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February 22, 2002
Israeli Attacks Leave Twenty-Three Palestinians Dead



For Immediate Release
Al-Haq Urgent Action Alert
20 February 2002

Israeli Attacks Leave Twenty-Three Palestinians Dead

During the past two days Israeli military forces have killed twenty-three Palestinians in attacks upon Palestinian areas. Yesterday in Gaza six Palestinians including two children were killed in two separate attacks in the Khan Younis and Jabaliya Refugee Camps. Additionally, one Palestinian was killed during an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers that resulted from the soldiers attempt to enter into Balata Refugee Camp near Nablus, and a woman standing on the roof of here home during the exchange of fire was also shot and killed. Late yesterday night a Palestinian attack upon an Israeli military checkpoint near the village of Ein Arik South West of Ramallah left six Israeli soldiers dead, and retaliatory strikes by Israeli forces throughout the night and into this morning have killed fifteen Palestinians.

During the early hours of this morning a missile attack was launched against the offices of Force 17 in Gaza City. According to Israeli reports, Israeli naval gunboats assisted by helicopter gunships and Israeli commandos carried out the attack. Four members of Forces 17 were killed during the bombing, and at least four more were injured. Several additional locations were also bombed in Gaza during the night.

In the West Bank Israeli Forces bombed several locations in Ramallah, carried out incursions into a number of villages around Ramallah and attempted to enter into Nablus. In Ramallah a building located next to President Arafat's offices was bombed and several positions occupied by the security services were targeted. One member of the National Security Forces was killed when the National Security Forces'offices in Al-Amari Refugee Camp on the outskirts of Ramallah were bombed. Another member of the National Security Forces was killed this morning during an exchange of fire with Israeli forces in the village of Dier Al-Sudan north of Ramallah. Nine Palestinians were also killed during Israeli attacks upon Nablus and Balata Refugee Camp. Seven of the men killed were members of the National Security Forces. The men were all killed when Israeli forces attacked a National Security Forces checkpoint on the outskirts of Nablus. Initial reports from Al-Haq's fieldworker in Nablus indicate that none of the men were shot less than ten times. The last two Palestinians killed died this morning in Balata refugee camp. Both were young men ages 17 and 18, and were killed while throwing stones at Israeli soldiers attempting to enter into the Camp.

While Israel's actions were ostensibly carried out in retaliation for recent Palestinian attacks against Israeli targets, none of people killed nor any of the targets struck by the Israeli forces were related to these attacks. The missile attacks today all targeted institutions related to the Palestinian Authority. All of the institutions struck were related to the Palestinian security services with the exception of Arafat's compound. These attacks continue to erode the Palestinian Authority's ability to maintain order and are a direct threat to the rule of law in Palestinian controlled areas. Bombing yesterday in Ramallah destroyed a residential home that has been the headquarters of the Civil Police since their offices were destroyed during an Israeli attack last year. The Civil Police maintain law and order in the Palestinian administered areas, monitoring traffic and investigating crimes. The civil police have no security function. In addition to prisons and police stations, municipal buildings and government ministries have been systematically destroyed over the course of the Intifada. As a result the Palestinian court system has practically ceased to function and many basic civil services are not being provided. Instead of facilitating the efforts of the Palestinian Authority to maintain order, Israeli actions have contributed to an atmosphere that allows for the attacks to which the Israeli attacks are claiming to respond.

However, Israeli bombing has not only targeted buildings connected with the Palestinian Authority. Yesterday's attacks in Gaza targeted a civilian home and an information office connected with the political arm of Hamas. In the first attack an Israeli tank fired a shell into a residential home killing three people including a fourteen year-old girl, and injuring eight others. In the second attack Israeli helicopters fired missiles into a Hamas information office killing two men working in the building and a four year-old girl. Additionally, over the last days Israeli forces have continued to destroy homes and agricultural land in retaliation for attacks and to "provide security".

The Israeli military also forbid all travel between Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus, Tulkarem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jericho and Jerusalem today. All Palestinians caught attempting to drive between any of these areas or attempting to leave surrounding villages are being turned around. At the Qalandia Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah cement blocks have been placed across the road, and soldiers have been firing upon anyone approaching the checkpoint. The tightening of the already existent siege on Palestinian towns and villages is a direct threat to the health and safety of the civilian Palestinian population. These closures affect every aspect of Palestinian daily life by halting travel to work and school, by delaying medical care and treatment, by stopping food and gas from meeting those in need, etc. The closures constitute collective punishment and if not lifted in the next two days the closures will dramatically effect family life during Eid Al-Adha, the second most important Muslim holiday of the year.

Finally, this morning the Israeli Security Cabinet met to decide upon further actions to be taken over the coming days. At the time of the writing of this release none of the discussions from the meeting had yet been made public, but announcements have been released stating that a new plan of action has been devised to intensify Israeli military actions. Al-Haq is concerned by this approach and fears that additional incursions and bombings will only increase violations of human rights. Israeli actions over the last days have not been focused on bringing to justice those responsible for attacks, but have been punitive and retributive strikes against the civilian Palestinian population and the Palestinian Authority.

Al-Haq therefore requests that the international community pressure the Israeli government not to escalate its actions. Al-Haq also requests that the international community send monitors to the Occupied Territories who can help to bring about an end to Israeli abuses of human rights and who can provide protection for the civilian Palestinian population. Finally, Al-Haq calls upon States to take action to fulfill their Article 1 obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention to "respect and ensure respect" for the convention and asks that states take action to pressure Israel to end its Occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

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