Israel/Palestine: Armed Attacks on Civilians Condemned

(New York, February 21, 2001) -- Human Rights Watch today accused the
Israeli military of using indiscriminate force in response to
Palestinian gunfire, causing excessive civilian casualties. Research
conducted by Human Rights Watch in the West Bank city of Hebron has
documented nine civilian deaths and many serious injuries caused by
Israeli fire in that city. The international monitoring organization
called on the Israeli military to observe increased safeguards to limit
civilian casualties, and to prosecute or discipline soldiers responsible
for firing indiscriminately at civilians.

Human Rights Watch also deplored Palestinian shooting at Israeli
settlements, and called on the Palestinian Authority to take measures to
prevent armed attacks on Israeli civilians.

"Israeli forces are causing civilian deaths by firing indiscriminately
into Hebron's Palestinian neighborhoods," said Joe Stork, Washington
Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights
Watch. "The Israeli military is obligated to protect Palestinian
civilians from heavy fire, and should take the necessary steps to halt
this pattern of indiscriminate and excessive fire."

Hebron has been the scene of regular heavy fire exchanges between
Palestinian gunmen and the Israeli military. Palestinian gunmen have
used light automatic weapons to fire on Israeli Defense Force's (IDF)
positions and civilian Israeli settlements located in the
              Israeli-controlled center of the city. The IDF has
responded with heavy fire from medium-caliber machine guns and rockets
directed into Palestinian neighborhoods, causing deaths, serious
injuries and extensive damage.

On the night of February 17, 2001, the IDF responded to Palestinian
gunfire by targeting the Abu Snainah neighborhood of Hebron and a
Palestinian collective farm located on the outskirts of Hebron, causing
three Palestinian civilian deaths and wounding at least five. The IDF
fire killed twenty-nine year old Issam al-Tawil as he was driving home
with his parents, his brother and his sister-in-law. IDF fire on the
al-Rayyan collective farm hit three of the four workers present at the
facility, killing Shaker al-Manasra and gravely injuring Yusuf
al-Manasra and Ahmad Farajullah. Ahmad Farajullah later died of his
wounds. The surviving workers and the manager of al-Rayyan collective
farm denied that there had been any gunfire from the farm. Also hit
during the IDF response was the luxury al-Mezan hotel, which was hosting
two wedding parties with more than a thousand guests at the time. On
February 18, 2001, IDF soldiers fired shots at the car of Rajik
al-Qamari as he was driving nearby an IDF checkpoint, hitting his
windshield with three bullets. Al-Qamari narrowly escaped injury.

Human Rights Watch also deplored the actions of Palestinian gunmen in
shooting at Israeli settlements. Although Israeli settlements are
established contrary to international humanitarian law, they are not
legitimate targets for military attack as they are inhabited by
civilians, including children. Palestinian gunmen are also effectively
putting Palestinian civilians at risk by shooting at settlements and IDF
positions from heavily populated civilian areas.

"This behavior is not acceptable and we reiterate our call to the
Palestinian police to do more to prevent such shootings," said Stork,
"but such Palestinian actions do not give Israel carte blanche to
respond with heavy or indiscriminate fire into Palestinian
neighborhoods, risking civilian lives."

No Israeli settler has been killed in the Hebron district by Palestinian
gunfire aimed at the settlements, although at least two
settlers have died in Palestinian road attacks attributed to Hamas in
the area. A Fatah member in Hebron recently told Human Rights Watch that
local Fatah leaders regularly instruct Fatah gunmen to shoot at Israeli
settlements. During a visit to the downtown Hebron settlements in
November 2000, Human Rights Watch researchers learned of one Israeli
settler injured in connection with Palestinian gunfire, a pregnant woman
injured in a car crash while fleeing shooting at the Tel Rumeida
settlement. However, homes in the settlements visited by Human Rights
Watch in Hebron had been hit by gunfire. Although physical damage caused
by Palestinian automatic weapons was generally light, settlers told
Human Rights Watch that they had to relocate their sleeping arrangements
into crowded safer rooms, and said that their children were unable to
sleep and were constantly fearful.

The following partial list of incidents recently documented by Human
Rights Watch in Hebron in which Palestinian civilians were killed or
severely injured indicates a serious and persistent indiscriminate use
of deadly force by the IDF.

On January 5, IDF fire from the Beit Haggai settlement hit
eighteen-year-old Ahlam al-Jabali and her eighteen-year-old
sister-in-law,  Arij al-Jabali, as the two were seeking shelter in the
stairwell of their home. A single bullet penetrated the body of Arij
al-Jabali, who was killed in the incident, and lodged in the body of
Ahlam al-Jabali, who recovered. According to the family, the IDF was
responding to fireworks fired at Beit Haggai from the family's
neighborhood. Arij al-Jabali was expecting to get engaged on the day of
her death.

On January 2, IDF gunfire wounded thirty-year-old Samir Abu Shakhdam as
he was walking home from work in a Palestinian area bordering on the
Israeli-controlled Tel Rumeida settlement. Earlier in the day, two IDF
soldiers guarding the Tel Rumeida settlement had been wounded by
Palestinian gunfire. An ambulance which came to evacuate Abu Shakhdam
evacuated another seven wounded civilians from the same neighborhood.

On January 1, IDF soldiers shot and severely injured Jadallah al-Jabiri
in the center of Hebron, nearly severing his foot. The IDF has admitted
that its soldiers acted wrongly in the incident which was filmed by an
Associated Press cameraman, and has apologized for the incident.

On December 31, IDF fire into the Haret al-Sheikh neighborhood of Hebron
injured eighteen-year-old Arit al-Qawasma in her bedroom, injuring her
in the right shoulder and face. As she was being evacuated from the
house, renewed IDF fire killed eleven-year-old Muath Abu Hadwan, who had
come to watch the evacuation, and wounded another boy. During the same
period, IDF fire injured thirteen-year-old Abir Salameh as she went to
feed her chickens on the roof of her house, injuring her in the stomach.

On November 16, IDF soldiers fatally shot thirty-one-year-old Yusuf Abu
Awad near a checkpoint in Beit Umar. According to eyewitnesses, soldiers
asked Abu Awad to stop at the checkpoint, and then began throwing stones
at his car. When Abu Awad protested the stone throwing, a soldier came
up to him and pointed his gun at his chest. Abu Awad attempted to push
the gun away from his chest, and was shot in the face by the soldier.
The IDF is reportedly investigating the killing.

At about 4 p.m. on November 11, IDF fire from the Shalala street
position fired on Munib Abu Munshar as he was unloading building
materials from his truck, killing him instantly. There were no clashes
taking place at the time, although Palestinian youth had clashed with
IDF soldiers at the position earlier in the day.

On October 23, 2000, IDF fire killed fifty-seven-year-old Abdul Aziz Abu
Snainah as he went to his front room to answer a phone call during a
period of heavy IDF fire. The IDF shot at Abu Snainah's brother in the
street as he tried to come to the assistance of his brother. Human
Rights Watch researchers counted more than sixty medium caliber bullet
scars on the home, as well as dozens of impact craters on nearby homes
and the street.

On October 18, IDF soldiers positioned in the Beit Haggai settlement
shot thirty-eight-year-old Ibrahim Abu Turki as he rode his donkey from
his home village of Kilkas past the settlement. Abu Turki remains in
critical condition and was paralyzed by the gunshot wound.

At about 10 p.m. on October 13, IDF soldiers shot twenty-two-year-old
Shadi al-Wawi, a university student, as he was sitting on the roof of
his relative's home in the al-Fawar refugee camp. Palestinian youth were
clashing with IDF soldiers located about 150 meters away from the home,
but al-Wawi and his family did not participate in the violence. IDF
soldiers fired several shots at the family as they tried to rescue
al-Wawi, and threatened a medical team which tried to reach al-Wawi. An
ambulance was forced to take an alternative route, taking over one hour
to reach the hospital. Al-Wawi died on route to the hospital.

On October 9, 2000, IDF fire severely injured twenty-eight-year-old
Shihab Sharif as he was walking home in the Bab al-Zawiah  neighborhood
after visiting a cousin at about 10:15 p.m. Sherif was hit by bullets in
his left side, his back, and his right elbow. On the same day, IDF fire
on the Haret al-Sheikh neighborhood injured  twenty-eight year old
Fatina Fakhoury, a mother of four, in the face, and a bullet fragment
also hit her seven-day-old baby in her arms.
 

For more information, please see Israel/Palestinian Authority:
                                      Abuses During Violent Clashes (HRW
Campaign Page, last updated on January 29, 2001) at
http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/israel/