This is the fourth in a series of reports published by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) on assassinations committed by Israeli forces during the al-Aqsa Intifada. This report documents assassinations in the period 1 May – 28 September 2002. PCHR has published three previous reports on assassinations committed by Israeli forces. PCHR’s first report on assassinations, covering 29 September 2000-28 April 2001, documented 13 assassination operations that killed a total of 13 targeted Palestinians and 6 bystanders. The second report on assassinations, covering 29 April-28 September 2001, documented 26 assassinations that killed a total of 22 targeted Palestinians and 12 bystanders, including children. The third report on assassinations, covering 29 September 2001-30 April 2002, documented 30 assassinations that killed 42 Palestinians and 16 bystanders, including 8 children.
In this most recent period, Israeli forces committed 20 assassinations, killing 55 Palestinians, including 28 targeted Palestinians and 27 bystanders, 14 of whom were children, 2 were elderly, and 4 were women. In addition, 141 Palestinians, including 2 targeted Palestinians and 139 bystanders were wounded, some of whom sustained permanent disabilities.
The total number of assassinations carried out by Israeli forces from 29 September 2000 to 28 September 2002, has now reached a total of 91 operations, in which 105 targeted Palestinians and 61 bystanders, including 24 children, 7 women and 8 old people. In addition, 19 targeted Palestinians and 234 bystanders were wounded. Most of these assassinations took place in the West Bank, where Israeli forces committed 77 assassinations that left 84 targeted Palestinians and 37 bystanders dead. In the Gaza Strip, 21 targeted Palestinians and 24 bystanders were killed in assassinations committed by Israeli forces. In the first year of the Intifada, Israeli forces committed 41 assassinations, killing 35 targeted Palestinians and 18 bystanders, and wounding 65 others. In the second year of the Intifada, Israeli forces committed 50 assassinations, killing 70 targeted Palestinians and 43 bystanders, and wounding 188 others.
The international silence has encouraged Israeli forces to commit more grave breaches, including war crimes, against Palestinian civilians. Over the past few months, there has been a quantitative escalation in assassination attempts by Israeli forces against Palestinians. Israeli forces have employed F-16 fighter jets in assassination attempts. In the period under study, Israeli forces used F-16 fighter jets in two assassination attempts in the Gaza Strip. On 14 July 2002, Israeli F-16 fighter jets launched two missiles at an uninhabited house owned by ‘Aabdul Rahman Yousef ‘Aabdul Wahab. The first missile went astray and fell onto a neighboring tract of agricultural land. The second missile directly hit the facade, destroying parts of the second and ground floors. According to ‘Abdul Wahab, his son Yousef, 24, who is wanted by Israeli forces, was in the house with four of his friends. They were all able to escape when the first missile hit the tract of agricultural land. On 22 July 2002, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet launched a 1-ton missile at the house of Sheikh Salah Shehada, who is wanted by Israel. The missile directly hit the house which located in a highly populated area. The house and two others were totally destroyed and 32 adjacent houses were seriously damaged. Sixteen Palestinian civilians, including 8 children, the youngest of whom was only 2-month-old, were killed. Two women and their five children, two old people, and Sheikh Salah Shehada, his wife, daughter and bodyguard, were among the victims. More than 70 civilians were also wounded, one of whom lost his eye.
Israeli forces have also used other methods in assassination attempts, most notably demolishing houses of targeted persons over whomever inside. In this context, on 14 August 2002, Israeli forces surrounded a house in which Nasser Jarrar, 41, wanted by those forces, had shelter in Tubas village near Jenin. An exchange of fire took place between the two sides. Soon, Israeli military bulldozers demolished the house over him. Jarra was physically handicapped.
According to PCHR’s documentation, 38% of those killed and 93% of those injured in assassination attempts by Israeli forces were bystanders and victims of the "margin of mistakes" (not targeted according to Israeli claims). These facts refute Israeli claims that assassinations are carried out accurately through technologically advanced weapons, with the possibility of harming a limited number of Palestinian civilians. These high numbers of casualties among innocent civilians strongly indicate that Israeli forces carry out assassinations with little or no regard for lives of bystanders.
The Israeli government openly claims responsibility for liquidations and unapologetically claims that such acts are part of a policy of "self-defense." Yet circumstances of assassinations committed by Israeli forces refute Israeli claims that they are part of a policy of "self-defense." For example, on 18 June 2002, Israeli forces shot dead Yousef Bisharat, 21, from Tammun village near Jenin, before the eyes of people, after having arrested him at an Israeli military checkpoint in Hebron. On 2 August 2002, Israeli forces shot dead Amjad Jbour, 35, from Salem village near Nablus, after having arrested him at his house. On 12 August 2002, Israeli forces shot dead Ghazal Fureihat, 21, from al-Yamun village near Jenin, after having arrested him at his house, claiming that he attempted to escape. On 14 May 2002, Israeli forces shot dead Lieutenant Colonel Khaled Abu al-Khairan, 38, from al-Fawar refugee camp near Hebron, and Lieutenant Ahmed ‘Abdul ‘Azziz Zama’ra, 26, from Halhoul village near Hebron, when they attempted to escape in their car. One of the victims bled to death. On 16 May 2002, Israeli forces shot dead Mohammed Taha Ahmed Ghannam, 21, with three live bullets in the chest and the right leg. Then, they threw his body onto the street. Ghannam’s body was taken to Ramallah Hospital. According to medical sources, Israeli forces used sharp tools to distort his body.
The period under study witnessed a significant escalation in the use of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces as human shields during assassination attempts that targeted Palestinian activists, even though lives of those civilians were endangered. On 2 August 2002, Israeli forces raided the house of Rida Eshtayeh and forced him to leave the house and accompany them towards the home of Amjad ‘Abdul Hadi Jbour, 35, a Hamas activist. They forced him to enter Jobour’s house and ordered him to get out with his hands over his head and without clothes covering the upper part of the body. When Jobour got out of the house, Israeli forces arrested him and then shot him dead. On 14 August 2002, Israeli forces took Nidhal ‘Abdul Ra’ouf Abu Muhsen, 19, out of his house in Tubas village, near Jenin, to the cemetery of the village. They forced him to put on a bullet proof suit, similar to that used by Israeli soldiers. They let a dog follow him. They forced him to go to houses in the area and tell their residents to leave, in an assassination attempt that targeted Nasser Jarrar. Sounds of explosions and shooting were heard in the village. Jarrar was killed. Later, Israeli forces delivered Abu Muhsen’s body to the Palestinian side, claiming that Jarrar shot him when he got close to the house.