Accusations against Israel of war crimes during the Al-Aqsa Intifada

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Template:NPOV Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned Israel's responses to the al-Aqsa Intifada that violate international law. These accusations of criminal conduct generally fall under four categories: reckless endangerment and deliberate killing of civilians, the use of torture and illegal detention, collective punishment, and ethnic cleansing.


Killing of civilians

On September 28, 2000 Ariel Sharon visited the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount complex. The following day, thousands of Arabs demonstrated against what they perceived as Sharon's provocative behavior and statements (see Al-Aqsa Intifada); some rioted, throwing stones down on Jews worshipping at the adjacent Western Wall. These mass demonstrations are generally considered to be the beginning of the "al-Aqsa Intifada".

The Israeli government claims the demonstrations were organized by the Palestinian Authority. However, the Palestinian Authority denied the allegation, claiming that the demonstrations were spontaneous. An investigation by George Mitchell stated that the Sharon visit did not cause the "Al-Aqsa Intifada", and also stated that there was "no basis on which to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the PA to initiate a campaign of violence at the first opportunity; or to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the (Israeli government) to respond with lethal force."

A press release by Amnesty International charged the Israel Defense Forces and police with entering the Haram al-Sharif compound, apparently in response to stone-throwing by Palestinians, and "firing indiscriminately," killing five Palestinians and causing dozens of injuries [1] (, though the U.S. State Department and the Mitchell Report listed only four deaths. Using what Amnesty International decried as "excessive and indiscriminate use of force", Israeli forces used rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition against security forces and civilians, killing a 10-year-old boy on the rooftop of his house (see also: Children killed on both sides in the al-Aqsa Intifada (

Since then, Israel has earned the scorn of numerous human rights organizations, leading Human Rights Watch to summarize that "Most of the deaths were the result of excessive, and often indiscriminate, use of lethal force by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, police, and border police against unarmed civilian demonstrators, including children" [2] (, and leading Amnesty to issue a press release titled "Israel shows reckless disregard for human life" [3] ( In it, Amnesty described Israel's firing of missiles from an air force jet into a media center run by a Hamas leader. The attack killed eight people, including two children (ages six and eleven) and two journalists, and wounded 15 people (including critically wounding a human rights defender).

In an attempt to kill Hamas leader Sheikh Salah Shehadeh, Israel bombed a crowded apartment complex in Gaza [4] (,2763,761746,00.html). The death toll from the attack attack rose to 15 people (including Shehadeh) with about 70 injured. Among those killed were nine children, most of them very young. Israel expressed regret for the loss of innocent lives, saying that it was a result of shortcomings in the information available, and the evaluation of that information, concerning the presence of innocent civilians [5] (

More information on such cases can be found in the Palestinian Center for Human Rights' reports ( [6] ( [7] ( [8] ( [9] ( [10] ( (pictures at [11] ( and [12] ( ), or visit Amnesty International ( and Human Rights Watch (

It is claimed that crimes by Israeli citizens and soldiers, such as the killings of innocent Palestinians, have been ignored or lightly punished. An example of this, cited by critics of Israeli policy, is the sentencing of 37-year-old Israeli national Nahum Koman to six months of community service for the killing of an 11-year-old Palestinian child [13] (

Among the most famous cases of the killing of civilians are the cases of the deaths of Ian Hook, Rachel Corrie, and Tom Hurndall*. While their deaths made headlines because they were foreigners, Israel's Shin Bet security service determined that of the 2,341 people killed by the IDF, only 551 were bearing arms or explosives (about 23%). In many cases, although the IDF stated that Palestinians it killed were armed, Palestinian and international observers claim they weren't (such as the case of Hisham Amer ( [14] (, who was killed with a hollow point bullet). Therefore the true number of Palestinian civilians killed by the IDF may be notably higher.

Palestinian deaths and injuries (these figures include all Palestinian casualties, not only those linked to alleged militant activity):

Date Deaths Injuries Total injuries
Bullets Rubber/Plastic ammo Tear Gas Misc.
March 2004 0
February 2004 10 14 6 0 18 38
January 2004 32 64 17 18 69 168
December 2003 55 103 47 53 118 321
November 2003 35 58 3 17 28 106
October 2003 63 116 8 25 140 289
September 2003 37 59 27 19 121 226
August 2003 30 53 44 15 79 191
July 2003 9 14 2 2 16 34
June 2003 68 84 56 26 201 367
May 2003 61 106 22 7 104 239
April 2003 66 86 25 21 171 303
March 2003 95 126 16 2 233 377
February 2003 79 98 27 9 110 244
January 2003 66 107 51 20 114 292
December 2002 66 65 29 17 74 185
November 2002 54 76 3 95 90 264
October 2002 65 100 21 17 250 388
September 2002 56 113 34 84 122 353
August 2002 51 62 8 40 76 186
July 2002 43 94 20 19 241 374
June 2002 64 110 17 36 136 299
May 2002 52 64 8 22 87 181
April 2002 245 266 5 13 239 523
March 2002 234 519 9 63 279 870
February 2002 99 154 33 39 203 429
January 2002 39 36 57 91 146 330
December 2001 72 64 20 61 159 304
November 2001 48 47 26 34 53 160
October 2001 91 157 41 66 143 407
September 2001 69 225 76 87 269 657
August 2001 45 181 59 69 193 502
July 2001 49 58 44 56 236 394
June 2001 24 69 97 82 71 319
May 2001 57 172 127 189 444 932
April 2001 40 144 137 133 301 715
March 2001 39 150 325 290 162 927
February 2001 23 114 181 189 114 598
January 2001 20 61 104 228 78 471
December 2000 63 217 252 201 111 781
November 2000 123 815 960 1627 436 3838
October 2000 121 1032 2391 1464 175 5062
September 2000 20 104 464 26 328 0
Total 2678 6357 5899 5572 6738 24566

(information from the Palestine Red Crescent Society (

Torture and illegal detention

In June of 2002, Israel's Knesset debated and passed a bill [15] ( which allowed for indefinite detention of people suspected of being combatants against Israel - a bill which was called an attempt to undermine the Geneva Conventions.

In an article titled "Mass detention in cruel, inhuman, and degrading conditions" [16] (, Amnesty International describes detention in the Palestinian territories by the IDF. In the period between February and May of 2002 alone, 8,500 Palestinians were arrested and detained for a period of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Virtually all were held incommunicado; few were ever charged, and most were simply released later, without ever being charged with a crime. This reportedly follows a trend which Amnesty declares is a violation of several human rights treaties ratified by Israel, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The techniques used to round up people in such cases involved using loudspeakers to summon all males between the ages of 15 and 45. On arrival, the men "were blindfolded and handcuffed with tight plastic handcuffs, often held squatting, sitting or kneeling, not allowed to go to the toilet, and deprived of food or blankets during at least the first 24 hours. " [17] ( During Operation Defensive Shield, "they reported having been ordered to strip to their underwear, their hands were clasped behind their backs with plastic handcuffs, and they were blindfolded. They were kept like this for up to ten hours." Numerous cases of torture were reported.

Amnesty International has also documented extensive use of torture by the General Security Service (GSS) [18] ( [19] ( According an Amnesty International official, "Israel is the only country in the world known to have effectively legalized torture by officially allowing such methods" .

All forms of physical torture and the beating of prisoners are illegal under international law. The methods employed by Israel include beatings, electric shock, sleep deprivation, forcing prisoners to remain in painful positions, violent shaking, hooding, confinement in tiny spaces, exposure to temperature extremes, prolonged toilet and hygiene deprivation, degrading treatment, and other methods, which have in cases led to the death of the detainees. [20] ( [21] ( [22] ( [23] ( There have even been accusations of torture of family members to encourage confession similar to that which occurred in the Khaim prison in Lebanon [24] (

Collective punishment

As monitored by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA ( and many other organizations, Israeli collective punishment actions have had a devastating impact on life in the Palestinian territories. These actions include home demolitions, checkpoints and barriers, citywide lockdowns, prohibited access to land, home occupations, and destruction of shops and businesses (among others).

Home demolitions have become increasingly common. According to UNOCHA, more than 14,852 have been made homeless by IDF demolitions since October of 2000 [25] ( In October of 2003 in Rafah alone, the IDF demolished 189 homes, killing 15 people in the process and leaving 1780 people homeless. A number of stated excuses are given for home demolitions, ranging from retaliation against the family of a suicide bomber (the rarest case), to homes being built without a permit from Israel, houses being cleared for buffer zones or wall construction, or no reason supplied. Many families in at-risk locations keep their personal documents and possessions in a bag near the door, because little time is typically given to exit the building before it is destroyed. These cases are often viewed as punitive measures [26] (

The system of checkpoints and barriers, viewed by Israel as essential to help prevent weapons from entering the country, is viewed by Palestinians as a form of collective punishment on a massive scale. In addition to their devastating impact on the Palestinian economy, they have devastated the functioning of the medical system [27] ( [28] (, the judicial system [29] (, the educational system [30] (, and virtually all everyday activities [31] ( [32] ( [33] ( Maps can be found at the Center for Economic and Social Rights [34] (

The situation is exacerbated by the regular use by the IDF of lockdown ("curfew") on Palestinian cities. In lockdown, all safe travel ceases - school, medical, food purchasing, visiting friends and relatives, most news reporting, etc. Small, irregular periods of the day are granted for these activities; the irregularity prevents most business and educational activities which require any foreplanning from occurring. People who enter the streets during lockdown risk being arrested or shot by the IDF. [35] ( Nablus was kept under lockdown for over 100 contiguous days, with an average of two to four hours per day not under lockdown.

The denial of access to farmland has been an especially sore subject to Palestinians. In addition to the large amount confiscated for settlements, buffer zones, and walls, access to land across Palestine is frequently denied in response to terrorism in Israel. Much of the land that is being denied access to for Palestinians is occurring due to the separation barrier, causing extensive fear among locals in cities that will be completely surrounded by the wall (such as Budrus) that they will never have access to their land again. [36] ( . The barrier extends far from the 1967 Green Line into the West Bank; its final route will leave as much as 10% of the West Bank on the Israeli side of the border, mostly farmland. The fence will also annex the main aquifer to the West Bank [37] (, from which Israel already draws millions of cubic metres from for use in its colonies (settlements). In 2003, as in 2002, much of the northern West Bank's harvest was lost due to access being denied to farmland [38] ( (in this case, in response to suicide bombings in Haifa and Tulkarem). More on the wall is available from the United Nations [39] (

Israel has launched several attacks against shops and businesses, the largest single event being in Tulkarem in January, 2003 [40] ( Reportedly because they were built without permits, Palestinians point out that such destruction typically only comes after heightened security alerts in Israel, and are viewed as collective punishment and a way to starve the Palestinian economy. Non-retail businesses have often been attacked in the name of Israeli security; jewelers shops are often demolished for possession of nitric acid [41] (, while metal shops are destroyed to prevent the manufacture of the Qassam rocket [42] ( The Palestinian economy has been devastated by the occupation. Its GDP has shrunk over 1.1 billion dollars from 4.5 billion [43] (, and there has been over 300 million dollars in infrastructure damage. About 42% of Gazans are dependent on food aid, and 18% of Gaza children exhibit chronic malnutrition. About 85% of Gazans and 58% of Palestinians in the West Bank lived below the poverty line in 2003.

As documented extensively by volunteer groups such as the International Solidarity Movement [44] ( [45] (,2763,848521,00.html) and Gush-Shalom [46] (, as well as major human rights groups [47] ( [48] (, and acknowledged by the IDF [49] ( [50] ( [51] (, the IDF regularly seizes houses to occupy and use as bases. The homes' residents are typically confined to one room during the duration of the occupation (typically between 24 hours and one week), and must receive permission to eat and use the restroom from the Israeli occupiers. Many complaints have alleged the dwellings are damaged by the troops. There is controversy over whether seizing private property for temporary usage in wartime is legal; deliberate destruction of private property in wartime without a military aim is banned by the Geneva Conventions. Forced quartering was one of the chief complaints of residents of the United States during the Revolutionary War, and led to the third amendment in the Bill of Rights.

According to the Palestine Monitor and many other sources, there has been extensive destruction of historic sites in the Palestinian territories by the IDF. These include 3 mosques, dozens of Ottoman houses, an Ottoman hammam (steam bath), ancient soap factories, and numerous other buildings. UNESCO has also condemned the IDF's destruction of Palestinian historic sites, stating "[We] deplore the destruction and damage caused to the cultural heritage of Palestine". According to reporter Robert Bevan of The Art Newspaper, the historic prayer house of the 1,100 year-old al-Khadrah mosque had its roof smashed inward to the base of the first vault; the 1,600 year old al-Satouri mosque was damaged and the al-Kabir mosque had its entire historic complex smashed in. The souk - the old city in Nabuls - was heavily damaged by Israeli armor. An ottoman gateway was leveled and many buildings were either damaged or destroyed. In the most concentrated area of destruction, a bomb from an F16 destroyed six important buildings and two 250-year-old Ottoman soap factories, a caravanserai, and the front of a newly refurbished Greek Orthodox Church. Section/Demolition/nablus_the_historic_core.htm ( The caravanserai, which partially survived the attacks, was later flattened without explanation by Israeli bulldozers (it had been earmarked for a 3.5 million euro restoration project by the European Union).

Many humanitarian and civilian offices have been damaged or destroyed by the IDF during the incursion, often without explanation or compensation, including (in Nablus alone): the offices of the Palestinian Refugee Department of the PLO; the governate building; the building housing the Committee for Land Defense, the General Information Office, and the Department of Women's Health; the municipality building (including the statue of Zafer Al-Masri); the Bisan Center for Research and Development; the East Jerusalem YMCA offices (includes Rehabilitation, Women's Training, Extension Services, Youth Opportunities, Youth and Community Development programs, as well as the Halley Internet Company and numerous doctors' clinics); the building housing the Committee for Palestinian Refugee Rights, the Jaffa Cultural Center, and Deputy Hussam Khader's office; and numerous schools [52] ( UN organizations have regularly complained about the destruction and vandalism of their offices and those of Palestinians [53] ( Monitoring Report_May03.pdf (, Many cases occurred with extensive destruction and vandalism [54] ( [55] ( [56] ( [57] ( [58] ( The scale and wanton nature of the destruction led Haaretz columnist Amira Hass to refer to the incursions as "Operation Destroy The Data" [59] ( The water situation [60] ( has become a major Palestinian concern, due to the shelling and confiscation of its wells by the separation barrier. Furthermore, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, many of the water shortages have been from the deliberate cutting of Palestinian water supplies by the Israeli water company Mekorot [61] ( The average supply of water to Palestinians is 39.5 liters per day per person, well below the optimal 100 liters level; about half of West Bank water supplies are diverted to settlements [62] (

Relevant sections of the First Additional Protocol to the Fourth Geneva Convention

In Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, all of articles 12, 15, and 16 on the protection of medical units apply (Israel disputes article 13)

14.1) The Occupying Power has the duty to ensure that the medical needs of the civilian population in occupied territory continue to be satisfied.

51.5.a) An attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects (demolishing large areas of cities to use as buffer zones and barriers without compensation)

51.6) Attacks against the civilian population or civilians by way of reprisals are prohibited. (retaliatory home demolitions, demolition of no-permit homes after attacks in Israel, etc)

51.7) The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations (Includes the use by the IDF of Palestinians as forced human shields, from Amnesty [63] ( and HRW reports [64] (

52.1) Civilian objects shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals. Civilian objects are all objects which are not military objectives as defined in paragraph 2. (includes retaliatory home demolitions, demolition of no-permit homes after attacks in Israel)

52.3) In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used. (Includes IDF attacks on and occupation of schools)

53.a) (a) To commit any acts of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples; (destruction of historic buildings, some dating to Roman times, by the IDF, especially including violations of 52.3)

54.2) It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as food-stuffs, agricultural areas for the production of food-stuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive. (Repeated shelling of the Canada well, and the wall's seizure of about 50% of the current Palestinian water supply; the continual and extensive seizure of Palestinian agricultural farmland, olive groves, and greenhouses)

54.4) These objects shall not be made the object of reprisals.

57) Entire passage. (heavily disputed between Israel and Palestine)

58.b) Avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas;

See also

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