This report highlights one of the most horrible aspects of the excessive use of force committed by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada: Assassinations. Assassinations are usually carried out by elite units of the Israeli occupation forces, which are called special units, death teams, and sometimes Al-Musta’reboun (Arabianizers). In three cases, combat helicopters were used to target the victims.
The Israeli occupation forces resorted to the assassination policy in the early stages of the Al-Aqsa Intifada by relying on the justification that Israel is in “an armed conflict” that permits it to assassinate those who attack Israelis or plans to carry out “terrorist” attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. In some cases of these extra-judicial killings, it was easy to arrest targeted persons without any resistance. However, by killing these persons, the Israeli occupation forces apparently aimed at terrifying the Palestinian people and at retaliating against those who were allegedly engaged in military attacks against Israeli targets. For example, Jamal ‘Abdel-Raziq and Hani Abu Bakra, both from Rafah, were killed at close range on November 22, 2000 and December 14, 2000 respectively when Israeli occupation soldiers were in a position to arrest them.
High-ranking Israeli decision-makers and the military judiciary fully support the assassination policy. After an officer of Force 17 (the Palestinian President’s Guard) was assassinated on February 13, 2001, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak praised the operation, stating that it was part of the policy of Israel to combat those “who threaten the security of Jews.” In his comment on the death of two Israelis in Tulkarm, former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneih said: “We will continue to target terrorists accurately … There is no magical cure in this war, but carrying out specific operations against terrorists engaged in attacks is the most effective means.” When he was asked whether Israel adopted an assassination policy against Palestinians, Brigadier General Beni Gantz, the commander of the Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank, said: “You said ‘assassination’, not me. We act out of necessity, and we will not stop acting this way as long as there are threats.” Israeli Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz quoted the Israeli military Attorney General when he said that “the Israeli occupation forces are authorized and allowed by the Israeli military law to assassinate “enemies” in Palestinian areas in exceptional or unusual cases in order to protect the lives of people and when there is no other option…The Israeli army will continue to use all means, including assassinations.” Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak stated: “If there are people who shoot at us to kill us, our only option will be to respond. A country under terrorist threats has to confront this.”
The Israeli government does not hesitate to claim responsibility for such crimes against Palestinian civilians. It claims that extra-judicial killings of whom it calls “terrorists” deter those who would commit “terrorist” acts.
In all cases of extra-judicial killings committed by the Israeli occupation forces, the Israeli government failed to prove that the victims were engaged in attacks against Israeli soldiers and settlers. These operations are usually carried out without any investigation, and after each operation, Israeli sources refer to the victim’s activities ambiguously. The Israeli government considers that targeting activists of Palestinian organizations is a successful policy since many activists from the Fatah Movement, from Hamas and from Islamic Jihad, which are accused by Israel of leading the Intifada, were killed. All extra-judicial killings took place in areas under full control of the Palestinian National Authority.