The Honorable Boutros Boutros Ghali Secretary General United Nations
The Honorable Boutros Boutros Ghali
New York, New York 10017
Fax: 001 212 963 4879
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, has been closely monitoring recent developments in the Gaza Strip, and we would like to advise you of the situation and propose a course of action for the international community.
The situation in the Occupied Territories has deteriorated rapidly and drastically during the last four days, after popular demonstrations began spontaneously throughout the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in protest at the opening of a tunnel near the Muslim holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The protests began with stone throwing at Israeli soldiers based at military installations and around Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. Information obtained by the Palestinian Centre indicates that Israeli soldiers responded to the stone throwing by firing live ammunition into crowds of Palestinian civilians. The employment of firearms by Israeli military forces was clearly excessive, in circumstances where demonstrators posed no significant threat to Israeli forces. It appears that Palestinian police forces were also fired on and that they responded by returning fire, apparently in self-defense.
Yesterday’s death toll of 26 in the Gaza Strip is the highest ever seen in a single day, with a reported 14 more Palestinians also killed yesterday in the West Bank. It is feared that the violence is not over and that the number of dead will continue to rise. Clashes have occurred today in the West Bank, in particular in the Old City of Jerusalem, and are currently taking place in the Gaza Strip. (Attached is a more detailed report of the events of yesterday, September 26).
Urgent and decisive action must be taken immediately by the international community. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights respectfully requests that the Security Council resolve to urge the international community, and especially the co-sponsors of the peace process, to press
the Government of Israel to take immediate steps to ease the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These measures must go beyond calling for an end to the use of lethal force and a reversal of the decision concerning the tunnel near Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israel must be compelled to respect the spirit and the letter of the peace accords and to resume peace negotiations in earnest.
Though the opening of the underground tunnel was the immediate spark which ignited the violence witnessed in the last four days throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, this outpouring of popular sentiment has long been building. The opening of this tunnel, which is believed to threaten Islam’s third most holy site and which has caused offense to Muslims, was merely the most recent in a series of Israeli actions taken to change the status quo in East Jerusalem. Palestinian anger and frustration at the ongoing Israeli occupation and the lack of progress in the peace process under the previous Israeli administration has been further fueled by this series of particularly provocative actions on the part of the newly elected Netanyahu government. Following is a summary of factors which have contributed to the recent events:
– Over three years after the signing of the Declaration of Principles, the essential nature of the Israeli occupation – control by Israel of most aspects of Palestinian life – continues. Israel holds 40% of the land in Gaza and 97% in the West Bank, and Israeli military forces continue to exercise control and enforce military orders affecting the Palestinian population.
– The Israeli Government has failed to establish “safe passages” allowing freedom of movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, thus destroying the geographic integrity of those areas that is protected in the Declaration of Principles.
– Approximately 3,500 Palestinian prisoners are still in Israeli jails, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and are subjected to severe treatment and inhumane conditions.
– Palestinians suffer grave economic hardship as the Israeli military closure which continues to be enforced in the Occupied Territories wreaks havoc on the already devastated economies of Gaza and the West Bank. Gaza’s unemployment rate runs upwards of 60 percent, Palestinian GNP has fallen between 10 and 20 percent, and inflation runs at 10 to 12 percent.
– The Israeli settlement programme in the Occupied Territories is being continued and expanded under the current administration.
– East Jerusalem is being further isolated from the West Bank and the Occupied Territories, through Israeli settlement expansion and through practices by Israeli military forces, such as the confiscation of identity cards, demolition of homes, and removal of Palestinian residents.
– The Government of Israel has made no commitment on its redeployment from Hebron, in violation of the Taba Agreement.
The speed with which these demonstrations and protests have spread throughout the West Bank and Gaza testifies to the fact that Palestinian anger and frustration has been building for a very long time. The events of the last few days, even if calm is temporarily restored, are likely to be repeated. Tension in the Gaza Strip is running extremely high, as Palestinians have demonstrated once again their willingness to sacrifice their lives to attain their national rights.
The Prime Minister of Israel’s recent statement on these tragic events shows a combative intransigence which many here have taken to be provocative. He made no concessions regarding the tunnel near al-Aqsa mosque, nor on any of the other issues which have contributed to the violence of the last few days. It would instead appear that he is supporting the continued use of lethal force in direct violation of international law.
If the peace process that Israelis and Palestinians have worked so hard to achieve is not to break down completely and irreversibly, urgent and immediate action must be taken to address Palestinian concerns. We urge the international community to press the Government of Israel to:
1) Order its military forces to halt the use of arbitrary and excessive lethal force, and to cease attacks on unarmed Palestinian civilians.
2) Withdraw its forces from all areas which are under the exclusive authority and jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, which it has entered in blatant violation of signed agreements.
3) Honor the spirit and letter of the Peace Accords, and in particular provisions concerning the redeployment of troops from Hebron and the establishment of safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
4) Begin in earnest negotiations on final status issues, reaffirming clearly and unequivocally Israel’s commitment to all signed agreements and their aims. Israel must reaffirm its recognition of legitimate Palestinian political rights and its intention to reach a permanent settlement based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
5) Immediately cease all land confiscation, as well as all building and expansion of Israeli settlements and other activity which jeopardizes the final status of the Occupied Territories, particularly in East Jerusalem and the Old City.
6) Immediately cease all activity which prejudices the status of East Jerusalem, to be determined during final status negotiations. Specifically, Israel must put an immediate end to the withdrawal of identity cards belonging to Palestinian residents, the demolition of homes, the refusal to issue building permits to Palestinian residents, the sealing off of the city from the rest of the Occupied Territories, and the construction of the tunnel near the Muslim holy sites.
7) Ensure that the economic situation in the Occupied Territories does not continue to deteriorate, through the lifting of the closure imposed on the Occupied Territories and the cessation of all activities which inhibit Palestinian economic development.
Report on Inin the Gaza Strip
on 26 September 1996
Yesterday, 26 September 1996, 26 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip, and over 500 were wounded, many critically. According to information gathered from our fieldworkers, we have compiled the following account of yesterday’s events.
Around 07.00 hours local time, the first incident took place at Kfar Darom settlement, which is located along the main road connecting Gaza City in the north of the Strip with Rafah in the south. A United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) preparatory school (students are approximately ages 11-15) is located across from the settlement. The students began chanting slogans against the opening of the tunnel in the Old City of Jerusalem and against other Israeli policies, and later began to throw stones at Israeli soldiers. According to eye-witness testimonies from students and Palestinian military personnel, the Israeli forces responded by firing live ammunition.
Around 08.00 hours other groups of students gathered near Netsarim Junction, 2 km. from Netsarim settlement, and similar events unfolded there. These spread rapidly through the southern areas of the Gaza Strip: in the Khan Younis area, demonstrators gathered near Gush Katif settlement, west of Khan Younis; and in the Rafah area, others gathered on the border with Egypt and near Moraj settlement east of Rafah.
Palestinian police initially attempted to restrain the students and other individuals who were throwing stones at Israeli military installations and troops. Again according to eye-witness testimonies from students and Palestinian military personnel, Israelis responded by opening fire on the demonstrators and Palestinian police with live ammunition. The first Palestinian killed was a policeman, at Kfar Darom, around 07.30 local time. Many students were injured in these initial clashes, and a number were killed, including one 17-year-old girl.
The Palestinian police, apparently acting to defend themselves and the Palestinian civilians, returned fire. The clashes soon spread north across Gaza to Erez checkpoint, on Gaza’s northern border. Students from Jabaliya refugee camp and Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya villages in the north of Gaza marched to the checkpoint. Clashes took place with the Israeli forces at the checkpoint even though the demonstrators were an estimated 300 metres away from the Israeli forces.
Early evidence shows that Israeli forces employed arbitrary and excessive lethal force against Palestinian demonstrators. The injuries of Palestinians killed and wounded have been sustained in the head, neck, chest, and abdominal areas, clearly demonstrating that Israeli forces are directing their fire with the intention to kill or cause grievous bodily injury. Among those killed were children, the elderly, and medical personnel (wearing identifiable uniforms), as well as an Egyptian soldier (two others were injured) in the area of the clashes on Gaza’s southern border. Helicopters were involved in at least one of the areas of confrontation, firing at Palestinians from above and launching tear gas at the crowds. Many Palestinians who were inside their homes during the confrontations were wounded by fire from these helicopters.
Following is a list of the names of Palestinians killed by Israeli Forces on 26 September 1996, as well as any additional information available regarding residency, age, and the nature of injury follows:
1. Nura Musa Faris Abu Sa’ad. From Deir Al-Balah, secondary school student, 17 years old, shot in neck.
2. Qasim Suleiman Mohammed Al-Njaili. From Deir Al-Balah, 15 years old, shot in chest.
3. Mohammed Hassan Al-Bayumi. From Rafah, secondary school student, 17 years old, shot in head, chest, and legs.
4. Hani Jalal Mohammed Musa. From Deir Al-Balah, secondary school student, 17 years old, shot in abdomen.
5. Rizq Zidan Suleiman Al-Hawajri. From Deir Al-Balah, 30 years old, shot in chest.
6. Ahmad Salim Hussein Al-Najar. From Khuza’a, 25 years old, married and father of two children, shot in the head (by fire from a helicopter).
7. Mohammed ‘Abdul Karim Al-Astal. From Khan Younis, 14 years old, shot in head, chest, and arms.
8. ‘Abdul Majid Saleh Mohammed Hamad. From Khan Younis, 33 years old, married and father of four children, shot in chest while aiding one of the wounded.
9. Mohammed Fathi Rizq Hasballah. From Gaza, 22 years old, shot in chest.
10. Hazim Fawzi Rushdi Saqer. From Gaza, 22 years old, shot in head and back.
11. Rashad Khader Mohammed Abu Tuha. From Gaza, 18 years old, shot in head.
12. Hassan Mohammed Hassan al-Yazji. From Beit Hanoun, 40 years old, shot in head.
13. ‘Ala Usama Shurab. From Gaza, 23 years old, shot in chest.
14. Sami Abed ‘Abdul ‘Aziz Tafish. From Gaza, 22 years old, shot in chest.
15. Ashraf Mohammed Ahmed Mahdi. From Beit Lahiya, secondary school student, 18 years old, shot in head.
16. Basil Ibrahim Na’im. From Beit Hanoun, 25 years old, nurse in Shifa’ hospital, shot in chest while aiding the wounded (in the same incident, another nurse named Mohammed ‘Odeh was wounded, and another ambulance driver named Mohammed Nimnim was wounded).
17. Amin Mohammed Jaber Barbakh. From Khan Younis, 17 years old. (Died on September 27 from wounds sustained yesterday).
Following is a list of the names of Palestinian policemen killed on September 26, as well as any additional information available, follows:
1. Khalil Ahmed Khalil Nusair. From Beit Hanoun, Lieutenant, Naval Police, 27 years old, shot in chest.
2. Farid Adib Al-Da’aliz. From Nuseirat, 26 years old, married and the father of a 15-day-old baby, shot in head and arm.
3. Rajih Yusef Mohammed Barud. From Rafah, Lieutenant, General Intelligence, 42 years old, married and the father of many children, shot in head and arms.
4. Yusef Mahmoud Salih Al-Bashiti. From Al-Maghazi, National Security, 22 years old, shot in head and chest.
5. Qusai Mohammed ‘Akasha. From Jabaliya, 20 years old, shot in chest.
6. Musa Nasser Musa Abu Nusair. From Deir Al-Balah, 28 years old, shot in chest.
7. Shihda Mohammed Wahdan. From Gaza, 25 years old, shot in chest and abdomen.
8. ‘Issam Mohammed Isma’il ‘Ulwan. From Gaza, 22 years old.
9. Ihab Yusef Mohammed ‘Abdul Wahad. From Gaza, Lieutenant, Police, 23 years old, shot in back.
10. Ashraf al-Ashram. From Gaza, 22 years old, killed in Bethlehem, Wednesday, September 25. His body has been returned to Gaza.