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Ni’lin demonstrators testify at the United Nations

6 July 2009

The West Bank village of Ni’lin has been demonstrating since the Israeli government began for a second time to construct the Apartheid Wall on village lands in May 2008. To date, Israeli forces have killed 5 residents of Ni’lin and critically injured 1 American solidarity activist. According to local medics who volunteer with the Palestinian Red Crescent, over 450 people have been injured during demonstrations as of April 2009.

Visibly, the violence from Israeli forces dramatically increased during and after the 22 day assault on Gaza that began on 27 December 2008. Israeli forces have killed 3 demonstrators since the beginning of the Gaza assault in Ni’lin. Additionally, the Israeli army has introduced new weapons against demonstrators; using the high-velocity tear gas projectile and a 0.22 calibre live ammunition shot by sniper fire as a means of crowd dispersal.

Two witnesses to the willful killings of Arafat Rateb Khawaje and Mohammed Khawaje with live ammunition on 28 December 2009, a Palestinian resident of Ni’lin and an Israeli solidarity activist, testified to the United Nations in Geneva on 6 July 2009.

Their testimonies are available on the United Nations video archives. The testimonies from Ni’lin are the 2nd to last on the webpage, labelled Mr. Sour and Mr. Jonathan Pollack.


Background on Ni’lin’s struggle

Israeli forces commonly use tear-gas canisters, rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators.

To date, Israeli occupation forces have murdered five Palestinian residents and critically injured 1 international solidarity activist during unarmed demonstrations in Ni’lin.

  • 29 July 2008: Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.
  • 30 July 2008: Yousef Amira (17) was shot in the head with two rubber coated steel bullets. He died in a Ramallah hospital 5 days later on 4 August 2008.
  • 28 December 2008: Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) was shot in the back with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.
  • 28 December 2008: Mohammed Khawaje (20) was shot in the head with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition. He died in a Ramallah hospital 3 days later on 31 December 2008.
  • 13 March 2009: Tristan Anderson (37), an American citizen, was shot in the head with a high velocity tear gas projectile. He is currently at Tel Hashomer hospital with an unknown
  • 5 June 2009: Yousef Akil Srour (36) was shot in the chest with 0.22 caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital.

In total, 35 people have been shot by Israeli forces with live ammunition in Ni’lin: 7 were shot with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and 28 were shot with 0.22 caliber live ammunition.

Since May 2008, residents of Ni’lin have been organizing and participating in unarmed demonstrations against construction of the Apartheid Wall. Despite being deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004, the Occupation continues to build the Wall, further annexing Palestinian land.

Ni’lin will lose approximately 2,500 dunums of agricultural land when construction of the Wall is completed. Israel annexed 40,000 of Ni’lin’s 58,000 dunums in 1948. After the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the illegal settlements and infrastructure of Kiryat Sefer, Mattityahu and Maccabim were built on village lands and Ni’lin lost another 8,000 dunums. Of the remaining 10,000 dunums, the Occupation will confiscate 2,500 for the Wall and 200 for a tunnel to be built under the segregated settler-only road 446. Ni’lin will be left with 7,300 dunums.

The current entrance to the village will be closed and replaced by a tunnel to be built under Road 446. This tunnel will allow for the closure of the road to Palestinian vehicles, turning road 446 into a segregated settler-only road . Ni’lin will be effectively split into 2 parts (upper Ni’lin and lower Ni’lin), as road 446 runs between the village. The tunnel is designed to give Israeli occupation forces control of movement over Ni’lin residents, as it can be blocked with a single military vehicle.


UN Gaza inquiry wraps up hearings | BBC News

8 July 2009

Richard Goldstone said his four member team had been shaken by the extent of the destruction in Gaza.

Witnesses from Gaza, Israel and the West Bank gave testimony in public hearings in Gaza and Geneva.

Israel has refused to co-operate, accusing the UN Human Rights Council of bias against it.

The investigation is looking into whether Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during Israel’s three-week operation in Gaza in December and January.

The Human Rights Council has been accused of singling out Israel unfairly, although Mr Goldstone, who is Jewish, is a respected South African war crimes prosecutor.

Israel did not provide visas for the investigators to visit the south of Israel, which has suffered years of Palestinian rocket fire, or the West Bank, and the team entered Gaza from Egypt.

In two days of hearings last weeks, Gaza residents described harrowing stories of bereavement and injury during the Israeli operation.

And on Monday and Tuesday, residents of southern Israel, weapons experts, Palestinian lawyers and the father of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit gave testimony.

“The testimonies we have heard from victims and witnesses… have been very difficult to hear, but I believe it is important that we listen to these stories,” Mr Goldstone told a news conference.

“Obviously on this mission, visiting Gaza was very important, not only to listen to people but to see the physical damage. That shook all of us, the extent of it,” Goldstone said.

Previous investigations

It is the first time a UN fact-finding mission has held such public hearings.

Mr Goldstone said written questions would now be submitted to Israel and Hamas and the team was aiming to present its report in September.

Several investigations into alleged violations of international law during Israel’s 22-day operation in Gaza, which ended on 18 January, have now reported back.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has requested more than $11m (£7m) compensation from Israel for damage to UN property in Gaza, after a limited UN inquiry accused Israel of targeting known civilian shelters and providing untrue statements to justify actions in which civilians were killed.

The report found Israel to blame in six out of nine incidents when death or injury were caused to people sheltering at UN property and UN buildings were damaged.

The Israeli military has concluded in an internal investigation that its troops fought lawfully, although errors did take place, such as the deaths of 21 people in a wrongly targeted house.

International human rights group Amnesty International accused both sides of committing war crimes in a detailed report on the conflict last week.

Palestinian rights groups say more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed during the January conflict. Israel puts the figure at 1,166.

Israeli and Palestinian estimates also differ on the numbers of civilian casualties.

According to the United Nations, the Israeli military campaign left more than 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties and 200 schools damaged or destroyed, as well as 39 mosques and two churches.