The Acts of the Democracies
Israel demolishes 60 Palestinian houses in the Gaza Strip after four Israeli soldiers are killed. 93 families of about 600 people are left homeless. This collective punishment of a population violates the Genevea Conventions. The demolitions go ahead in spite of appeals from relatives of the dead soldiers. The Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz describes the action as a war crime and: "destruction on a systematic collective and indiscriminate level against Palestinians, whoever they may be. As far as is known, the only sin of most of them - perhaps even all of them - was the place where they lived."
Few reports of this action or its aftermath appear in Western media.
Israeli forces attack The Voice of Palestine radio station. Also destroyed are a number of properties funded by the European Union: irrigation schemes, a school building program, the airport in Gaza, the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, and a sea port. Chris Patten, the European Union Foreign Affairs Commissioner asks: "[Does] it really contribute to security if everything we try to support with EU assistance is destroyed." Many institutions of Palestinian statehood are destroyed including the ministries of health and education.
The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, is put effectively under house arrest by the presence of Israeli military forces near his residence. His compound is then attacked forcing Arafat into one windowless room. Israel refuses permission for Arafat to go to an Arab Summit in Beirut. The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, declares Arafat "an enemy of the world" and states that he regrets that "we did not liquidate" Arafat during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The USA ignores the comments which are condemned by European leaders. Saeb Ereket, a Palestinian cabinet minister responds: "I think these remarks reflect what has been always said - that Sharon is trying to finish what he began in 1982. And for prime ministers to announce openly their gangster intentions is a reflection of what kind of government we're dealing with."
Hundreds of reservist soldiers from Israel sign a petition refusing to serve in the occupied territories. The petition says that the occupation of Palestinian land is "corrupting the entire Israeli society". Soldiers had been issued with orders in the occupied territories that "had nothing to do with the security of our country [and had] the sole purpose of perpetuating our control [over the Palestinians]. We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people". Lieutenant Ishai Sagi adds: "Everything that we do in there [the occupied territories]... all the horrors, all the tearing down of houses and trees, all the roadblocks, everything - is just for one purpose, the settlers, who I believe are illegally there. So I believe that the orders I got were illegal, and I won't do that again."
In late February, a 22 year old Palestinian woman, Maysoun Hayek, begins experiencing the labour pains for her first child. Her husband, Mohammed, decides to drive his wife the 19km from their village Zeita (in the West Bank) to the nearest large town, Nablus. On the previous night a pregnant woman had been shot and injured by Israeli soldiers on the same road. Travelling at night on that road is dangerous but the woman's labour pains are too strong to wait until morning. Mohammed's father, Abdullah, decides to travel with them in the hope that a car containing an old man would be spared any trouble. The party leaves at 1:30 am and arrives at Nablus where the car is stopped at an Israeli checkpoint. The solders search the car and pat the woman's stomach. Five minutes later, the car comes under fire from Israeli troops stationed on a hillside. Mohammad is killed after 25 bullets penetrate his body. The old man, Abdullah, is hit in the chest and back; doctors say he may be permanently paralysed. At the hospital, Maysoun gives birth to a daughter, Fida. These people are Palestinians travelling from a Palestinian village to a Palestinian town. Many Palestinians have been killed travelling past Israeli checkpoints, some dying on their way to hospital.
In the same week an Israeli woman gives birth after being shot by terrorists. The Western media concentrate on her story and ignore the story of the two Palestinian women.
In March, Israeli forces kill an Italian photographer, Raffaele Ciriello, reporting for Corriere della Sera from the West Bank city of Ramallah. He is killed when soldiers in a tank open fire on him with a heavy machine gun. On the same day, a clearly marked television car is also attacked. Egyptian journalist, Tareq Abdel Jaber, is saved by his flak jacket after Israeli soldiers fire five shots at his vehicle.
Foreign journalists say that they are routinely fired at by Israeli forces. In another incident the Israeli army fires for 15 minutes into a hotel used by journalists in Ramallah. Seven shots are fired at a camera belonging to the USA ABC Network. A taxi carrying USA and UK journalists is fired at. According to Reporters Without Borders, 40 journalists have been injured in the previous two years of reporting in the occupied territories, mostly by Israeli forces.
By the end of March, Amnesty International reports that more than 1000 Palestinians had been killed. "Israeli security services have killed Palestinians, including more than 200 children, unlawfully, by shelling and bombing residential areas, random or targeted shooting, especially near checkpoints and borders, by extrajudicial executions and during demonstrations."
Palestinians begin to attack Israeli civilians with suicide bombers. Even so, Amnesty International comments: "These actions are shocking. Yet they can never justify the human rights violations and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions which, over the past 18 months, have been committed daily, hourly, even every minute, by the Israeli authorities against Palestinians. Israeli forces have consistently carried out killings when no lives were in danger."
In early April, Israeli tanks fire at a group of unarmed peace demonstrators (including many foreigners) in Bethlehem. A Jewish woman from the UK, Jo Bird, is among the people shot at: "I feared for my life, for sure. The soldiers carried on firing at us for 10 minutes... It opened my eyes to the brutality of the Israeli occupation".
The UK BBC reporter Orla Guerin is fired at and forced to abandon her vehicle. Another UK television station, Channel 4, reports that USA CIA operatives (who did not want to be filmed) were allowed to pass into the area under Israeli military control.
In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, USA-made F-16 warplanes drop large bombs on residential areas; one lands 200m from a United Nations school where 3000 children are studying. Helicopters fire heavy calibre machine guns at Palestinian police and civilians. 38 people are killed in a 12 hour period. On the ground, Israeli tanks shunt Palestinian ambulances off the street in violation of the protection afforded to rescue workers by the Geneva Convention.
Dr Ahmed Soubeih becomes the fourth doctor to be killed in one week of Israeli action. He had informed Israeli military authorities of his trip to a neighbouring hospital to get supplies for his patients. After being shot at, he again spoke to the Israelis who assured him of his safety. He was killed by a volley of bullets from an Israeli tank a few minutes later.
Red Cross workers describe ambulances and hospitals being attacked by Israeli forces, medical attention being denied to casualties, and bodies lying unburied. Israeli Arabs and Jews attempting to take food to Palestinian families under siege are tear-gassed by Israeli soldiers.
16 Palestinians (including 5 children) are killed in the Gaza village of Kouza.
Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia proposes a plan whereby the Arab world would recognise Israel diplomatically in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan Heights occupied in 1967. Palestinian refugees would have the right to return (or compensation) and the settlements (colonies) would have to be evacuated. Both Israel and the USA ignore the plan.
An article in the USA magazine, USA Today talks of the "transfer" or "resettlement" of Arabs to Jordan to solve the "Palestinian problem". This is ethnic cleansing which would be a war crime. The question of whether Jewish settlers (colonists) should be transferred off illegally occupied Arab land is not mentioned.
In mid April, Israeli forces invade Palestinian territory. The USA takes time to condemn the invasion while European and Arab populations demonstrate against it. Arab leaders query why the USA Secretary of State, Colin Powell, takes over a week to reach the region (travelling slowly via Europe and other Middle East countries) while the invasion rages. In 15 days over 400 Palestinians are killed and 1,500 injured; many are children. The USA criticises the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, even though he is besieged in his offices with a few aids and no electricity. Two weeks previously, the USA had sold 24 Black Hawk helicopters to Israel worth $211 million and paid for by the USA. This fact is hardly mentioned in the Western media.
In the West Bank city of Jenin the director of the hospital, Dr Ziad Ayaseh, describes a warning by Israeli forces that ambulances would be fired on if they attempt to enter the combat zone. This is confirmed by the International Red Cross. The director of the hospital in Bethlehem, Peter Qumri, is issued with similar threats. Basil Bshaarat is shot in the thigh and cannot get medical treatment for two days. He lies in his university dormitory with a towel to stop the bleeding. Palestinian ambulances are eventually allowed into the area with orders to bring out only dead bodies. Bshaarat and another man is smuggled out under three bodies: "the smell was terrible". Stopping rescue services from treating the injured is a violation of the Geneva Conventions. Both the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation state that people have died because Israeli forces had stopped rescuers getting through. The International Red Crescent has two of its ambulances destroyed while they are parked in Tulkarem.
Journalists are threatened and shot at to keep them out of the invasion zone. Stun grenades are used. A French television journalist is shot in front of BBC cameras. Michael Holmes of CNN has rubber bullets fired at him. Barbara Plett of the BBC is attacked with stun grenades when part of a five car convoy: "I was not shocked at the heavy-handed approach of the Israeli army. They have a sniper outside our hotel, for Heaven's sake." The BBC reporter Jeremy Vine, is denied access to the invasion zone but enters on foot. In Rumana, he films people whose hands had been bound for two days. Others had been wounded with dumdum bullets. These break up into many fragments when entering flesh. Hundreds of wounded civilians are being treated in houses.
In Bethlehem, hundreds of people take refuge in the Church of the Nativity which is surrounded by Israeli tanks. Among those trapped is the governor of the city, Mohammed al-Madani. The Christian bell ringer at the church for 30 years, Samir Ibrahim Salman, is killed while crossing to the building. A Muslim is shot while attempting to put out a fire at the Church. Brother Mark Boyle, a 60 year old monk from the UK, is confined to the Vatican funded university where he teaches, after Israeli missiles attack the building, destroying classrooms. From his vantage point he watches Israeli soldiers surrounding the Church of the Nativity and firing from all sites, starting several fires, as well as playing sounds of screaming women and barking dogs through loud-speakers.
USA-made Apache helicopters fire missiles and rockets on residential areas. Bulldozers demolish houses in the narrow streets. Hundreds of people are killed in Jenin over a three day period. Israeli troops open fire on the house of Sami Abda, even though neighbours had warned them there were only civilians inside. His mother and brother are killed after 18 bullets are fired through the open front door. Ambulances are refused permission to enter the street so the family has to live with the bodies for 30 hours. The United Nations Commission for Refugees report that Israeli soldiers smashed medical equipment even though there was no fighting.
The refugee camp in Jenin is closed to all outsiders for two weeks. Dozens of people are killed, half of them civilians. Many houses are bulldozed without warning with people inside, including several storey buildings. An area 0.5km wide, and home to 800 people, is flattened. Survivors talk of indiscriminate killings, mass graves (one trench with over 30 bodies), bodies taken away by the military, people shot as they surrendered, grenades being thrown into houses full of people, people used as human shields (including 72 year old Rajeh Tawafshi), ambulances shot at to keep them from treating the wounded.
Many civilians are killed. Mohammed Abu Sba'a, an elderly unarmed man, is shot in the chest after attempting to persuade a bulldozer driver not to crush his house. Fadwa Jamma, a nurse in uniform, is shot dead while attempting to help a wounded man outside her house. Atiya Rumeleh calls for an ambulance after her husband is shot in the face. The Israelis stop the vehicle and send it away and he dies. Afaf Desuqi, a 52 year old woman, is killed when Israeli soldiers blow her door open. Jamal Feyed, a mentally and physically disabled man, is killed when an Israeli bulldozer crushes his house, even though relatives had told the driver of his presence. Ahmad Hamduni, a man in his 80s, is shot by soldiers at close range in his house. Faris Zeben, a 14 year old boy, is shot from a tank while out buying groceries Mohammed Hawashin (15) is shot in the face while walking home. Kemal Zughayer, a 58 year old disabled man, is shot dead in his wheelchair while wheeling himself on the road with a white flag; a tank then runs over and mangles his body.
United Nations officials are shocked at the scale of the destruction; Terje Roed-Larsen states: "Given the deplorable and unprecedented refusal to allow international relief organisations into the camps while people were slowly dying in the rubble of their wounds and thirst, the onus is on Israel to account for the missing thousands of refugees who lived in the camp until a few weeks ago. [Israel] were hiding a war crime, in fact, two war crimes: the mass killing and the denial of humanitarian relief." The Israeli vilify him for his observations.
Amnesty International calls for a full enquiry by the United Nations Security Council. Many countries support this but the USA initially resists. The International Red Cross states that the camp "looks like it has been hit by an earthquake". After being denied entry for a week, workers from the Red Cross find injured survivors in the rubble. The Jenin refugee camp was home to 14,000 people and was established in 1953. Its inhabitants were originally ethnically cleansed from what is now Israel, a fact not widely reported in the Western media.
Israel blocks a United Nations enquiry into the events in Jenin. A few months later, the general in charge of the Jenin operation, Shaul Mofaz, is appointed Israel's Defence Minister.
Dima Sinafta, a 14 year old girl is killed after being hit by tank fire while standing on her balcony in Tubas. 8 year old Ahmed Srayer is one of 11 people injured when the car he is travelling is attacked by two helicopters in Hebron.
In Ramallah a group of Palestinian policemen, including two in their mid-50s are executed in a small room. Over 1000 prisoners are taken away to unknown destinations. Some are seen blindfolded and gagged in Jewish settlements (colonies). Hakam Kanafani, manager of Jawwal, a mobile phone company, describes his offices being wrecked and looted by Israeli soldiers: "All doors were broken even though the keys were available for them to use."
The Israel newspaper Ha'aretz describes vandalism and looting perpetrated by the Israeli army in the Ministry of Culture building in Ramallah occupied by troops for a month: "In every room of the various departments - literature, film, culture for children and youth - books, disks, pamphlets and documents were piled up, soiled with urine and excrement. There are two toilets on every floor but the soldiers urinated and defecated everywhere else in the building. They did their business on the floors, in emptied flower pots, even in drawers they had pulled out of the desk... someone even managed to defecate into the photocopier."
70 Palestinians are killed in Nablus. The Al-Shu'bis family loses 8 members when Israeli soldiers buldoze their house while they are inside. The dead include three children, their pregnant mother and their 85 year old grandmother. Soldiers continue to demolish the house even after neighbours inform them of the presence of people inside.
A woman and two children (aged 4 and 6) are shot and killed by a tank in Jenin while gathering firewood.
The Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, is called "a man of peace" by the USA. The USA president, George W Bush tells the Palestinians that they can have their own state only if they elect a leader acceptable to the USA and Israel.
140 people are wounded and 14 killed (including 9 children, some babies) when an Israeli F-16 warplane fires a missile into a residential area in Gaza City. The Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon describes the attack as "one of our greatest successes". The target had been a Palestinian leader accused by Israel of planning suicide bombings. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees informs Israel that "the reckless killing of civilians is absolutely prohibited, regardless of the military significance of the target being attacked." Only a week earlier, the UK government had agreed sales of electronic parts to the USA that would be used in the manufacture of F-16 warplanes for sale to Israel. European diplomats had agreed a deal to stop the suicide attacks when this incident occurred.
After demolishing the houses of several suspected militants, Israel attempts to deport their relatives as a deterrent. Amnesty International describes this as "collective punishment" and declares that "if these people have committed no crime then deporting them would be a breach of the Geneva Conventions".
Amnesty International publishes a report stating that in the first nine months of 2002, 322 children died in the conflict. Of these, 72 were Israeli children killed by Palestinian gunmen and suicide bombers.
During the same period, 250 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli military forces, nearly half of them under 12 years old. Israel is attacked in the report for "excessive and disproportionate use of lethal force [and] reckless shooting [in residential areas]". The report concludes that "No judicial investigation is known to have been carried out by members of the Israeli Defence Forces in the occupied territories, even in cases where Israeli government officials have stated publicly that investigations would be carried out."
In one highlighted incident, 9 children are killed with 8 adults when a 1000kg bomb is dropped on their house from a USA made F-16 jet. The dead include Dina Matar (2 months old), Ayman Matar (18 months), Mohamad Matar (3 years), Sobhi Hweiti (4), Diana Matar (5), Mohamad Hweiti (6), Ala Matar (10), Iman Shehada (15), Maryam Matar (17). The Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, describes this strike as a "great success". None of the victims is named or pictured in the Western media.
Another report, by The United Nations Children's Fund blames the Israeli army's curfews for preventing 170,000 Palestinian children from going to school in breach of the Geneva Conventions and the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Israeli troops frequently open fire on people breaking the curfew, even children.
In Gaza, several people are killed by Israeli tank fire including 12 year old Saher al-Hout. A hospital is fired on killing a hospital worker.
In the Gaza city of Khan Younis, eight Palestinians are killed while standing outside a mosque by a missile fired by an Israeli helicopter. Over 80 people are injured including children. Although reported in Reuters, this story is unreported in the Western media.
In November, two Israeli children are killed by Palestinians in a Kibutz. This is extensively reported in the Western media with photographs of the victims, videos of them playing and interviews with grieving relatives. During the same month a number of Palestinian children are killed by Israeli forces in the occupied territories. These include a 2 year old boy, Nafez Mishal, and an 8 year old girl, Shaima abu Shamaaleh. Only a few newspapers in the UK report these deaths and none in the USA. No television images are broadcast. Shaima's father states "The [Israeli] army fires at our houses and calls it self defence, but they call our attacks terrorism. I am against the killing of children". Between September 2000 and October 2002, 602 Israelis and 1591 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict.
Palestinians from the West Bank village of Yanun are attacked daily by armed Israelis from the nearby illegal settlement (colony) of Itamar while harvesting their olive groves. Hani Bani Minyeh is shot dead. Two international peace activists are beaten up by the same settlers: Mary Hughes-Thompson, 68 (from UK) and James Delaplain, 74 (from USA).
|The reality of occupation of the Palestinians. Most aspects of Palestinian life (including resources like water) are controlled by Israel.|
|The West Bank city of Bethlehem under attack by Israeli forces close to the Church of the Nativity.|
|Many Palestinian civilians are killed after Israel attacked the refugee camp in Jenin in 2002. Many of the inhabitants of Jenin had been expelled from Israel in 1948.|
Iain Hook, a 54 year old United Nations relief worker is shot by an Israeli soldier in a clearly marked United Nations compound in Jenin. Israeli soldiers stop the ambulance sent to attend to the injured worker. The USA vetoes a United Nations resolution condemning the killing and the destruction of a warehouse belonging to the World Food Programme.