Senior Israeli Intelligence Officer, Ehud Tatom, reveals extra-judicial killings of Palestinians.
SENIOR ISRAELI INTELLIGENCE OFFICER, EHUD YATOM, REVEALS EXTRA-JUDICIAL KILLINGS OF PALESTINIANS
BY ISRAELI SECURITY FORCES
Published @ 18:30 hours GMT/3 August 1996
On 26 July 1996, Ehud Yatom, a Shabak (Israeli Security Services) agent, delivered a statement which was published in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot on the killing of two Palestinians following the hijacking of Israeli Bus 300 in April 1984. Yatom stated that the Palestinians, Subhi and Majdi Abu Jamea, were killed by the Shabak on orders from the head of the Shabak. He also indicated that such killings were common practice amongst the Shabak and that they had official sanction from very senior Israeli officials.
Israel has consistently denied that the killings were ordered. The statement of Yatom indicates that Israeli authorities have been involved in covering up the affair.
Palestinian human rights organizations have been monitoring and documenting similar cases in which Palestinians were killed in circumstances suggesting an official Israeli policy of extra-judicial execution (see Appendix for further examples of the practice). As with the Bus 300 Case, the Israeli Government has strenuously denied official involvement in these cases.
Due to Yatom’s testimony, the killings of Subhi and Majdi Abu Jamea must be re-examined independently and criminal charges brought against those responsible.
The Case of Bus 300
On the evening of 12 April 1984, four male Palestinians, between the ages of seventeen and twenty, hijacked Israeli bus 300 en route from Tel Aviv to Ashkelon. The young men forced the driver of the bus, and approximately thirty-five passengers, to drive south into the Gaza Strip. Around 21:00 hours the bus was stopped near Deir Al Balah in the Gaza Strip after soldiers shot out the wheels of the bus. According to Yatom’s testimony, senior officials from Israeli security services arrived within a short time to the bus. These included Defense Minister Moshe Arenz; Chief of Staff Moshe Levy; Yitzak Mordechai, then a senior official in the Israeli Army and currently Defense Minister; Head of the Shabak Abraham Shalom; and his Deputy, Robin Hazak. Ehud Yatom and his men also arrived at the site to provide tactical military support.
During negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, the Palestinians demanded the release of 500 Palestinian prisoners held inside Israeli prisons, as well as the release of one Israeli prisoner and one Japanese prisoner. Around 04:00 hours the next day, 13 April 1984, an Israeli special force, led by Yitzak Mordechai,
attacked the bus, killing two of the hijackers, Jamal Qablan and Mohammed Barakah. One of the hostages, an Israeli soldier, also incurred injuries which proved fatal. The remaining two hijackers, Subhi and Majdi Abu Jamea, surrendered. They were arrested and violently beaten by Israeli security forces and some of the hostages. Indeed, Mordechai, the current Defense Minister, was filmed by the press beating the two men with his pistol. Israeli authorities later announced that cousins Subhi and Majdi Abu Jamea died as a result of the injuries sustained during this period of beating.
However, the media and members of the public witnessed the surrender, and it was clear that the Abu Jamea cousins, although having sustained injuries as a result of the beatings, were physically able to submit themselves to arrest. At the time, the Israeli newspaper Hadash published a photo of the two men being arrested in which they appeared to be in satisfactory condition. The newspaper asserted that the cause of death stated by Israeli officials was false and that security forces were involved in the death of Subhi and Majdi Abu Jamea while in custody. Israeli authorities closed the paper for three days in reaction to the article.
The Official Investigation and Legal Inquiries
Local and international reaction forced Israeli authorities to establish a commission to investigate the deaths. The investigating commission, the Hazorea Committee, was established by the then Defense Minister Moshe Arenz, who was at the scene and may himself have been consulted on the storming of the bus by Israeli forces.
The families’ legal representative, Felicia Langer, an Israeli Attorney, was asked to pursue the case and seek legal remedies. She informed the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in a signed affidavit of 29 July 1996, that she had sought to obtain the Hazorea investigating committee findings without success. Langer filed an application to the Israeli High Court, the Supreme Court of Israel, for disclosure of the committee’s findings. But the application failed because the Defense Minister declared that release of the report, even to the families’ legal representative, would be contrary to interests of national security.
It was only after fourteen months that partial findings of the investigation were released. These findings confirmed official statements; the victims were beaten and the injuries sustained had led to their subsequent death. The report specifically identified Yitzak Mordechai as contributing to the deaths and inflicting grave bodily injury against the Abu Jamea cousins. Although the beatings had been unlawful, the commission did not attribute any criminal responsibility for the deaths.
On 26 May 1986, the case resurfaced after media reports indicated Shabak agents had lied in their testimony to the Hazorea Committee. The report stated that the Abu Jamea cousins were killed after being taken into custody upon an order given by the head of the Shabak, Abraham Shalom. However, those who were involved in the killing or who lied before the commission were pardoned by the President, Hiyam Herzok, on 25 June 1986, on recommendation by the Minister of Justice for their involvement in the affair.
The reports caused a wave of negative public reaction and Langer, in her affidavit to the Palestinian Centre, states that “some lawyers appealed on their own behalf to the High Court of Justice against the pardon.”
On 6 July 1986, Langer formally applied to the High Court of Justice, the supreme court in Israel, to overturn the Presidential pardon. The Israeli High Court delivered its opinion in October 1986, ruling that the Presidential pardon was justified. The court’s judgment failed to mention the details of the case and provided no deterrent or safeguards against such killings in the future.
The Felicia Langer affidavit also states that the Israeli authorities demolished the homes of the families of the two victims. Langer applied for permission for the families to rebuild their homes on two occasions (17 July 1984 and 8 July 1986) which Israeli authorities refused.
Ehud Yatom Interview
The interview of Ehud Yatom sheds light on the “Affair of Bus 300” and on Shabak activities across the Occupied Territories. In the interview, which was published by the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot on 26 July 1996, Yatom recounts the events leading to the death of the Abu Jamea cousins. In brief, he states that:
1) Subhi and Majdi Abu Jamea were severely beaten after they were arrested by security personnel, including Shabak agents, IDF officials (one of whom was Yitzak Mordechai), and Israeli civilians. It is believed that the hostages on Bus 300 were permitted by Israeli military officials to participate in the beatings.
2) Approximately one hour after their arrest, the two men, both bleeding and suffering from injuries sustained during the beatings, were transferred to Yatom and other Shabak agents.
3) Subhi and Majdi Abu Jamea. were then driven away in a Shabak van. During the journey, Yatom received an order from Abraham Shalom, Head of Shabak, to kill the prisoners, which Yatom carried out immediately. In her affidavit, Felicia Langer states that Yatom did this by smashing their skulls with a large stone.
4) Ehud Yatom reveals that the decision was taken by senior officials in the Israeli Military. He goes on to explain that other similar operations are also ordered by senior military officials, suggesting that such operations constitute a policwhich appears to have Israeli government approval.
5) Yatom appears to have no regret for the actions he carried out in pursuance of this policy and declares that extra-judicial execution is a legitimate means of fighting “terrorism”.
6) Yatom continues by explaining that the cover-up was planned and conducted after former Minister of Defense Arenz ordered the formation of the Hazorea Committee to examine the Bus 300 event. Those involved in the killing, which included Yatom, the Head of Shabak, Abraham Shalom and his Deputy, Robin Hazak, met and agreed to corroborate their testimony to the Hazorea Committee. At this meeting, it was agreed that the Committee should be informed that when the prisoners were taken into custody they were near death and consequently died on the way to the hospital.
Yatom was one of those directly involved in the killing of Subhi and Majdi and subsequently was one of those benefiting from a Presidential Pardon. Ehud Yatom was later promoted within the Shabak to a rank equivalent to that of a General in the army and was head of three Shabak sections. It has been speculated that Yatom’s decision to expose the practices of the Shabak is linked to his failure to be promoted to head of the Shabak. However, as these events appear to correspond to the publicly known facts the Yatom disclosures seems convincing.
Yatom’s testimony reveals very important facts in the case of Bus 300 and exposes the officially-sanctioned practices of the Shabak employed during the Israeli occupation. Specifically, concerning the Bus 300 Affair, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights has reached the following conclusions:
1) The injuries sustained from the beatings did not cause death prior to the time the two were delivered into the Shabak vehicle, but occurred during the period while they were in the vehicle with Shabak officers, one of whom included Ehud Yatom.
2) The Hazorea Investigating Committee concluded that the beatings of Subhi and Majdi Abu Jamea caused their deaths. As it appears unlikely that the Abu Jamea cousins had been so severely beaten that they died of their injuries, the Committee wrongly attributed the causes of the deaths.
3) The coordination of evidence presented by Abraham Shalom and Robin Hazak, which Yatom claimed occurred, supports the fact that Shalom directly ordered the execution of the two Palestinians. It would also appear that the testimonies have been falsified. In any case, it now appears that the decision of the Hazorea Investigating Committee cannot be regarded as safe because crucial testimonies, which may have led to criminal liability, have been corroborated, and because it has been alleged by one of the co-conspirators that testimony was falsified with the intention of misleading the Investigating Committee.
4) The evidence which has come to light recently undermines confidence in the conclusions reached by the Hazorea Investigating Committee, and for this reason alone should be regarded as unsafe. Similarly, the Minister of Defense’s decision to publish only partial extracts of the Committee’s findings on the grounds that it would jeopardize national security, the Israeli High Court of Justice’s decision to support this non-disclosure, the Presidential Pardons given to those involved, and the High Court’s subsequent ruling supporting the Presidential Pardon should also be regarded as unsafe.
5) This case constitutes a “willful killing,” a grave breach of Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Under the Draft Statute of the International Criminal Court which is currently being considered by the United Nations, such a breach would be regarded as an international crime.
In light of the voluntary statement recently given by Ehud Yatom, a senior official in the Israeli Intelligence Service, the Shabak, and of the evidence which points to a deliberately executed killing of Subhi Abu Jamea and Majdi Abu Jamea by the Shabak, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights demands the following:
1) The Israeli Government must re-investigate the Case of Bus 300 and ensure that anyone found criminally responsible for the killings is brought to justice.
2) The President of Israel should reconsider the presidential pardons of those involved in the case, particularly in light of Yatom’s testimony, which disputes the findings of the investigation and negates the reasons justifying the pardon.
3) The signatories to the Fourth Geneva Convention are called upon to uphold their obligations under international law by ensuring compliance of the Convention and demanding that those found criminally responsible are brought to justice in an independent and internationally recognised court.
4) Israeli authorities must cease all policies which are contrary to international standards, particularly those which are carried out by the Israeli security forces and which are regarded as inhumane. In pursuance of this, the Government of Israel must adopt measures that prohibit extra-judicial killings and punish those involved in committing such acts.
Immediate action is urgently required. If no action is taken on the Shabak Affair of Bus 300, and on other similar cases in which Israeli forces appear to have executed Palestinians extra-judicially, Israel’s lauding of democratic principles and respect for the rule of law are likely to be regarded with extreme skepticism.
The Shabak Affair of Bus 300 is but one example of actions taken by the Israeli occupying forces which have breached the Geneva Conventions and international standards; hundreds of people have been killed and injured, Palestinians have been arrested, detained and tortured, the homes of Palestinian families have been demolished and land confiscated, and Israeli occupying forces continue to perpetrate such acts. The Shabak Affair of Bus 300 differs from these other violations only in that it received significant attention from the Israeli media and public, and that it involved a Committee of Investigation and a subsequent attempt by the Israeli Government to conceal the details of the killings. The Ehud Yatom interview sheds new light on the whole affair and must be investigated.
For further information contact:
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
Tel: (+) 972 7 825893 Fax: (+) 972 7 824776
Cases of Extra-Judicial Killings
The following are a short list of cases in which Israeli forces, particularly the Shabak and IDF special units, have killed Palestinians in circumstances which strongly indicate extra-judicial execution. These cases have been collected by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, and represent a small sample of instances when excessive and unnecessary force has been employed by Israeli forces in what would appear to have been a deliberate Israeli policy of extra-judicial killing. The Yatom interview would seem to confirm this conclusion.
Omar Khamis al Ghoula
On the morning of 27 January 1993, Omar Khamis Al Ghoula submitted himself to arrest by Israeli soldiers at his home in the Gaza Strip. Despite giving no resistance, he was beaten severely by the IDF soldiers and was then pulled out into the street, where his hands were bound behind his back. Eyewitnesses stated that one of the soldiers fired a spray of bullets across his stomach with an automatic weapon. It was reported that a Shabak agent then fired six bullets from his pistol into Al Ghoula’s chest. After falling to the ground the soldiers shot him in the head from less than one meter away. According to witnesses, the soldiers laughed loudly and hugged in celebration of Al Ghoula’s death. IDF soldiers later arrived on the site and after some two hours Omar Khamis Al Ghoula’s body was taken away by an Israeli ambulance.
On 21 March 1993, Ayman Nassar and three others surrendered for arrest to Israeli security forces during a special operation the Israeli military conducted in Deir Al Balah. Upon their arrest, the men were beaten by the soldiers and sent to Ashkelon p. Two days later, Nassar was seen in Deir Al Balah, with Israeli soldiers and Shabak agents, possibly being taken to an arms depot. Witnesses state Nassar appeared in poor health, with his arms and legs bound, and report seeing him being beaten by soldiers until he fell on the ground. Later the same day, he was returned to Ashkelon prison and then transferred to a hospital where he died on 2 April. It appears that he died from injuries sustained during continued torture whilst under interrogation.
Jamaa and Yousef Abu Mohaisen
On 4 May 1993, Jamaa and Yousef Abu Mohaisen (brothers) were killed by an IDF special unit. At approximately 08:00 hours that morning three people in civilian clothing (subsequently suspected to be undercover operatives) arrived at Jamaa’s house and requested that a meeting be arranged with his brother, who was wanted by Israeli security forces. The men told Jamaa that they wanted to help smuggle Yousef out of the Occupied Territories and into Egypt. A meeting was arranged for 16:00 hours that afternoon in a nearby olive grove. Upon arriving at the specified meeting place the two cousins were shot dead. No warning had been given and no attempt had been made by the operatives to arrest them.
On 3 February 1994, Israel special units killed Saleem Mowafi, who was suspected to be the leader of the Fateh Hawks. The killings were carried out in Rajah; Saleem and two others were sitting on the front of a car, when they were approached by another car driven by members of an Israeli undercover unit. The men in the car opened fire on Mowafi and his friends, and continued to fire rounds into the car even though the men had fallen and were clearly injured. The two friends sustained critical injuries and Mowafi died as a result of the shooting.
The Killing of Six Fateh Hawk Members in Jabaliyya
On 28 March 1994, an Israeli undercover unit killed six Fateh Hawks activists in Jabaliyya refugee camp. The six men, Ahmed Abu Ibteihan, Jamal Abdel Nadi, Nahedh Uda, Anwar Maqoussi, Majdi Ubeid and Abdel Hakim Shamali, were distributing leaflets when they were approached by two vehicles. The Israeli undercover unit operatives in the cars began shooting. No warning was given and no attempt to arrest the six was made by the operatives. One eye witness reported that an Israeli operative left his car to follow one of the six into a gas station office. There the operative grabbed the Palestinian around the neck and shot him directly in the head.
The Yatom interview sheds new light on these cases; a thorough and independent examination of all cases which have led to the deaths of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli military forces is clearly warranted.