PCHR Position Paper:  ICC Prosecutor Must Respond Immediately to Escalating IOF War Crimes against Palestinians

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR): Position Paper | April 19, 2022

While the western world in Europe and the United States are focused on the Ukrainian crisis, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) used the past two months to upscale its crimes against Palestinian civilians, amidst complete international silence that bares the double standards in applying international law. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is following with great surprise the swift initiative of international actors to impose immediate economic sanctions on the Russian Federation, as well as the pouring of military and economic aid on Ukraine. Not only that, but we also witnessed immediate action from international actors, including the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), to investigate allegations of war crimes against Ukrainian civilians; meanwhile, those same actors suffice with silence towards similar crimes committed by IOF over the course of decades against Palestinian civilians and their properties.

This position paper aims to expose IOF and highlight its crimes against Palestinian civilians, and to send a letter to international actors that human suffering is universal, that crimes against civilians are condemned everywhere and require the intervention of the international community to stop them, and to use and exhaust all possible legal channels under international law to combat these crimes, whether in Ukraine, Palestine, or anywhere where justice is not served and wherever there are victims denied access. PCHR reiterates that crimes must not go unpunished and asserts that absence of accountability only encourages further defiance of international law. The standard for justice must be one for all peoples of the world; however, it is here proved to be -once again- a matter ruled by interests, and that political interests trump international law, and that the latter is used by politicians as a poly to serve their purposes. This paper calls upon the ICC Prosecutor to move immediately and visit the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) at the nearest opportunity.

Since the beginning of 2022, the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, witnessed a sharp increase in IOF crimes and violations of international law and international humanitarian law. Over the past two months, IOF escalated murder crimes against civilians, including summary executions; and Israeli settlers intensified their violent attacks and provocations against Palestinian civilians, all done under the protection and presence of Israeli occupation military troops across the West Bank. The recent Israeli settlers’ raid attempts on the al-Aqsa Mosque is only one manifestation of the occupation’s actions that aim to change the reality of the city, and ethnically cleanse Palestinians.

Violations of the Right to Life

So far in 2022, IOF killed 37 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 8 children and 2 women; a 428% increase vis-à-vis the same period last year where 7 Palestinians were killed, including a woman and a child. The majority of the victims were civilians, 27, i.e., 73% of the killed:

  • 20 killed in IOF excessive use of force during clashes or IOF raids on Palestinian cities and neighborhoods;
  • 5 were killed allegedly for conducting a stab attack or were unnecessarily killed as their threat was already neutralized. These victims were not offered medical first aid. These cases amount to extrajudicial summary executions.
  • 2 elderly persons were killed, including Suliman al-Hathaleen (69) was ran over; al-Hathaleen was a well-known Palestinian activist against the Israeli settlement expansion and displacement of Palestinians. Al-Hathaleen was ran-over by an Israeli truck; Israeli police did not offer him any type of first aid. The 2 elderly victims was killed after IOF assaulted and detained him.

On the other hand, 3 Palestinian activists were extra-judicially executed; and 7 others were killed during exchange of fire with IOF during the latter’s’ raids onto Palestinian cities.

The vast majority of those incidents reflect IOF’s loose shooting standards against Palestinians, without the presence of any or a serious threat or danger to soldiers’ lives. . This is conducted with the support of the Israeli political level, assuring a legal covering for murder crimes against Palestinians by the highest political level in Israel. The murder crimes increased following the Israeli Prime Minister’s announcement on 8 April 2021 that he has granted security forces full support and freedom following an attack in Tel Aviv. Since the announcement, 11 Palestinian civilians were killed, including 3 children, and 2 women who were killed on the same day in different circumstance.

On 10 April 2022, Ghada Ibrahim ‘Ali Sabatin (47), was killed after approaching an Israeli military checkpoint in Husan, western Bethlehem, after soldiers targeted her without cause alleging that she approached soldiers and did not respond to calls for her to stop. Later on the 10th, Israeli Border Guard Police shot 2 bullets at Maha Kazem ‘Awad al-Za’atari (26), she was in the closed internal yard of al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, directly wounding her. She fell on the ground and was left to bleed until 18:30 without offering her first aid. IOF claimed that al-Za’atari stabbed an Israeli soldier; she was neutralized and her body was detained in IOF’s custody. There were no eyewitnesses to the incident.

Furthermore, IOF wounded hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including women and children; some in critical state, and at least 4 were shot directly in the eye. Of those, 2 people lost one eye, including a child.

Jerusalem: Ground for Recurrent Attacks

Since the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, occupied East Jerusalem witnessed various and almost-daily attacks, most notably excessive use of force against peaceful gatherings in Bab al-Amoud area. These attacks peaked during the IOF raid onto the Al-Aqsa Mosque and its yards on Friday dawn, where 158 Palestinians were wounded, including 6 in critical state, 3 paramedics, and 3 journalists, during wide-scale attacks on thousands of worshippers in the mosque, its yards, and grounds. On that day, IOF conducted a mass-arrest campaign in its raid on the al-Qibli Mosque, arresting 470 Palestinians in less than 5 hours; all the while, violently assaulting them. IOF raided the mosque the following day, causing more injuries among civilians and worshippers. These attacks indicate an Israeli intent to divide a time and space between Muslims and Jews to enter the al-Aqsa Mosque.

The current events in the occupied city are a stark reflection of the Israeli apartheid system. As its military forces protect settlers, facilitates their entry to the al-Aqsa; the same forces abuse Palestinians and violate their rights to freedom of movement and worship.

Demolitions and forcible displacement

This year, the Israeli occupation forcibly displaced 40 families, a total of 244 individuals, including 47 women, and 113 children, as a result of the demolition of 50 houses, and 5 residential tents in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem. IOF also demolished 29 other civilian establishments, razed 174 dunums, and handed over 49 notices of demolition, cease-construction, or evacuation.

In contrary to the demolition orders and notices served against Palestinians, the Israeli occupation authorities issued decisions to build thousands of settlement units and confiscated Palestinian lands to build settlement projects. These decisions are fully-backed by the Israeli political leadership. On 05 April 2022, during a visit to the security service’s regional command in al-Bireh City suburbs in the West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett renewed support to settlement construction in the oPt; Bennett responded to earlier accusations by the Settlements Council concerning freezing the construction of new settlement units, saying, “We are continuing and will continue to build in Judea and Samaria. There will not be a freeze here.” It is truly condemnable that such a statement from the highest Israeli political figure in support of war crimes did not inspire any international reaction.

Collective Punishment Policy, including Restrictions on Freedom of Movement

The Israeli occupation authorities continued with its collective punishment policy against the Palestinian civilians under the pretext that members of families or residents of specific areas conducted attacks against Israelis. On 09 April 2022, head of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), Major Ghassan ‘Alian announced a series of collective punishment measures against Jenin, northern West Bank, following a shooting conducted by one of the city’s residents in Tel Aviv.

Moreover, IOF conducted 3 demolitions and closed houses belonging to families of prisoners in the Israeli jails. This falls under IOF’s collective punishment policy against families of Palestinians who conducted attacks against the soldiers and/or settlers.

On top of more than 100 permanent checkpoints, IOF has so far established more than 1056 checkpoints and arrested dozens of Palestinians at these checkpoints. These checkpoints and restrictions reflect the Israeli apartheid that imposes obstacles on Palestinians’ movement but in the same time offers protection and facilitations for settlers’ movement on bypass roads in the West Bank. Also, IOF besiege the Palestinian cities and communities and turn them into separate cantons.

Setters’ Violence Against Palestinian Civilians and Their Properties

So far in 2022, the settlers conducted 95 attacks against the Palestinian civilians and their property across the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, causing many injuries and bruises. Most of those attacks were retaliatory and included shooting, stone-throwing at Palestinian houses and vehicles in addition to attacking civilians and places of worship (churches and mosques.) Also, over days, Jerusalem was subject to settlers’ violence and attacks under IOF’s protection during their attempt to seize Palestinian lands and property in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

In light of these blatant violations of International law rules; most of them constitute war crimes and reflect in all the Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing, PCHR emphasizes that the international community’s ongoing silence towards the Israeli occupation’s crimes against the Palestinian civilians, including murders, forced displacement, settlement activity and apartheid, encourages the Israeli leaders to continue denying the international law, committing more crimes and increasing the suffering of the Palestinian people that has been ongoing over the past 7 decades.

PCHR underscores that the Israeli Prime Minister’s, Naftali Bennett, explicitly giving green light to IOF to commit murders relentlessly and his loud talk about continuing settlement activity in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, constitute a blatant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and ICC’s Rome Statue, constituting a full-fledged war crime.

These grave breaches and the political cover behind them continue without any serious international position taken against them, reflecting the international community’s double standard when applying the international law, in comparison to the events in Ukraine.

While emphasizing our principled position against any occupation as human suffering is inseparable, we can easily recognize international community’s explicit double standard when dealing with the oldest occupation in the region (the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory) and the latest invasion in the world (the Russian invasion into Ukraine.)  And while Europe, United States and UN bodies took prompt action against the Russian invasion into Ukraine and took many steps to stop it in addition to ICC’s opening a prompt investigation and developing mechanisms to receive information on all violations and war crimes, silence prevailed when addressing the Israeli occupation’s crimes, encouraging the Israeli occupation to commit further crimes. Also, politics and interests overcame law in international community’s resolutions that shielded Israel and its leaders from any real accountability despite issuance of tens of international resolutions, including those by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly condemning these crimes.

PCHR reiterates its call upon the international community to address international causes with one standard and activate international accountability to combat Israel’s defiance and disregard of the international law, including the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention and ICC’s Rome Statue.

PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to Geneva Conventions to ensure Israel’s compliance as a State Member to apply the Geneva conventions in the occupied Palestinian territory. PCHR also calls upon the State Signatories to the Geneva Conventions to fulfill their obligations that ensure the application of the conventions and take practical steps to hold the Israeli war criminals accountable and end the impunity they have been enjoying for decades.

PCHR calls upon the international community to pressure Israel in order to allow the ICC’s Commission of Inquiry to enter the oPt to meet with the victims and eyewitnesses and visit the crime scene.

PCHR also calls upon the ICC’s Prosecutor to pay an urgent visit to the oPt, especially with deteriorating situation and Israel’s escalating violations, war crimes and ethnic cleansing in the oPt. PCHR emphasizes that less than a year has passed since the latest IOF’s aggression on the Gaza Strip in May 2021 when civilians and civilian objects were in the eye of the storm as 151 civilians were killed, including 59 children, 38 women, and 1968 civilians were injured, including 630 children, 397 women. Moreover, Civilian facilities and infrastructure were destroyed, including the total destruction of 7,680 housing units.

Full report in Arabic here.


Published by I Can Handle the Truth

I am a journalist, editor, and activist for the human rights for Palestinians across the world. Long Live Palestine!

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