The West Bank is witnessing the worst and most violent escalation by the Israeli forces and settlers in this year. Only within 48 hours, the Israeli forces killed 4 Palestinian civilians, including an elderly and 2 extra-judicially killed, and wounded dozens due to use of armed force against the peaceful demonstrators. The Palestinian cities have witnessed large-scale incursions; mostly in the cities of Ramallah and al-Bireh, and a strangulating closure on both cities. Meanwhile, the Israeli settlers have escalated their attacks against the Palestinian civilians and their property in light of the Israeli military and political leaders’ calls for incitement against the Palestinians. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) emphasizes that the Israeli forces continue to pursue the policy of Extra-judicial executions that have publicly carried out for the first time in the so-called “Bus 300” operation on 10 April 1984 when 4 Palestinians were killed. Thus, PCHR condemns in strongest terms this escalation and holds the Israeli forces responsible for it and its repercussions. PCHR also calls upon the international community to assume its legal and moral responsibilities, to intervene effectively to stop the Israeli forces’ crimes against the Palestinians and their property and to work on providing protection for them.
According to PCHR’s investigation, those crimes were as follows:
- At approximately 19:30 on Wednesday, 12 December 2018, a group from the Israeli “Yamam Unit”, which is known for carrying out extra-judicial killings while undercover like the “Mistarivim” Unit in the Israeli Forces and is dressed like Palestinian civilians, infiltrated into Serda village, north of Ramallah. The Yamam members used a white Mercedes Bus and intercepted a car driven by Saleh ‘Omer al-Barghouthi (29) who was on his way back from Ramallah to Cooper village, north of the city, where he lived. They opened fire at the front side of the car and then stepped out of their bus to surround Saleh’s car, forcing him to get off. They then blindfolded him and handcuffed him, taking him to their bus and then to an unknown destination. According to an eyewitness’s account, Saleh was not wounded at the moment of his arrest and other eyewitnesses said that they did not see any blood inside his car that was later confiscated by the Israeli forces. At approximately 00:30, The Israeli Shin Bet security service and the Israeli media announced the death of Barghouti, raising doubts about killing him after his arrest.
- At approximately 01:30 on Thursday, 13 December 2018, large numbers of Israeli forces moved into ‘Askar al-Jadid refugee camp, northeast of Nablus, and stationed in the vicinity of a building belonging to Hussein Mohammed Bushkar. Many of them topped the roofs of the nearby buildings and surrounded the 3-storey building. Following that, heavy explosions and shooting were heard in the area. At approximately 03:30, the Israeli soldiers took out a dead body from the second floor in the building , where there was an empty apartment, on a litter covered with a dark color cover. The Israeli forces later declared that they managed to kill Ashraf Walid Soliman Na’alwah (23) from Shwikah Suburb in Tulkarm. Na’alwah had been chased by the Israeli forces since 07 October 2018 on grounds of being accused of carrying out a shooting attack in Burkan Industrial Area, west of Salfit, and killing at the time 2 settlers and wounded a third one. Eyewitnesses said that they did not hear any sound indicating occurrence of an exchange of fire in the building.
- At approximately 17:30 on the abovementioned day, Hamdan Tawfiq al-‘Aardah (60), who was from ‘Arabah village, south of Jenin, and lived in al-Bireh, was driving his black Ford Jeep in al-Bireh Industrial area, back home from his work. Meanwhile, Israeli forces were stationed there in their military vehicles. When his car approached the Israeli vehicles, one of the soldiers opened fire at him, wounding him with 2 bullets to the head. The Israeli soldiers prevented the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) staff that was in the area from aiding him and then arrested Hamdan to take him to an Israeli Hospital. At approximately 19:30, the Israeli forces declared his death and Israeli media published on its websites claims that Hamdan attempted to carry put a run-over attack.
- At approximately 15:30 on Friday, 14 December 2018, Israeli forces backed by military vehicles moved into al-Jalazone refugee camp, north of Ramallah, and stationed next to al-Jalazone High School for Boys that belongs to UNRWA and is established at the main entrance of the camp. Dozens of Palestinian young men gathered to throw stones, empty bottles and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli soldiers, who in response fired a barrage of live and rubber-coated metal bullets in addition to teargas canisters and sound bombs at the young men. At approximately 16:20, Israeli soldiers surprisingly moved forward and heavily and randomly opened fire at the demonstrators from a distance of 50 meters. As a result, Mahmoud Yousif Nakhlah (18) was hit with a bullet that penetrated his abdomen and fell on the ground while bleeding. He was then taken by a PRCS ambulance to Palestine Medical Complex in the City and was in very critical condition. He was immediately admitted to the Operating Room for surgery, and at approximately 17:30, his death was declared. It should be noted that Mahmoud is the only son of his family comprised of his father and mother.
While strongly condemning these crimes, which further prove the Israeli forces continue to commit crimes against Palestinian civilians in disregard for their lives, PCHR calls upon the international community to take immediate and effective action to stop the Israeli crimes and escalating violations and to work on providing protection for Palestinians. PCHR also reiterates its call upon the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under Article 1; i.e., to respect and ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances, and their obligations under Article 146 to prosecute persons alleged to commit grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention. These grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147 of the same Convention and Protocol (I) Additional to the Geneva Conventions.