Letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Current Events from Palestinian NGOs, including PCHR
Illegal Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory
Attention Mary Robinson
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
2 October 2000
Subject: Illegal Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian territory
Dear High Commissioner Mary Robinson,
On behalf of the Palestinian people, we, Palestinian human rights defenders and human rights organisations need 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 incursion of Ariel Sharon into the compound of Al Aqsa Mosque along with 3,000 Israeli military personnel, one of the holiest sites for Islam. Such an operation was immediately interpreted as an act of supreme provocation intended to highlight and reinstate Israeli military control over Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. This has had the clear and intended effect of derailing the peace process negotiations which in any event was evolving on a very fragile basis.
Over the past four days, thirty seven Palestinians have been killed and more than 1,700 people have been injured. The Palestinian Health Ministry even talks about thirty six casualties.Most of the victims are civilians, who in their protests did not resort to the use of weapons. Stone throwers were being fired at indiscriminately by the Israeli Occupation Forces using live ammunition, rubber coated steel bullets, dum-dum bullets as well as anti-tank missiles (lau), in addition to the deployment of Cobra fighter helicopters.
Medical personnel were prevented from entering various affected areas with ambulances and thus have been unable in many instances to reach the wounded casualties. Four medical vehicles were directly hit by gun fire and emergency medical personnel has been reported killed and wounded.
In light of the above, we hold 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 Ariel Sharon’s incursion into the Muslim holy site in Jerusalem, and later fueled by the unjustifiable and heavy presence of Israeli troops inside the compound of Al Aqsa mosque during the Friday prayers, then rapidly spread throughout the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and even the Palestinian communities in Israel.
We condemn 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 and dum-dum bullets, and teargas, including the use of anti-tank missiles (lau), the deployment of Cobra fighter helicopters and snipers in response to stone throwing civilians, mostly youth (60% of the wounded persons are under 20 year).
- The attacks on medical personnel carrying out vital life-saving operations.
- The killing of 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 wounded (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.
Consistent with your mandate and the responsibility of your office, we urgently invite you to the occupied Palestinian territory for an immediate fact-finding mission. In particular, we believe it is a moral imperative and obligation that you 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 dire situation as we believe that many more Palestinians may die in the next days.
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