Amnesty International releases report on 40th Anniversary of Israel’s Occupation of the Palestinian Territories
Marking the 40th year of Occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, human rights group Amnesty International released a 45 page report citing gross human rights violations, breaches of International law, and breaches of UN resolutions with respect to the rights of Palestinians.
In addition to highlighting the various repercussions of Israel’s 700 km Apartheid Wall, built on Palestinian land well-within 1967 borders, and the over 500 Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks which hinder Palestinian movement within the West Bank and impact on every aspect of Palestinians’ lives, the Amnesty report documents the expansionist settlement policies within Palestinian territories, the severe food and economic crises resulting from economic and movement restrictions, the continued policy of illegal Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes, and the systematic enforcement of Apartheid policies against Palestinians in their own Territories. Amnesty calls on Israel to immediately end its Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and highlights the urgent need for international monitoring mechanisms.
Excerpts from the report:
To View Full Report, click HERE
Khaled Daud Faqih was just six months old when he died on 8 March 2007 at an Israeli army checkpoint. His father Daud, a teacher, told Amnesty International:
“My son Khaled was having difficulty breathing. I called a neighbour who has a car and with my wife and the baby we set off immediately for the hospital in Ramallah. Khaled had previously had attacks like this and we took him to hospital and there he was put under the oxygen tent and he always got better.
“We arrived at the Atara checkpoint at 12.45am. From there it was another 10 minutes to the hospital. The soldiers stopped us. I told them that my baby was sick and urgently needed to get to the hospital in Ramallah. I spoke to them in Hebrew. They asked for our IDs. The driver and I gave ours but my wife had left hers at home in the hurry. I told the soldiers and they said we could not pass without her ID. I begged them to let us pass. They looked in the car and saw that there was nothing and that the baby had problems breathing and his limbs were trembling. I told the soldiers that every minute, every second mattered; that the baby needed oxygen urgently. They told us to wait and I kept pleading with them. Then the baby died. It was 1.05am.”
The hundreds of checkpoints and blockades which every day force long detours and delays on Palestinians trying to get to work, school or hospital, have for years limited their access to essential health services and caused medical complications, births at checkpoints and even death.
The Israeli authorities contend that this regime of closures and restrictions is necessary to prevent Palestinians from entering Israel to carry out suicide bombings and other attacks.
However, virtually all the checkpoints, gates, blocked roads and most of the fence/wall are located inside the West Bank – not between Israel and the West Bank. They curtail or prevent movement between Palestinian towns and villages, splitting and isolating Palestinian communities, separating Palestinians from their agricultural land, hampering access to work, schools, health facilities and relatives, and destroying the Palestinian economy.
West Bank, including East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since June 1967:
5,600km2 total area: about 130km north-south and 65km east-west
200+ unlawful Israeli settlements and “outposts”
500+ Israeli military checkpoints and blockades
700km of roads that are banned for Palestinians
700km of fence/wall, 80 per cent of it on Palestinian land
The UN Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) records the number of checkpoints and blockades in the West Bank. In March 2007 there were 549. Of these, 84 were manned checkpoints and 465 were unmanned blockades, such as locked gates, earth mounds or ditches that make roads impassable, cement blocks and other obstacles that block access to roads.
In addition, thousands of temporary checkpoints, known as “flying checkpoints”, are set up every year by Israeli army patrols on roads throughout the West Bank for a limited duration – ranging from half an hour to several hours. OCHA recorded 624 flying checkpoints in February 2007 and 455 the previous month. In 2006 a total of 7,090 was recorded.
THE FENCE/WALL: UNLAWFUL LAND GRAB
More than half of the length of the (700 km) fence/wall has been completed and work is proceeding on the rest. Already, tens of thousands of olive and other trees and areas of fertile agricultural land have been uprooted and destroyed, dozens of homes have been demolished, and tens of thousands of Palestinians have been cut off from their land and means of earning a living.
According to the Israeli authorities, the fence/wall is “a defensive measure, designed to block the passage of terrorists, weapons and explosives into the State of Israel…” Its sole purpose, they say, is “to provide security”.
Some 80 per cent of (the Wall) is located on Palestinian land inside the West Bank, separating Palestinian towns, villages, communities and families from each other; cutting off Palestinian farmers from their land; hindering access to education and health care facilities and other essential services; and separating Palestinian communities from reservoirs and sources of clean water.
It is a complex structure, 50 to 100 metres in width and including barbed wire, ditches, trace paths and tank patrol lanes on each side as well as additional buffer zones and no-go areas of varying depths.
WALL OF DEATH
On 19 December 2006, 14-year-old Dua’a Nasser Abdelkader was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as she was playing near the fence/wall with her 12- year-old friend in Far’un village, south of Tulkarem. There is nothing to indicate that the two schoolgirls could have posed a threat to the Israeli soldiers, who shot at them from a nearby fortified watchtower. Israeli media reports of the Israeli army investigation into the incident stated that a soldier had admitted to shooting at the schoolgirls as they were running away from the fence.
In the areas where the fence/wall has been completed, it has devastated Palestinian farming, the main source of livelihood for the Palestinian communities there, and has had a disastrous impact on the lives of Palestinians.
Farmers are only allowed access on foot and only through the specific gate [open two or three times a day] for which they have a permit. They then have to walk from the gate to their land. Tractors are only allowed in exceptional cases, conditional on farmers obtaining a special and additional permit. These restrictions and conditions make it extremely difficult for farmers. Moreover, the Israeli army has tended to grant permits for passage through the agricultural gates only to older farmers. As a result, most families cannot farm their land efficiently or at all as the working conditions are too difficult and elderly family members cannot manage the workload.
BULLETS GREET ANTI-WALL PROTESTERS
In the village of Bil’in alone, where (non-violent) demonstrations have been taking place every Friday for two years, hundreds of demonstrators have been injured. On 8 December 2006, an Amnesty International delegation witnessed Israeli soldiers, who were on the roof of a civilian house in the village, firing in the direction of nearby children who were throwing stones at them. Inside the house a terrified family, including young children, told Amnesty International that the presence of the soldiers on their roof put them in danger.
Most of those injured in demonstrations against the fence/wall have been struck by plastic-coated metal bullets, often fired at close range. Beatings with rifle butts have also been common. Matan Cohen, a 17-year-old Israeli, was shot in the eye with a plastic-coated metal bullet by Israeli Border Police as he took part in a demonstration against the fence/wall on 24 February 2006 in the West Bank village of Beit Sira.
At times, the Israeli army has used live ammunition against demonstrators near the fence/wall. A 22-year-old Israeli demonstrator, Gil Na’amati, was shot and seriously injured in the leg by several bullets fired by Israeli forces near the fence/wall in the village of Mas’ha on 26 December 2003. He said:
“I was in the military and am familiar with the rules of engagement. What I did was not even close to something that I think would warrant opening fire… It’s unbelievable.”
ISRAELI SETTLEMENTS: THE REASON FOR THE RESTRICTIONS
Some 135 officially recognized Israeli settlements and 100 settlement “outposts” have been established in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law and in defiance of UN resolutions, since the beginning of Israel’s occupation in 1967. Israeli settlers number about 450,000, of whom some 200,000 live in settlements in and around East Jerusalem.
Settlements are for Jews only, who are entitled to Israeli nationality and to the protection of Israeli law even if they are migrants from other countries who go to live in settlements in the OPT without ever having resided in the State of Israel.
Palestinians, who are subject to military law rather than Israeli civilian law, are not allowed to enter or approach Israeli settlements or to use settlers’ roads, and are thus restricted in their movement. Settlers also receive substantial financial and other benefits, and are allowed to exploit land and natural resources that belong to the Palestinian population.
IMPUNITY FOR SETTLERS
Palestinians accused of attacks against Israeli settlers are tried by Israeli military courts and receive harsh punishments. In some cases they are assassinated by Israeli forces. By contrast, Israeli settlers who have assaulted Palestinians and destroyed their property are almost never prosecuted, and on the rare occasions when they have been, have not received punishments commensurate with the gravity of the offence.
Muhammad Shehadah ‘Atiya Salah, his brother Salah and young children were attacked by Israeli settlers near the settlement “outpost” Neve Daniel North, near the village of al-Khader in the Bethlehem area on 9 February 2007. Muhammad Salah told the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem that the settlers uprooted the plants which he and his brother had just planted, repeatedly threw stones at them and punched him in the face. There is no indication that the Israeli settlers responsible for the attack have been brought to justice.
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS UNDER ATTACK
Human rights defenders have also been present in the town of Hebron, where Palestinians have been repeatedly attacked in their homes by Israeli settlers. In response, Israeli settlers have stepped up their violent campaign against international and, in some cases, Israeli human rights activists in a bid to discourage their presence and deprive local Palestinians of even this limited form of protection and solidarity. The settlers have focused their attacks and threats on people filming or photographing their attacks, and have stolen their cameras and video recorders.
In September and October 2004 Israeli settlers, wearing hoods and armed with stones, wooden clubs and metal chains, assaulted two US members of the CPT, an Italian member of the peace organization Operation Dove and Amnesty International delegates as they escorted Palestinian children to their primary school near Tuwani village in the South Hebron Hills.
ECONOMY DESTROYED, GROWING POVERTY
“Since February 2006 new population groups have become food insecure (or more food insecure) in addition to the pre-existing food insecure groups…Several factors account for this deterioration in economic conditions, which has led, among other aspects, to the rise in the sense of food insecurity on the part of the population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The most significant factor is the system of movement restrictions imposed by Israel on the free movement of Palestinian goods and labour.”
–World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), February 2007
Other factors have negatively affected the Palestinian economy since the victory of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in January 2006 elections. As a result, some 150,000 public sector employees received no salaries or partial salaries for several months. However, the stringent movement restrictions remain the main obstacle to economic activity. Poverty and food insecurity are affecting a growing number of Palestinians. Malnutrition, anaemia, stunted growth, vitamin deficiency and other health problems have increased.
In the Gaza Strip, from where Israeli settlements were removed in 2005, closures imposed by
Israeli forces continue to keep the 1.5 million inhabitants cut off from other parts of the OPT and from the rest of the world for much of the time. Despite the redeployment of its troops in
2005, the Israeli army retains effective control over the Gaza Strip. All access points for people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip, as well as Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, remain under the control of Israeli forces.
In the past year the Israeli army has kept the Rafah pedestrian crossing to Egypt – the only passage for the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip to the outside world – closed most of the time. This stranglehold on the Gaza Strip has resulted in increased economic paralysis and poverty.
Forced evictions and house demolitions
Forced evictions have been recognized by the UN Commission on Human Rights as a violation of a range of human rights, including the right to adequate housing. Hundreds of Palestinian homes and properties have been destroyed by Israeli forces in the West Bank on the grounds that they were built without authorization. The Israeli authorities used old Ottoman and Jordanian laws pre-dating the Israeli occupation of the West Bank to declare that land not officially registered or cultivated was state land – some 60 per cent of the West Bank. The authorities then used a discriminatory administrative process to prohibit Palestinians from building while allowing Israeli settlers to build and expand houses and commercial buildings in the West Bank, in violation of international law.
To the Israeli government:
• End the regime of closures in its current form, as well as other forms of restrictions on freedom of movement of people and goods, that result in collective punishment.
• Stop the construction of the fence/wall inside the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Sections of the fence/wall already constructed that violate these rights should be removed. Israel only has the right to build a barrier between Israel and the West Bank.
• Immediately stop construction or expansion of Israeli settlements and related infrastructure in the OPT as a first step to removing Israeli civilians living in such settlements in the OPT.
• Stop immediately the destruction of houses, land, and other properties without absolute military necessity as prescribed by international humanitarian law.
• Cancel all demolition orders of unlicensed houses in the OPT. Israel should ensure reparation to those whose houses were unlawfully destroyed.
• Ensure that Israeli forces protect Palestinian civilians and their property against violence by Israeli settlers.
• Ensure proper investigation of alleged violations by Israeli forces, and bring to justice anyone found responsible in fair trials.
To the international community:
• Deploy an effective international human rights monitoring mechanism across Israel and the OPT.
• Ensure accountability of both parties, in compliance with their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.
• Ensure that any peace process includes concrete provisions that address fundamental human rights issues at the heart of the conflict.
• Ensure that Israel as the occupying power fulfils its obligation to provide for the protection and welfare of the Palestinian population, and refrain from imposing sanctions that negatively affect the provision of humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian population. The international community and donor states providing humanitarian assistance to the PA, notably the USA and EU countries, must take immediate steps to minimize the adverse impact on human rights of their suspension of funding.