27 Nov. 06

   Humanitarian crisis in Gaza - call to the international community  

Eight Israel human rights organizations published an unprecedented statement, in which they call on the international community to safeguard human rights in the Gaza Strip. The statement comes in the wake of recent events in Gaza and the grave situation of the residents.

The organizations point out that Israel cannot avoid its responsibility for the growing crisis, given that even after the disengagement, it continues to maintain significant control over main aspects of life in the area. The statement also mentions Israel's right to defend itself, but points out that it must do so in accordance with international humanitarian law.

B'Tselem welcomes the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, and hopes that it will form a basis for an improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza.


'Omar a-Najar, an unemployed resident of Gaza, describes his family's life of destitution Photo: B'Tselem

   B'Tselem demands investigation of killing in Beit Hanun  

On 8 November 2006, B'Tselem wrote to the Judge Advocate General, demanding that he promptly open a criminal investigation into the killing of twenty Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanun, and to prosecute the persons found responsible if necessary.

In its letter, B'Tselem states that the circumstances involved in the killing of the Palestinians in Beit Hanun, including the fact that the artillery shelling was not a clear defensive action, raise a grave concern that the action constitutes a war crime. Artillery fire, which is inherently inaccurate, near a densely-populated residential area makes civilian casualties very likely. Therefore, the military's contention that it did not intend to kill civilians in Beit Hanun is disingenuous lip service. Israeli human rights organizations have warned of the danger to civilian lives, and have petitioned the Israeli High Court against the reduction of the "safety range" of artillery shelling of the Gaza Strip.

The house that was shelled in Beit Hanun (B'Tselem).
The house that was shelled in Beit Hanun (B'Tselem).

   B'Tselem strongly condemns Qassam rocket fire  

B'Tselem reiterates its categorical condemnation of Qassam-rocket attacks by Palestinian organizations from the Gaza Strip aimed at Israeli communities. Last week, a rocket attack killed an Israeli civilian, Faina Slutsker. Since June 2004, rocket fire killed nine Israeli civilians, five Palestinian civilians, and one foreign national.

Deliberate attacks on civilians are a war crime, for which the perpetrators are subject to prosecution. B'Tselem calls on the Palestinian Authority to impose its authority on the groups involved in firing rockets at Israeli communities, and to prevent attacks against civilians. Again, B'Tselem declares that Israel has the right and obligation to defend its citizens. However, B'Tselem warns against reprisal actions, which breach international law and whose military effectiveness is questionable.

A Qassam rocket fired by Palestinians at the Israeli town of Sderot . 2 Nov. 2006. Photo: Amir Cohen, Reuters
A Qassam rocket fired by Palestinians at the Israeli town of Sderot . 2 Nov. 2006. Photo: Amir Cohen, Reuters

   Grave suspicion two wounded Palestinians were executed  

On 8 November 2006, a special army unit killed five Palestinians in al-Yamun, a village in the Jenin District. According to B'Tselem's investigation, two of the dead, who were wanted by Israeli security forces, were shot but managed to find refuge in a house near the incident. Three soldiers came to the house and shot the two wounded men.

Testimonies given by occupants of the house raise a grave concern that the soldiers shot the two men from close range while they were lying on the floor, unarmed, and posing no threat to the soldiers. In light of the findings of its investigation, B'Tselem wrote to the Judge Advocate General and demanded that he order a criminal investigation into the incident.

Site of the incident. Photo: 'Atef Abu a-Rub, B'Tselem.
Site of the incident. Photo:
'Atef Abu a-Rub, B'Tselem.

   Israel violates right to visit imprisoned relatives  

B'Tselem's new report - Barred from Contact - describes the difficulties faced by families of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel who want to visit their relatives. The report's findings indicate that some one-third of Palestinians are prevented from visiting relatives in prison, or are allowed to visit only rarely. The vast majority of Palestinian prisoners and detainees are held in prisons inside Israel, and not in the Occupied Territories, in contravention of international humanitarian law. This fact is a primary reason for the great difficulty prisoners and their families have in exercising their right to visits. As a result of Israel's policy, many Palestinian minors, some as young as 4 and 5, travel to the prisons unaccompanied by a parent or adult sibling.

In the report's conclusion, B'Tselem calls on the government of Israel to transfer all Palestinian prisoners to detention facilities inside the Occupied Territories. Also, as long as Palestinians are held inside Israel, B'Tselem urges the Israeli authorities to take measures to facilitate the visits.


Four-year-old boy travels alone
to visit his father imprisoned
in Israel. Photo: B'Tselem.