This is the second in a series of report published by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) on assassinations committed by Israeli occupation forces during the al-Aqsa Intifada. Drawing from data collected by human rights organisations and media, this report documents assassinations from 29 April to 28 September 2001, the first anniversary of the outbreak of the Intifada. In the first year of the Intifada, there were a total of 41 operations, killing 36 targeted Palestinians and 15 bystanders. Moreover, 65 Palestinians were injured in these attacks, including 13 who were marked for elimination and 52 bystanders.
The Centre’s first report on assassination operations, covering 29 September 2000-28 April 2001, documented 13 assassinations that killed a total of 13 targeted Palestinians and 6 bystanders. Although assassinations were one of the early responses to the Intifada under Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, this policy escalated upon the election of his successor, Ariel Sharon. Furthermore, the Sharon government decided on 21 June to resume assassinations of Palestinian activists despite the cease-fire declared on 13 June. Between 21 June and 29 September, the Israeli government executed 21 assassination operations, killing 18 targeted Palestinians and 11 civilian bystanders; there were also 8 failed assassinations. In addition, there were 7 explosions in which 16 Palestinians were killed, including two brothers, for which responsibility could not be attributed.
Over the past few months, there has been a quantitative and qualitative escalation in assassination attempts by Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians. Israeli occupation forces carried out 26 assassination operations during the period under study, killing 20 targeted Palestinians and 12 bystanders, including children, and injuring 50. Among the 50 wounded, 13 were targeted and 37 were bystanders. Also, Israeli occupation forces carried out 10 failed assassination attempts. In these attacks, 11 targeted Palestinians were injured (4 critically), while 3 escaped injury.
Crucially, there was also an escalation in the kinds of Palestinians targeted by occupation forces, widening the circle of targets to include high-ranking political leaders in Palestinian nationalist and Islamic movements. Israeli occupation forces carried out two assassinations targeting political leaders. On 31 July, an Israeli Apache helicopter gunship launched missiles at the Palestinian Centre for Studies and Media in a house in the middle of Nablus, killing eight people, including 2 prominent local Hamas political leaders: Jamal Mansour, 41, and Jamal Salim, 41. On 27 August, an Israeli Apache helicopter gunship launched missiles at the office of the Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Mustafa al-Zabri (Abu Ali Mustafa), in Ramallah, killing him and injuring nearby staff members.
In addition, there have been numerous incidents of explosions in houses, grocery stores, cars, and other circumstances in which Israeli occupation forces were suspected of responsibility. There were 13 such incidents in which 28 Palestinians were killed, including 2 children. On 19 August, an explosion occurred in a house in Rafah city in the Gaza strip, killing a Palestinian activist and two of his children. On 30 July, another explosion in Jenin killed six Palestinians militants. On 28 September, an explosion in a residential neighbourhood near Hebron killed an Islamic Jihad activist.
The Israeli government openly claims responsibility for liquidations and unapologetically claims that such acts are part of a policy of “self-defence.” Israeli President Moshe Katsav has described such operations as “Self-defence operations against those who plan or commit acts against Israeli targets.” Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced in a special statement published in al-Quds 14 May 2001 that Israel declares its responsibility for some operations and keeps silent on others. Sharon added in an interview on Israeli television on 2 July 2001 that Israeli occupation forces had committed extra-judicial killings of Palestinian activists in Tulkarm, Nablus, and Jenin and would not hesitate in the future to kill whoever it suspected of terrorism if it deemed it in the interests of the state of Israel. Two days later, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharanoth reported that Israeli occupation forces had produced a list of 26 Palestinians whose killings the government had approved, including members of Fateh, PFLP, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.
The circumstances and conditions in which some assassination operations are committed by Israeli occupation forces undermine Israeli claims that these operation are carried out in “self-defence.” For example, on 23 July a special force of Israeli commandos killed Mustafa Yassin, 26, from Jenin, in front of his wife and child after Israeli forces released him from their custody two days earlier. The evidence also indicates that Israeli occupation forces shot him and left him injured until he died, without providing any medical care or allowing his wife to do so. This matter confirms that there was an intention to kill Yassin and not in self-defence, otherwise they would have held him in custody.
The circumstances of other incidents confirm that the Israeli government is indiscriminate as to the “collateral damage” of such assassination operations. Israeli occupation forces have not hesitated to use missiles residential buildings in which Jamal Mansour and Jamal Salim Damouni were killed, along with 6 bystanders.