as Mr. Nassar was turning the bus around, one soldier fired a rubber coated metal bullet into the van, shattering the windshield and injuring Mr. Nassar. Mr. Nassar is a regular bus driver and a father of 8 children.
Judeh Yacoub, 64, from Ayn Kenya near Ramallah, was being taken to the hospital by his son, Mohammed, for a severe respiratory problem. Mohammed relates that when they arrived at the Ramallah checkpoint on their way to the hospital 8 kilometers away, the
soldiers prevented them from passing. They were detained ten minutes while Judehs condition worsened, and he began hitting the floor with his feet in obvious distress. When they were finally allowed to pass,
Mohammed saw his father slump. He thought that his father was trying to breath more freely, but in fact he had died.
Humiliation at the Checkpoints: Palestinians often have trouble at the checkpoints attempting to enter or leave Areas A. Many people avoid the soldiers entirely by climbing over piles of rubble, dirt and stones blocking the secondary roads
into the towns. But those with pressing business go to the main checkpoints. 7 In one case directly after the bombing of 7 September, Ashraf al Hadoush, 18, was attempting to go home from his work in Israel
to Surif village near Hebron. The situation at the checkpoints is always very tense after bombings in Israel, and Ashraf was detained, beaten and handcuffed at a checkpoint in northern Hebron. The soldiers then refused
to allow him to go to the hospital. 7 Also directly after the bombings, Nimer Hashem al Khatib and his friend, from Beit Ibya village near Nablus, were beaten by Israeli soldiers at a military checkpoint near Nablus. 7 On Saturday 6 September another woman from Beit Sahour was handcuffed and humiliated by soldiers near the village checkpoint. 7 The family of Hamzeh al Mughrabi, who died recently, was refused entry to their town Termous Aiyya to bury his body. They were ordered back to Ramallah hospital. 7 In other cases, people were fined for being outside their villages, especially when they are located near a settler by-pass road.
The Right to an Education: The internal siege has prevented children and teachers from accessing schools if they are located outside of Area A. On 8 September, the elementary and secondary school Talita Koumi (in Area C in Bethlehem) was forced to close for the day because the teachers and students from Area A had been den ied permission to go to the school. In the village of Beit Ur near Ramallah, Israeli soldiers entered the village school and, according to reports from the school, assaulted some of the staff and students. In Hebron, settlers attacked that Kurtuba Girls School with garbage and also assaulted so me of the students. In Nablus, staff and students were prevented from going to their schools and were threatened with arrest if they tried to pass. An Najah University in Nablus has suspended classes until further notice.
Right to Work: All 2.5 million Palestinians have been
prevented entry into Jerusalem and Israel, including the 51,000 workers with Israeli-issued work permits. The effect on the national economy in lost taxes, and on the living situation of the workers who depend on their wages from these jobs, has been serious. The World Bank estimates that each day of total blockade results in a loss of $ 1.35 million US in direct household income, and a loss of $1.5 million US in direct export revenue.
Arbitrary Arrests: 169 Palestinians were arrested in the month
following the 30 July bombing up to the September 4 bombing. The DCO (District Coordinating Office) estimates that some 600 have been arrested by the Israeli military since the most recent bombing. Among the
detained was Aisha Thabi from Bidya village near Nablus. She was arrested at 3 in the morning, days after her husband was arrested. She was forced to watch the torture of men during their interrogations, and was released only four days later. She believes that her arrest was an act of psychological pressure on her husband.
The Israeli military have also deployed undercover units, or soldiers disguised as Arabs. An undercover unit entered Abiyat school in Bethlehem, assaulted teacher Khalil Dweib in front of his students, took him to the soldiers car, wrapped him in a blanket and beat him. The car drove in the dir ection of the nearby settlement of Etsion.
The Israeli military is widely believed to be holding the detainees in interrogation centers inside the West Bank in very poor conditions.
House Demolitions: The Israeli military and the Jerusalem municipality has used this period of blockade and siege in order to execute a wave of outstanding demolition orders. Nearly 48 homes have been demolished since the first bombing on 30 July, with a brief respite during the visit of US Secretary of State Madel eine Albright. All these houses were demolished for having no permit, although both the Israeli military authorities of the West Bank and the Jerusalem municipality only very rarely issue building permits to Palestinian residents. Palestinian residents, therefore, must build illegally to alleviate extreme overcrowding. Because they cannot take advantage of the low mortgage rates or the low-interest loans available to the Jewish settlements of the West Bank and Jerusalem, they must invest their life savings into their homes, adding to the economic as well as human devastation caused by these demolitions.
LAW remains deeply concerned over the current economic and living conditions of Palestinians due to the prolonged closure. The people are paying the price. Collective punishment is an act of revenge. It reflects the Israeli Governments irresponsibility and indifference to the Oslo Accords, international agreements, and internationally-accepted standards for human rights.
LAW reaffirms the following: 1. The Israeli Government violates the right for life and Palestinian individual security and is in contravention of Article 3 of the International Declaration of Human Right, and article 6 of the International Covenant of
Civil and Political Rights.
2. The Israeli Government violates human
dignity and is in contravention with Article 5 of the International Declaration of Human Rights and Article 7 of the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights.
3. The Israeli Government violates the
freedom of movement and contravenes Article 3 of the International Declaration of Human Rights and Article 12 of the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights.
4. The arbitrary arrests of Palestinians is a blatant violation of Article 9 of the International Declaration of Human Rights and Article 9 of the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights.
LAWE-The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organization, dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy. LAWE is alsoan affiliate member of the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights.