As part of the collective punishment policy adopted by the Israeli forces against the families of Palestinians accused of carrying out attacks against Israeli soldiers and/or settlers, on Wednesday dawn, 24 April 2019, the Israeli forces blew up a house belonging to the family Omar Abu Laila in al-Zawiyah village, west of Salfit. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) accordingly condemns this new crime, which is added to the series of Israeli crimes committed in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). PCHR also emphasizes that this crime is part of the Israeli forces’ collective punishment policy against innocent Palestinians in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits collective penalties and reprisals against protected persons and their property. PCHR calls upon the international community to offer protection for civilians in the oPt and ensure the application of the aforementioned convention.
According to PCHR’s investigations and eyewitnesses’ accounts, at approximately 22:30 on the abovementioned day, the Israeli forces backed by more than 35 military vehicle, armored personnel carriers, a military bulldozer and two diggers moved into al-Zawiyah village, west of Salfit. They surrounded a house belonging to the family of Omar Abu Laila, which is an apartment in a 2-story building. The Israeli forces stepped out of their military vehicles, deployed between houses, topped a number of houses’ roofs, and closed the entrance leading to Omar Abu Laila house. The Israeli soldiers then forced neighboring families to leave their houses and locked them in the village school. A large number of Israeli soldiers raided the 2nd floor of the abovementioned building where the Abu Laila family lived and made holes in the apartment’s interior walls using hammers and Congo electric drills. Meanwhile, the bulldozers made similar holes in the external walls. Following that, the soldiers planted explosives inside the apartment and at approximately 06:55 the apartment was blown up. At approximately 07:30, another explosion was carried out inside the apartment. It should be noted that the above-mentioned building was comprised of 2 floors; each had 4 apartments, sheltering 4 families comprised of 18 individuals, including 10 children and 2 elderly women. Each apartment was built on an area of 130 square meters.
As a result of blowing up the apartment, the other 3 apartments in the building fully sustained material damage to their contents. In addition, the nearby houses sustained material damage as their windows glass broke down. It should be noted that the Israeli forces accused Omar Abu Laila of carrying out stabbing and shooting attacks at the intersection of “ Ariel” settlement on 17 March 2019, in which a settler and a soldier were killed. On 19 March 2019, the Israeli forces killed Omar Abu Liala in an armed clash in Abuwin village, north of Ramallah, and his body is so far in the Israeli custody.
It should be mentioned that this house is the fifth one being demolished and/or blown up on these grounds since the beginning of this year. On 18 January 2019, the Israeli forces blew up a house belonging to the family of Khalil Yousif Jabarin (17.5) in Yata, south of Hebron, as the child was previously arrested after being accused of carrying out a stab attack on 16 September 2018 in “Rami Levi” store in the vicinity of “Ghosh ‘Etzion” settlement complex in southern Bethlehem. At the time, a settler was killed and another was wounded. On 07 March 2019, the Israeli forces demolished a house belonging to the family of ‘Asem ‘Omer al-Barghouthi (33) in Cooper village, north of Ramallah. ‘Asem was accused of killing two Israeli soldiers. On 17 April 2019, the Israeli forces demolished the house of ‘Asem’s brother Saleh who was assassinated by Israeli forces in an crime of extra-judcial execution on 12 December 2018 when he was accused of carrying out a shooting attack on 09 December 2018 at a bus stop near “‘Ofra” settlement in northeaster Ramallah and wounding 7 settler. Moreover, on 19 April 2019, Israeli forces demolished two residential apartments belonging to the family of ‘Arafat Irfa’iyah in Dahiyat al-Balad area in southern area of Hebron. Each apartment was built on an area of 150 square meters; the first apartment sheltered his parents and two brothers while the second one was uninhabited. It should be noted that ‘Arafat was arrested by the Israeli forces on 09 February 2019, accusing him of killing an Israeli settler found on 07 February 2019 in forests near Jerusalem.
PCHR again condemns the crime of demolishing the abovementioned house, which is part of the collective punishment policy adopted by the Israeli forces against the Palestinian civilians. PCHR reiterates that this policy is internationally prohibited according to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which states that: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.” Therefore, PCHR reiterates its call upon the international community to take immediate action to put an end to the Israeli crimes. 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 regarding the guarantee of Palestinian civilians’ right to protection in the oPt.