PCHR’s letter to UN Special Rapporteur to the OPT on Current Events
Attention Mr Giacomelli
Attention Mr Giacomelli
UN Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories
2 October 2000
Subject: Illegal Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory
Dear Mr Giacomelli,
On behalf of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, as human rights defenders and a human rights organisation based in the occupied territory would like to address the above urgent matter.
As you are aware, violence erupted in Jerusalem, and has escalated between Palestinian civilians and the Israeli Occupation Forces since Thursday 28 September following the visit of Ariel Sharon to the compound of the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites for Islam. Such a gesture was immediately interpreted as an act of provocation intended to highlight Israeli control over Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. This has had the effect of derailing the peace process negotiations which in any event was evolving on a very fragile basis. Nevertheless, the Government of Israel facilitated Ariel Sharon’s visit by providing hundreds of Israeli soldiers as his escort.
Clashes were reported during Ariel Sharon’s visit and several Palestinians were injured in the area of the Dome of the Rock and subsequently in other locations of the West Bank.
On Friday, 29 September, Israeli Occupation Forces reinforced their presence within the site of the Dome of the Rock. Civilian protests were met by heavy shooting with live ammunition, rubber coated bullets and teargas. Seven Palestinians were shot dead by the Israeli Occupation Forces and more than two hundred were injured – thirty civilians were critically injured. Soon after, the protests spread to different parts of the West Bank and more than one hundred civilians were reported injured.
Since the early morning of 30 September, protests took place throughout the occupied Palestinian territory. More than seventy civilians were injured in the Gaza strip. The majority of them are under the age of 17. Clashes between Palestinian civilians and Israeli Occupation Forces occurred near the Israeli settlements of Netzarim and Kfar Darum in the middle areas of the Gaza Strip, in Khan Younis, Rafah and Erez crossing borders.
In three days of clashes the number of Palestinian victims amount to 28 dead and more than 600 hundred injured during the widespread confrontations. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society indicates that over 900 injuries are reported at various emergency rooms of which 96 are caused by live ammunition. Most of the victims are civilians, who in their protests did not resort to the use of weapons. Stone throwers were being fired at by the Israeli Occupation Forces using live ammunition, rubber coated steel bullets including anti-tank missiles (lau).
The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) reports that its ambulances were prevented from entering various affected areas and thus have been unable on many occasions to reach the
wounded persons. Furthermore, four PRCS vehicles were directly hit by gun fire, and one emergency medical personnel has been shot and killed in the Gaza Strip on Saturday 30 September, while driving wounded persons to the hospital.
In light of the above, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights holds the Government of Israel and the Israeli Occupation Forces responsible for the widespread violence in the occupied Palestinian territory. It was first triggered by the attempt of Ariel Sharon to visit the Muslim holy site in Jerusalem, then fueled by the unjustifiable and heavy presence of Israeli troops inside the compound of the Dome of the Rock during the Friday prayers.
Furthermore, PCHR condemns the Israeli Occupation Forces excessive use of force and other related grave breaches of the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention:
- The non respect of the principle of proportionality under international humanitarian law, whenever the use of force is necessary.
- The use by Israeli Occupation Forces of live ammunition, rubber coated steel bullets and teargas, including the use of snipers in response to stone throwing civilians, mostly youth (60% of the wounded persons are under 20 year).
- The attacks on medical personnel, in particular the Palestine Red Crescent Society, carrying out vital life-saving operations.
- The killing of twenty eight Palestinians, in particular the killing of seven Palestinian civilians within a religious site during gathering for prayers and the killing of ten children ( seven under 18 years old, two under 13 years and a baby of one and a half years).
- Many of the six hundred casualties (78%) are in critical conditions suffering from injuries of the upper parts of the body (chest, heart, head, eyes) indicating clear intention of shoot-to-kill.
In view of the above substantive information confirmed by the presence of international media as well as independent observers, and in light of your mandate conferred by resolution 1993/2 A of 19 February 1993, we call upon you to investigate these specific Israeli violations of international human rights law and grave breaches of international humanitarian law, in particular the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention.
We count on your supportive attention in this urgent and grave matter. We would be grateful if you inform us promptly on your concrete action with regard to this dire situation, as we believe that many more Palestinians may die in the next days.
Director, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights