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        Economic and Social Council
10 July 2003

Original: ENGLISH

Sixtieth session
Item 8 of the provisional agenda


Letter dated 13 June 2003 from the Permanent Observer for Palestine to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Israeli occupation troops continue their aggression and military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Now they occupy virtually every Palestinian population centre on the West Bank. They maintain a system of checkpoints, security cordons and curfews in the rest of the Palestinian territories, building more settlements and using armoured personnel carriers, Apache helicopters, tanks, jeeps and ground soldiers to undertake their repressive actions throughout the occupied Palestinian territories.

Israeli occupation forces have also cordoned off the Gaza Strip and conducted military attacks against Palestinian installations and houses inside its borders. Under the occupation, Palestinians are prohibited from leaving their homes to go to work or shop. Some are even killed while they are asleep, or just when they think they are safe at home, and transport for relief provisions has been made difficult, if not impossible. The 3.3 million Palestinian population is on the verge of a dire humanitarian crisis.

Not a single day passes without the Palestinian people being subjected to all forms of human right violations at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces, who deprive them of all their human rights, at the forefront of which is their right to life and to live peacefully in their homeland. Just during the period from Wednesday, 11 to Thursday, 12 June 2003, 11 Palestinians were assassinated including a child, 60 were wounded, among them 25 children, 27 critically, including 13 children. Eighteen were arrested, 330 trees were uprooted, 47 houses, 18 vehicles, and 6 economic establishments were destroyed or damaged, 125 dunams were bulldozed, 1 new checkpoint was established. Palestinian areas were shelled 19 times and bombarded by machine-gun fire 35 times.

On Tuesday, 10 June, the Israeli Army launched another illegal, condemnable assassination attempt against Abdel Aziz Rantisi, which he was driving in a car with his son and three bodyguards. They were travelling in crowded, impoverished downtown Gaza City when Israel launched at least seven deadly rockets from Apache helicopters onto their car, burning and melting it into a pile of unrecognizable metal and sending dense clouds of black smoke billowing through the city that is more like a giant refugee camp. A 50-year-old woman, Khadra Abu Hamada and her 8-year-old daughter who happened to be passing in the street, and Mustafa Salih, 34 years old, were killed and 31 innocent Palestinian civilians were injured in this attack; 7 of the wounded are in critical condition.

It is worth noting that the attack took place during the rush hour and in a densely populated area of the city. It is even more detestable to carry out such reproachable attacks where it is known that innocents will be murdered.

In addition, the office of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees - a Palestinian NGO - one of its ambulances, dozens of homes and a number of motor vehicles were damaged by the explosions.

This is the 132nd time since 29 September 2000 that Israel has undertaken extrajudicial attempts to execute Palestinians. This brings to 225 the total number of people killed since September 2000 in such extrajudicial executions or assassinations, including 98 Palestinian bystanders, among them 16 women and 27 children. Most of them were civilians going about their lives, innocent people walking down the wrong street at the wrong time when the Israeli Army decided it was time to kill.

Furthermore, in a move designed to escalate further the level of violence in the Middle East, the Israeli Government on Tuesday, 10 June ordered an attack on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Apache helicopters fired several missiles into the densely populated neighbourhood of Jabaliya, killing instantly a 16-year-old girl, Miriam Abed Rabbo, Hammouda Abed Rabbo, 19, and Muhammad Abed Rabbo, 22, all members of the same family, when a missile hit their house; 32 others were wounded, 13 of whom are in critical condition.

These attacks come at a time when international efforts are focused on establishing calm in the region and resuming Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian political leaders is a grave violation of international law and a direct blow to any efforts for peace. They constitute a great danger for the prospects of the “road map”, threaten to provoke more violence, to fan the flames of hatred and fuel and already volatile situation. Furthermore, they shatter the hopes of both the Palestinian and Israeli people, and guarantee the continuation of more bloodshed.

However, the assassination attempt and attack on Jabaliya were regarded by Palestinians as predicable as this has been the pattern of all previous occasions when a ceasefire or a move towards peace has been discussed.

In the light of the continued escalation of the Israeli aggressions and State-sponsored terrorism at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces all over the occupied Palestinian territories, we recall H. E President Arafat’ ;s appeal calling on the international community, as well as on the President of the United States, to intervene and put an end to the Israeli military aggressions against the Palestinian people, so as to pave the way for the implementation of the road map to which the Palestinian people have expressed their commitment. We appeal to Your Excellency to strongly condemn as war crimes this crime of extrajudicial execution as well as all other crimes of deliberate killing approved by the Israeli Government, which constitute blatant violations of international humanitarian law, especially the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 and the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts. These acts necessitate effective pursuit of, and bringing to justice under international law, those who ordered and perpetrated them. We also appeal to Your Excellency to provide international protection for the Palestinian people under the Israeli military occupation until Israel has withdrawn from all the Palestinian territories it has occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and call on the Israeli Government to immediately stop its crimes and collective punishment against the Palestinian people.

I would be most grateful if you could arrange to have this letter distributed as an official document to the members of the Commission on Human Rights.

(Signed ): Nabil RAMLAWI
Permanent Observer


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