Update: Killing Palestinians with Impunity

— Palestine Monitor

[The following update (14th December 2002) was issued by the alestine Monitor, an information clearinghouse in Ramallah, West Bank. For more information contact: Palestine Monitor +972 (0)2 298 5372 or +972 (0)59 387 087; www.palestinemonitor.org]

LAST WEEK'S TRAGIC and brutal shooting of 95-year-old Fatima at a checkpoint near Ramallah highlights the brutality of the Israeli occupation. It is also a perfect illustration of the impunity with which Israeli soldiers act in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT); and the complete control the soldiers have over every aspect of the civilians' lives.

After such an event, like the killing of Fatima, the Israeli military spokespeople are quick to lay the blame at the door of the Palestinians, vindicating their “professional” soldiers of any culpability or guilt in the incidents, often expressing “regret” that the soldiers were forced to carry out such acts.

These statements, however, are merely public relations exercises -- if the Israeli military or government regretted, or were remotely concerned about, the deaths of Palestinian civilians, something would be done. Instead heavily armed 18-year-old youths are given carte blanche to act as they wish -- unobserved, and secure in the knowledge that their behavior will go unpunished.

The cold-blooded shooting of Fatima -- a great grandmother and the oldest Palestinian victim of the Israeli troops -- was significant because she was so old. This is why her death and her story received coverage.

But on a daily basis Palestinians are being killed, shot, attacked, beaten, insulted and humiliated and because it happens so frequently and they are not the eldest victim, or the youngest, or the cutest, or the most tragic, or in some way unique, their stories and deaths are ignored.

Examining a few days of the last week it is clear that the impunity with which Israeli soldiers act is killing innocent Palestinian civilians.

* On the 9th of December Rihana Al-Arda, 25, was driving home with her husband and mother in law after visiting a relative in hospital. An Israeli soldier opened fire on the car and Rihana was shot in the chest, and died. Her mother-in-law was injured.

* Also on December the 9th Azzam Abdul Qadar Alawaney suffered a heart attack. The 47-year-old attempted to get from his village of Azmout to a hospital in Nablus but he was unable to do so. The hospital tried to coordinate an ambulance reaching him -- but the ambulance was stopped at one checkpoint and prevented from reaching him, and Azzam was unable to pass through another checkpoint. The lack of medical treatment killed him.

* On the same day, in his village of Beit Lid, east of Tulkaram, 28-year-old Bassel Mustafa Al-Quoh was walking in an open area of his town when soldiers at the nearby Israeli settlement of Emav opened fire and killed him. Tragically Bassel was mentally disabled -- and was merely taking a walk.

* A day earlier Nahla Abdul Rahman Aqel, a 41-year-old mother, was shot in the neck and killed while standing near her home in Rafah, Gaza. Three of her children were lightly injured. Again those responsible were solders in the nearby military outpost of Tel Sultan.

* Marwan Hazzan At-Tahrawey, 16 years old, was taking refuge from the Israeli troops invading the Breij refugee camp in Gaza. Cowering behind a wall with others, they were killed when a helicopter fired a missile on them. None of them had been involved in the fighting which the Israeli invasion had provoked.

* The innocent newborn baby of Muwafaq Ahmad Kabah died after his parents were denied access to medical treatment. Muwafaq and his wife, who was in labor, were prevented by Israeli troops from leaving the area around their village of Tura Al-Gharbiya near the Green line in the north of the West Bank.

Kill First, Investigate Later

These are dramatic cases in which the soldiers' power and impunity lead to the deaths of innocent Palestinians. A decision to prevent an ambulance is the same as the decision to pull the trigger and open fire on a car -- when both result in deaths.

The humiliation of Palestinians at checkpoints, using Palestinians as human shields, preventing medical staff from carrying out their work without interference, opening fire on civilians, exploding a house without informing and removing all the residents, shooting and killing first -- and investigating later -- all stem from the same cause.

Young Israeli soldiers feel they act with impunity, because no one is watching them and no one really cares. The fact that over 2,070 Palestinians have died in the last two years and three months -- an average of almost three Palestinian deaths every day -- bears out this fact.

ATC 102, January-February 2003