7 Dec. 05

   B'Tselem to Mazuz: prevent the renewal of house demolitions  

Following the announcement that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz requested the approval of Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to demolish the homes of suicide-bombers' families, B'Tselem requested the attorney general to prevent the illegal policy from being reinstituted. In its letter, B'Tselem points out that the demolition of houses as punishment is a grave breach of international humanitarian law.

The declared objective of the policy is to harm innocent persons - relatives of the suspected perpetrator, who are not accused of any criminal wrongdoing. The demolition of houses is a clear case of collective punishment, which violates the principle that a person is not to be punished for the acts of another. Collective punishment is therefore illegal regardless of its effectiveness.

Regarding the effectiveness of the house-demolition policy, a committee appointed by the then-chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, found that the policy brought more harm than good to Israel's security. The committee's finding undermines the claim that Israel has used for many years that the policy has deters potential terrorists.

Demolished house in Bethlehem. Photo: B'Tselem
Demolished house in Bethlehem. Photo: Reuters

   B'Tselem's complaint leads DIP to recommend prosecution  

On 23 November 2005, the Department for the Investigation of Police, of the State Attorney's Office, informed B'Tselem that it has recommended that criminal charges be brought against the policemen, who had maltreated a Palestinian from the village of 'Anin in April 2004. In June 2004, B'Tselem had written to DIP and demanded that it investigate the matter.

The victim, A.L., was arrested by Border Police officers in Umm al-Fahem. According to his testimony to B'Tselem, the policemen put him into a jeep, and when it began to move, one of the officers, who was sitting alongside him, hit him and ordered him to kiss a picture of a woman. When he refused, the officer kicked him and shouted at him. The officer also said to A.L., "I want to fuck you," in the words of the witness.

The jeep stopped in the woods near the Megiddo junction. The policemen got out and, according to A.L., the officer who had threatened him touched the victim's groin. The policemen then blindfolded the witness, removed him from the jeep and searched him. A.L. stated that he felt one of the officers opening the buttons of his [the witness's] pants. He became agitated, removed the blindfold, and began to cry.

Eventually, the soldiers decided to take A.L. back to his home. Before getting back into the jeep, A.L. saw his wallet lying on the ground and picked it up. The soldiers dropped him off near the village of Salem, and he got into a taxi. When he later checked his wallet, he found that the money was missing, and he did not have money to pay the fare.

"The policeman ordered me to sit and bend over. When the jeep started on its way, the policeman kicked me and hit me, sometimes with a newspaper and sometimes with a club. He aimed his rifle at me a few times to frighten me."


   Olive harvest once again marred by settler violence  

During this year's olive harvest, B'Tselem has once again documented attacks by settlers against Palestinian farmers and their property. In light of past experience, the Israeli security forces should have taken action in advance to protect the Palestinian harvesters. Instead, in many cases, IDF and police personnel have stood by and left the farmers to the mercy of their attackers, who sometimes even received assistance from security personnel.

For example, on 9 November 2005, several female settlers arrived at an olive grove in the area of Ramallah and attempted to steal two bags of olives that had been harvested the same day. Kamal Shabaneh, a farmer who was present at the site, told B'Tselem: We shouted at them and they left the sacks and ran away. There were around fifteen soldiers with us. Their commander was an officer from the Israeli liaison office... I told him that settlers had tried to steal olives. While we were talking, the girls came back to the sacks of olives. Most of them had knives, and they began to rip the sacks. The other farmers and I began to push them away, to protect ourselves and the crop. The girls threw stones at us. One of the girls took a stick used for picking olives and hit my mother... The other girls had sticks and beat other women who were with us. The soldiers tried to separate us and the settlers, but they favored the settlers. The soldiers grabbed me and the men who were with me, and released the girls, who continued to rip the sacks. I did not get the impression that the soldiers tried to stop them. The soldiers also threatened us, saying that if we didn't leave the site, they would open fire at us."

Another case, that occurred on 10 November 2005, ended in the hospitalization of Khalil Jaber, a farmer and resident of al-Yanun, Nablus District. Jabber told B'Tselem: At about 9.30 A.M., I saw a settler with an M-16 rifle arrive from the north and stand about 100 meters from me. Another settler was standing about 300 meters from me. I was scared, and moved away... The first settler approached me and stopped close by me... Suddenly the settler struck me under my right eye with the butt of his rifle. I fell to the ground and felt that I was losing consciousness. He ran to the north toward the settlement. My nose and cheek were bleeding. I tried to get up, but I felt dizzy and fell down. Jaber suffered fractured bones in his face, and he was hospitalized at Rafidiya Hospital, in Nablus, for two weeks.

A Palestinian olive harvester. Photo: B'Tselem
A Palestinian olive harvester. Photo: B'Tselem

   Soldiers shell house with residents still inside, setting it on fire  

Late at night on 23 October 2005, Israeli soldiers fired gunshots and missiles at a house in the Nur Shams refugee camp, near Tulkarm.

The soldiers opened fire without telling the residents to go outside. The residents of the house, which included small children, woke up in panic. While some of the residents were still in the building, a fire broke out inside as a result of the shelling. The residents fled and the building went up in flames. The soldiers made no effort to put out the fire that they had caused.

In her testimony to B'Tselem, Nadira Hamad stated: I awoke to the sound of gunfire... some pieces of the inside walls fell off. The children and I were very frightened. We went to the bedroom, because it was safer... then I started to smell smoke. I heard the sound of bullets hitting the walls of the house. I couldn't move. I was so afraid and shaken... I saw that the inside of the house was on fire. We weren't able to take anything with us. I was so afraid that I forgot to take my ID card and other documents that my husband and I need. Everything was burned.

Part of the building was destroyed, and the building is uninhabitable. B'Tselem wrote to the Judge Advocate's Office demanding an investigation and payment of compensation to the occupants to cover their losses.

The burned bedroom in Nadira Hamad’s apartment. Photo: B'Tselem
The burned bedroom in Nadira Hamad's apartment. Photo: B'Tselem