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Report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories
Note by the Secretary-General*
The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the members of the General Assembly the thirty-eighth report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 60/104.
* The present report is submitted late so as to include as much updated information as possible.
4. The mandate of the Special Committee, as set out in resolution 2443 (XXIII) and subsequent resolutions, is to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the population of the occupied territories. For the purposes of the present report, the occupied territories are those remaining under Israeli occupation, namely the occupied Syrian Golan, the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The persons covered by resolution 2443 (XXIII) and therefore the subject of the investigation of the Special Committee are the civilian population residing in the areas occupied as a result of the hostilities of June 1967 and those persons normally resident in the areas that are under occupation but who left those areas because of the hostilities.
5. The human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs in the occupied territories are referred to by the Security Council in its resolution 237 (1967) as “essential and inalienable human rights” and also find their legal basis in the protection afforded by international law, in particular in such circumstances as military occupation and, in the case of prisoners of war, capture. By resolution 3005 (XXVII), the General Assembly requested the Special Committee to investigate as well allegations concerning the exploitation and the looting of the resources of the occupied territories, the pillaging of its archaeological and cultural heritage and interferences in the freedom of worship in its holy places.
6. The “policies” and “practices” affecting human rights that come within the scope of investigation by the Special Committee refer, in the case of “policies”, to any course of action consciously adopted and pursued by the Government of Israel as part of its declared or undeclared intent; while “practices” refer to those actions which, irrespective of whether or not they were in implementation of a policy, reflect a pattern of behaviour on the part of the Israeli authorities towards the 6. The “policies” and “practices” affecting human rights that come within the scope of investigation by the Special Committee refer, in the case of “policies”, to any course of action consciously adopted and pursued by the Government of Israel as part of its declared or undeclared intent; while “practices” refer to those actions which, irrespective of whether or not they were in implementation of a policy, reflect a pattern of behaviour on the part of the Israeli authorities towards the civilian population in the occupied areas.
7. The Special Committee bases its work on human rights standards and obligations as defined in particular by the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War and the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, the Hague Convention of 14 May 1954 for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, and the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land. The Special Committee also relies on those resolutions relevant to the situation of civilians in the occupied territories adopted by the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the former Commission on Human Rights and the newly established Human Rights Council.
8. As in previous years, the General Assembly, in its resolution 60/104 requested “the Special Committee, pending complete termination of the Israeli occupation, to continue to investigate Israeli policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, especially Israeli violations of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and to consult, as appropriate, with the International Committee of the Red Cross according to its regulations in order to ensure that the welfare and human rights of the peoples of the occupied territories are safeguarded and to report to the Secretary-General as soon as possible and whenever the need arises thereafter”. The Assembly also requested the Special Committee “to continue to investigate the treatment of prisoners and detainees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967”.
III. Activities of the Special Committee
A. Meetings held by the Special Committee
9. The Chairman of the Special Committee introduced his report before the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly in New York during the debate on the question of Palestine, which took place from 7 to 10 November 2005. On 7 November, the members of the Special Committee held a working session in order to review and plan their activities in 2006. They also had a working session with the Permanent Observer for Palestine on 9 November.
10. On 29 November 2005, the Chairman of the Special Committee was invited to participate in the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People which took place simultaneously in New York and Geneva. He attended the ceremony in Geneva while Ambassador Rahman took part in the commemoration in New York. A common message was delivered in both places.
11. During its consultations in Geneva from 16 to 21 March 2006, the Special Committee exchanged views with the Permanent Representatives of Egypt and the Syrian Arabic Republic, as well as the Permanent Observers for Palestine, the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. An invitation to the Permanent Representative of Israel to meet with the Committee did not receive a reply. Consultations were also held with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a number of representatives of United Nations agencies such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Finally the Special Committee discussed the situation of human rights in the occupied territories with a representative of Human Rights Watch. It also reviewed its work and made plans for its visit to the Middle East.
B. Field visit of the Special Committee to the Middle East
12. Thirty-eight years after its inception, the Special Committee has still not been authorized by Israel to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The Committee sent a letter on 13 June 2006 to the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations Office at Geneva, which was copied to the Secretary-General on 14 June 2006, requesting full access to this territory and emphasizing that “only in such conditions would the Committee benefit from a valuable opportunity to exchange direct views with concerned Israeli authorities on the situation of human rights in the OPT and to report accordingly to the General Assembly”. Permission was nevertheless again denied.
13. On 13 July 2006, the Secretary-General sent a reply to the Chairman of the Special Committee stating that he shared the Committee’s concern over the human rights situation in the Middle East and the continued construction of the Barrier. He added: “With regard to your request that I intervene and use my good offices to express concern to the Government of Israel about the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory and urge it to improve its cooperation with the Special Committee, I wish to inform you that a message to that effect has been conveyed to the Israeli Permanent Mission in New York”.
14. The field visit of the Special Committee to the Middle East was initially scheduled to take place from 1 to 15 June 2006. Owing to limitations affecting the resources allocated from the regular budget to the Special Committee, the visit was rescheduled for 1 to 15 August 2006. However, the seriously deteriorating security situation in the region, which entailed restrictions of movement and travel both for the Committee and Palestinian witnesses, compelled the Special Committee reluctantly to postpone its field visit. The Special Committee’s decision to postpone its visit was also based on advice received from the United Nations Department of Safety and Security which issued instructions suspending United Nations missions to the Syrian Arab Republic and restricting missions to Jordan to those considered essential for humanitarian purposes.
15. The Special Committee instead held consultations in Geneva from 31 July to 2 August 2006 with a view to reviewing the situation and revising plans for a field visit to Egypt, Jordan and Syria by mid-November 2006. It exchanged views on the latest developments in the region and the postponement of its visit with the Permanent Representatives of the concerned countries, who regretted the postponement as the Special Committee’s visit, in their view, was all the more necessary at this critical juncture for the Palestinian people. The Special Committee met with the Permanent Observers for Palestine, the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. It conducted consultations with representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It also met with a representative of an international non-governmental organization (NGO).
16. Although the Special Committee was not in a position to undertake its field visit as scheduled, it wishes to express its deep appreciation to the Offices of the United Nations Resident Coordinators for Egypt, Jordan and the Syrian Arab Republic for their preparations for the visit.
C. Context of the report
17. For the thirty-eighth consecutive year, the Special Committee submits a report to the General Assembly. The present report is submitted in accordance with Assembly resolution 60/104.
18. Owing to the postponement of the field visit, the report this year is based essentially on documents, surveys and case studies made available by Palestinian and Israeli NGOs through a variety of means, as well as on articles, studies and other material from United Nations agencies active in OPT and from international NGOs. 1 The present report will be followed by an updated report which will be submitted to the General Assembly in the early months of 2007, upon completion of the rescheduled field visit.
IV. Latest developments
19. This year the Special Committee was again denied access by the Government of Israel to the occupied territories. Although the prevailing security situation prevented it from visiting the region at all, the Special Committee received ample evidence from a wide range of sources attesting to the seriously deteriorating human rights situation in OPT. The Special Committee is of the view that the impunity with which the State of Israel operates in OPT must be brought to an end by all available means. Events like the Lebanese crisis overshadowed and have further aggravated the human rights situation in OPT, which goes unnoticed by world opinion while harsh daily attacks against fundamental civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of Palestinians continue unabated.
A. In the occupied Palestinian territories
20. Events during the period under review had raised many hopes among Palestinians and the international community: the withdrawal of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and the evacuation of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and from a few settlements in the northern West Bank between 15 August and 12 September 2005, accompanied by a significantly decreasing level of violence before and after the withdrawal. However, these hopes faded quickly when it became evident in the following months that Israel remained in effective control of the airspace as well as the maritime and land borders of the Gaza Strip, and that chances of economic recovery were seriously impeded by recurrent closures of important checkpoints like Erez for those Palestinians working in Israel or Karni for imports or exports of goods and manufactured products.
21. The Palestinian legislative elections were the result of a democratic process. However, the absence of a clear commitment by Hamas to the Quartet conditions (adherence to the principle of non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the road map) led to a situation whereby the new Hamas-led Palestinian Government, established on 29 March 2006 under the Presidency of Mahmoud Abbas, was increasingly boycotted by the Government of Israel, ignored by the international community and paralysed. Major donors, including the European Union, the Unites States of America, Canada and Japan, suspended their financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA), while Israel stopped transferring to the Authority customs taxes and revenues collected on its behalf. In addition, Israeli banks no longer had any contacts with Palestinian banks and Arab banks were prevented from transferring funds because of fears they would be sued by clients for transferring funds to organizations on the “terrorist” list of the United States and the European Union.
22. The emergence of the Kadima party, created by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, during the Knesset elections of 28 March 2006 raised some expectations regarding the formation of a coalition with the Labour Party and other partners that might allow for a redefinition of Israeli positions regarding the future borders of the State of Israel and any future Palestinian State. In early April 2006, the Council of the European Union “underlined the importance of a strong commitment by the new Israeli Government to work towards a negotiated solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on existing agreements, the relevant United Nations Security Resolutions and the principles laid in the Road Map”. The Council further “called on Israel to desist from any action, such as settlement activities and the construction of the Separation Barrier on Palestinian land, that is contrary to international law and threatens the viability of an agreed two-state solution”. 2 However, the Israeli coalition Government, formed under the leadership of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, announced a programme aimed at continuing unilateral withdrawals from some West Bank settlements, outside the road map process, and with an attempt at defining its international borders within four years.
23. The suspension of funding by major donors and the non-payment by Israel of taxes and revenues due to the Palestinian Authority triggered a major crisis in OPT, as it is estimated that salaries paid to Palestinian civil servants (two out of five working persons in Gaza and one in five in the West Bank are employed by PA) provide the living of some 900,000 persons throughout the Territory. As of the end of August 2006, most of the salaries had not been paid for about five months and the level of poverty sharply increased, including among senior civil servants who could no longer pay for their transportation to work. PA is the main provider of health and social services in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and it no longer had the resources to sustain its network of hospitals, clinics and health centres. Women, children, the handicapped and the elderly were among the first vulnerable groups to be affected by this drastic shrinking of resources.
24. The human rights situation in OPT has deteriorated since the Palestinian legislative elections owing to unprecedented levels of violence. Daily launching of Qassam rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants in Gaza since the end of March 2006 and the suicide attack in Tel Aviv on 17 April provoked intensive artillery shelling of the northern and eastern Gaza Strip and intensified targeted killings. In the West Bank, freedom of movement for Palestinians was further impeded by the accelerated construction of the wall and the building of separate road systems for Israelis and Palestinians, further aggravating the encirclement and isolation of ever-shrinking Palestinian lands. Since Israeli military orders were issued in January 2006, only one third of the existing routes and crossing points in the wall have been open to about 60,000 West Bank Palestinians who commute regularly to East Jerusalem. Moreover, additional permanent or flying checkpoints, roadblocks and physical barriers have been installed. From January to April 2006 alone, the number of these obstacles increased from 471 to 550.
B. At the international level
25. The deteriorating overall situation in OPT during the first part of 2006 was widely reflected in the international media. Fears of an imminent and predictable humanitarian disaster were voiced by numerous stakeholders, including many United Nations agencies and international and local NGOs. The High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement on 12 May 2006 warning that the region was on the brink of a human rights and humanitarian crisis and reminding the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority of their international humanitarian law and human rights obligations so that the Israeli and Palestinian peoples might live in an environment where their protection from attack and enjoyment of their fundamental civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights could be assured.
26. Following its first session, held in June 2006,3 the newly established Human Rights Council convened its first special session on 5 July 2006 to discuss the disastrous situation in the Palestinian and other occupied Arab territories. In resolution S-7/7, the Council decided to dispatch an urgent fact-finding mission to OPT headed by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. It also demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, end its military operations in OPT and urged it immediately to release the arrested Palestinian ministers, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and other officials. The Council urged all concerned parties to respect the rules of international humanitarian law, to refrain from violence against the civilian population and to treat under all circumstances all detained combatants and civilians in accordance with the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. The Israeli Government did not respond to the various requests made to follow up on the Council resolution and the fact-finding mission has not yet taken place.
27. On 9 May 2006, representatives of the Quartet met in New York to discuss the current situation in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They expressed their serious concern about the deteriorating conditions, particularly in Gaza, and expressed their willingness to endorse a temporary international mechanism (TIM), limited in scope and duration, aimed at ensuring direct delivery of assistance to the Palestinian people. As of the time of writing, the mechanism has started under the umbrella of the European Union.
28. Moreover, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health issued separate public statements on 12 and 19 July 2006 reminding the Government of Israel of its international humanitarian and human rights law obligations in the sphere of work covered by their respective mandates. On 21 July 2006, the Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education issued a joint press release calling on the parties to fully respect the principle of proportionality in the conduct of hostilities and to refrain from indiscriminate attacks on civilians causing loss of life and mass displacement. They recalled that the civilian population must be protected in all circumstances and that parties to a conflict must comply with the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilian and military objectives. International human rights law and humanitarian law both recognize the need to ensure the rights of civilians to life, food, the highest attain able standard of health, housing and other fundamental human rights, which remain applicable in times of armed conflict.
29. At its substantive session of 2006, the Economic and Social Council adopted a resolution on the economic and social repercussions of the Israeli occupation on the living conditions of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, and the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan. The Council, calling on both parties to fulfil their obligations under the road map in cooperation with the Quartet, called “for the lifting of the severe restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people, including those arising from the current Israeli military operations, and for other urgent measures to be taken to alleviate the desperate humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories”. It also stressed the need “to preserve the national unity and the territorial integrity of the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, and to guarantee the freedom of movement of persons and goods in the Territory … and the freedom of movement to and from the outside world”. The Council called on Israel “to restore and replace the destroyed civilian infrastructure, including the only power station, where Israeli air strikes on Gaza’s power plant have had a far-reaching impact on Gaza’s hospitals, food production facilities, water and sanitation systems”. It also reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people and the Arab population of the occupied Syrian Golan to all their natural and economic resources, the illegality of Israeli settlements in OPT, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan, and stressed that the wall was contrary to international law and debilitating to the economic and social development of the Palestinian people.
V. Human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories
30. This section describes the extent to which the human rights of Palestinians and other Arabs in OPT have been affected or violated by Israeli policies and practices during the year under review. The pattern already noted in previous reports has continued. The unabated expansion of the wall, cutting off many Palestinian communities from access to their fields and business, schools and universities, to Jerusalem and other cities in the northern West Bank, and to much-needed health and social services; the diversion of water sources away from Palestinians; and the restrictions impeding the freedom of movement of Palestinians by means of road closures, checkpoints and bypass roads built for the sole use of Jewish settlers all constitute human rights violations. The accumulation of problems is further exacerbated by the current unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the excessive use of force by parties to the conflict, the continuing lack of rule of law and order in OPT and the unwillingness or inability of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resume negotiations. In addition, the international community has been very reluctant to make sensible proposals agreeable to both parties.
A. Right of self-determination
31. According to one source of information, the policy of the Government of Israel aimed at creating a segregation zone in the West Bank, cutting through the western part of the West Bank and running from north to south, taking the most fertile agricultural lands, isolating Palestinian communities in enclaves, undermining the territorial contiguity of the Palestinian villages and cities, and confiscating natural resources continued unabated. Some 230 military orders were issued by IDF to seize Palestinian land in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to build the separation wall. More than two thirds of these orders related to Jerusalem (49), Bethlehem (44), Ramallah (36), Hebron and Jenin (18 each), and to Qalqiliya (15). Moreover, Israel has opened another segregation zone in the eastern part of the West Bank, without walls or fences, but incorporating points of access along the Jordan Valley and the shores of the Dead Sea and covering an area of 1,664 km 2 , i.e. 29.4 per cent of the West Bank. The zone included 43 Israeli settlements and isolated 42 Palestinian localities.
32. The same source of information indicated that by the end of 2005, Israeli forces had completed the construction of 243 km of the 702-km wall in the West Bank. In February 2005, another segment of the wall, 122 km long, was begun and was due to be completed by the end of 2006. So far, only 118 km of the wall follow the Green Line. The construction of an additional portion of 337 km was supposed to begin towards the end of 2006. At present, 99 Israeli settlements and 55 Palestinian localities are directly affected by the construction of the wall.
33. According to a 2006 report on the situation of workers in the occupied territories of the International Labour Organization (ILO), the wall’s route was likely to take in about 170,123 West Bank settlers and over 180,000 people in East Jerusalem. About 50,000 Palestinians were allegedly located in 38 villages and towns within the “seam zone” between the wall and the Green Line, and more than 500,000 Palestinians were reportedly living within 1 km of the wall, separated from their families, lands or jobs located on the other side. Since March 2005, more than 220,000 Palestinians have been deprived of water for their domestic and agricultural needs, as some 50 groundwater wells, over 200 cisterns in the West Bank and 35,000 km of water pipes have been destroyed or isolated from their owners by the wall. Only 17 per cent of water resources in the West Bank aquifers was available to Palestinians, while Israelis were using 73 per cent of these resources and Jewish settlers in the West Bank the remaining 10 per cent. Palestinians only had access to their land within the “seam zone” through specific crossing points in the wall, at certain times during the day, and with a valid permit. Between January and July 2005, the proportion of holders of valid permits denied access to the other side of the wall rose from 25 per cent to 38 per cent.4
34. One source of information stated that in the region of Qalqiliya, the wall around Zufin had four gates that could be used by farmers from Falamya, Jayyus, ‘Azzun and al-Nabi Elyas. Initially, three gates were generally opened three times a day, for about 1 1/2 hours, except during general closures and Israeli holidays; one of the gates on only one occasion since June 2005 remained open, exceptionally, for 12 consecutive hours. The need to plan work around the times that the gates were open added to the burden of farmers, especially during the olive harvest. In order to reach their fields in the south-eastern part of Zufin, the residents of ‘Azzun and al-Nabi Elyas had to travel 7 km to the west in order to go through the gate, and then back east to reach their fields. There was no driveable road, and residents with valid permits were forced to walk several hours or use donkeys. This considerable loss of time severely hampered the capacity of 15 families in both villages to maintain their former level of production. Their income significantly dropped once they stopped working their fields. 5
35. Another source of information highlighted the detrimental effects of the wall surrounding Jerusalem and cutting through a dense urban area. Once completed, this portion of the wall would cut off 220,000 Palestinians in East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. Another 100,000 Palestinians living in the suburbs around Jerusalem would also be separated from the city. Many of them were legal residents who left the city following Israeli restrictions imposed on the development of Palestinian neighbourhoods. Palestinians with Jerusalem identity cards are now forced to travel lengthy routes and suffer extensive delays at checkpoints to enter the city. Since January 2006, the situation has become even worse, according to one United Nations agency, as 8 out of the 12 roads allowing access to Jerusalem from the West Bank have been closed to Palestinians. People without valid permits to cross the wall at specific gates were denied access to jobs, schools, hospitals and other essential facilities available in Jerusalem.
36. A source of information indicated that as of September 2005, Israel started building five main crossing points, or “terminals”, in Tarqumia (Hebron), Al-Jalameh (Jenin), Mazmuria (Bethlehem), Sha’ar Ephraim (Tulkarem) and Betunia, in Ramallah; 10 other terminals were believed already to be operational in neighbouring areas, tightly controlling the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank. The same source said that during the period under review, satellite images had shown 13,412 new housing units being constructed in the West Bank for Jewish settlers, including in Bethlehem (3,950 units), Salfit (3,561 units), Jerusalem (3,481 units), Qalqiliya (1,670 units) and Ramallah (750 units); 92 per cent of these new housing units had been or were being erected in settlements west of the wall, and 63 per cent of them in what is known as the Greater Jerusalem area.
37. According to an analysis carried out by OCHA, the closure system was a primary cause of poverty, and the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip severely hampered access by Palestinians to health and education services, employment, markets, and social and religious networks. Obstacles included permanent and partially manned checkpoints, roadblocks (consisting of rows of 1 m-long concrete blocks), metal gates, earth mounds, earth walls (long series of earth mounds), trenches, road barriers and permit restrictions. Since January 2006, 471 physical obstacles have been placed by IDF on roads to control and restrict Palestinian vehicular traffic, 95 more than in August 2005; the number had increased to 550 by July 2006. The increase of physical obstacles was more noticeable in Hebron governorate, northern West Bank, and around the governorates of Nablus, Salfit and Tulkarem. By contrast, the number of physical obstacles remained stable in the central region which is, however, increasingly affected by the wall, especially around Ramallah governorate and East Jerusalem. Some of the obstacles that had been placed immediately prior to the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip remained. Prior to disengagement, north-south traffic could bypass Nablus, but during the withdrawal, that section of the road was closed and has remained closed since then.
38. Other measures implemented by IDF, such as flying or random checkpoints, increased from 60 to 70 per week in August 2005 to more than 100 per week in December 2005. The wall and related restrictive measures around East Jerusalem undermined the city’s role as a centre for commerce, education, health and other services. Travel between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank involved a time-consuming and costly detour around East Jerusalem. In the south of Hebron, rural livelihoods based on raising sheep and goats and the sale of meat and dairy products in Yatta and the Old Suq of Hebron were destroyed as farmers no longer had access to their markets. 6
39. One source of information highlighted the negative effects on large segments of the Palestinian population of checkpoints, which were perceived as persistent forms of collective punishment. Students, teachers, medical patients and staff and ordinary working people were subjected to many forms of ill-treatment by Israeli soldiers, including beatings, stripping and being made to sit in the mud or to stand for hours in the sun or the cold before being allowed to cross checkpoints. Many cases of medical staff or patients not being allowed to cross checkpoints to reach medical facilities were reported. On several occasions, patients were transported in wheelchairs or on the backs of donkeys as ambulances were not allowed to pass checkpoints. A number of patients consequently died.
40. The unilateral withdrawal by Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip was followed by the Agreement on Movement and Access, concluded on 15 November 2005 between the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority “to promote peaceful economic development and improve the humanitarian situation on the ground”, aimed at establishing an international crossing at Rafah, on the Egyptian border, increasing Palestinian exports through Karni to 150 truckloads per day and facilitating movement within and between the West Bank and Gaza. However, no progress has been made on reopening Gaza Airport, re-establishing the bus connection between Gaza and the West Bank and lifting the restriction on fishing to within the 10 nautical mile limit. Although joint Palestinian-Egyptian control over the Rafah crossing had been established, with a contingent of EU observers stationed at the border, the crossing has been subjected to recurrent closures in the last few months. The main crossing points to Israel at Erez (passengers) and Karni (goods) were affected by long periods of closure and other restrictions. On the economic side, Palestinians were often unable to meet delivery deadlines and perishable agricultural products were going to waste as a result of the erratic opening and closing times of the Karni crossing. 7
B. Right to freedom of movement and freedom to choose one’s residence
41. According to information received, the Israeli High Court of Justice on 14 May 2006 rejected the petitions filed by two NGOs, Adalah and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, opposing the amendment to the Nationality Law enacted in July 2005 by the Knesset. The Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (2003), originally enacted for one year, was extended in July 2004, January 2005, and again in July 2005 with amendments. As amended, the Law denies any possibility of citizenship or formal residency status in Israel to Palestinians from the OPT married to Israeli citizens or residents. Exceptions to the amended law only allow temporary permits in Israel for female spouses over 25 and male spouses of over 35 years old; however, a provision of the law provides that no permit to stay in Israel shall be granted to an OPT resident whose family member might constitute a security threat to Israel. The law, which does not apply to Jewish Israelis who marry foreigners, severely infringes the right to family life of Arab Israeli citizens who are married to OPT residents, many of whom are compelled to live apart from their spouses. Couples who decide to live together in Israel or East Jerusalem in violation of the law are unable to have a normal life, and live in constant fear. If they decide to live in OPT, the spouse holding an Israeli identity card violates the military order prohibiting Israelis from entering areas under Palestinian security control.
42. On 30 June 2006, Israeli authorities revoked the Jerusalem residency rights of four Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council as well as of a Cabinet minister, a measure that had been approved by the Israeli Prime Minister in April 2006.
C. Right to life
43. Various reports received by the Special Committee acknowledge the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in OPT since the beginning of 2006. The resumption of daily launching of Qassam rockets towards Israel by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in March-April and the suicide attack in a Tel Aviv café on 17 April 2006, killing nine civilians and the bomber, triggered intensive artillery shelling of the northern and eastern areas of the Gaza Strip and increased targeted killings. This state of violence reached unprecedented levels at the end of June when the Gaza Strip was subjected to wide-scale IDF military operations in the aftermath of paramilitary operations conducted on 25 June by three Palestinian militant groups, the Izzedine al-Qassam brigade, the military wing of the ruling Hamas party, the Popular Resistance Committees and the Army of Islam, against an IDF outpost in the Karm Abu Salem area, south-east of Rafah. Two IDF soldiers were killed, six others injured and one Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, was captured. Two Palestinians were killed during the operation.
44. Following the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier, major military operations called “Summer Rain” were launched by Israeli forces leading to the complete naval, air and land blockade of the Gaza Strip, isolating it totally from the outside world and preventing the supply to the population of much-needed international humanitarian assistance. These military incursions led to the reoccupation of several parts of the Gaza Strip by IDF, which used missile and artillery fire, targeting most of the time civilians, including many women and children. It is estimated that during the period from 25 June to 31 July 2006, IDF operations took the lives of at least 156 Palestinians, including 81 civilians, 33 children and 9 women. Some 720 Palestinians were reportedly injured, including 168 children.
45. Reports forwarded to the Special Committee indicated that in several cases missiles were fired by IDF targeting leaders of Palestinian armed groups, medical personnel or civilians in their cars or in their homes, during the day or late at night. A doctor, his wife and seven children were killed on 12 July 2006 by two rockets fired into his two-storey house located in the densely populated neighbourhood of Sheikh Radwan, in the Gaza City. Four neighbours were injured and 10 houses damaged during this attack. The media widely reported the tragic shelling which took the lives of a seven-member family on Beit Lahia beach in Gaza on 9 June 2006 in which 31 other civilians were wounded, including 14 children. A long list of similar incidents were also reported to the Special Committee. With the exception of one case, none of these incidents was reported as being investigated by Israeli authorities.
46. It was reported to the Special Committee that of about 70 cases of disabled people in the Gaza Strip, seven were killed by rocket fire, were shot to death or died from injuries. Seventeen other persons required amputations following air or tank shelling including one person who lost all his limbs. Seventeen disabled persons had their homes demolished by shelling or bombs.
47. Several sources of information emphasized the highly sophisticated weapons used by IDF in their recent attacks on the Gaza Strip. These included F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopter gunships, Mercava tanks and heavy artillery units, all known for their precision. During the period under review, fighter jets repeatedly broke the sound barrier over Gaza, as often as 25 times a day. Many civilians, and especially children, suffered from severe trauma from the frequent shellings and sonic booms. Another source of information indicated that since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August/September 2005, more than 7,700 shells had been fired into northern Gaza, and numerous unexploded devices remained in heavily populated areas.
D. Right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing
48. According to one source of information, extensive damage was caused during IDF incursions, leading to the destruction of large portions of the Gaza international airport and the razing of wide areas of agricultural cropland in the vicinity of the airport on 28 June 2006. Residential areas of El-Shoka were heavily shelled, forcing about 150 families to take temporary refuge in UNRWA premises in Rafah. Combined military operations were conducted to the east of Rafah: from 3 to 18 July, IDF carried out several successive incursions into Beit Hanoun, in the north of the Gaza Strip, and occupied large parts of the town, destroying the fences of four UNRWA schools and damaging four secondary schools. A health clinic was also damaged as was the cemetery of the town and a mosque. On 27 July, IDF planes shelled Al-Azhar University College of Agriculture and the nearby Agricultural Secondary School in Beit Hanoun. IDF reportedly destroyed or damaged about 120 houses in the districts of northern Gaza and in Rafah, and razed at least 265 dunums of agricultural cropland. IDF led several incursions into Khan Younis, as of 12 July, allegedly using tens of armoured vehicles firing indiscriminately at houses and damaging about 100 of them. One hundred dunums of agricultural cropland were razed and water wells and irrigation channels destroyed.
49. Between 27 June and 15 July 2006, three bridges were bombarded by IDF, two in the Gaza Valley and a third connecting the centre of Gaza to El-Moghraqa, which was completely destroyed. Reports indicated that Palestinian technical crews had not yet been authorized by IDF to repair the bridges, especially those in the Gaza Valley, which were essential to communications between the north and south of the Gaza Strip. So far, only limited repair of roads under the bridges has been undertaken to allow the passage of vehicles; this might take even longer during the winter when the water level in the Gaza Valley rises. In addition, the only power plant functioning in Gaza, which provides 45 per cent of the electricity consumed (the other 55 per cent being supplied by the Israeli Electricity Company), was bombed and out of action. That severely hampered the functioning health facilities, water wells, sewage disposal facilities and access to water in buildings of Gaza City.
50. The Gaza Strip was therefore more and more dependent on supply of fuel to operate back-up generators powering water supplies, pump stations and wastewater treatment plants. Recently, Israeli authorities only authorized sporadic use of the Nahal Oz energy pipeline, the only fuel line of supply. Every day, 18,000 litres of fuel were needed to keep generators operational; maintenance of equipment and replacement of spare parts were becoming problematic. The pipe network for water and sewage was damaged or destroyed in various places of the Gaza Strip. Several containers with equipment, spare parts and other material were kept waiting at the Karni crossing for more than three months. At least 33 sewage pump stations, 120 water wells and 120 roof water tanks throughout the Gaza Strip were affected by the irregular supply of electricity resulting from overdependency on generators. There was a real risk of floods in the lagoons of low-lying areas of the Gaza Strip where wastewater had reached a critical level due to the lack of pumping facilities.
51. If access to water was described as becoming more and more critical in the Gaza Strip following recent Israeli attacks, the West Bank was also direly affected by similar problems, a source indicated. Five Palestinian communities in Jenin governorate, in the northern part of the West Bank, with a population of about 15,200 persons, has been totally deprived of water supply since the end of June 2006, as the West Bank Water Department was no longer able to make diesel fuel available to operate a groundwater well, due to shortage of funds from the Palestinian Ministry of Finance. It was expected that other Palestinian communities would very soon suffer a similar fate.
52. Various sources of information reported that a new pattern was being used by IDF when demolishing the houses of Palestinian civilians. Warnings were given by telephone to the inhabitants of the houses, informing them of the imminent shelling or destruction of their homes and giving them barely an hour to evacuate their houses. Most of the time, people had no time to take personal belongings or furniture with them. In a number of cases, however, fake calls were recorded and no shelling occurred.
53. Between 29 June and 16 July 2006, IDF conducted several air raids on buildings accommodating institutions of the Palestinian Authority in various parts of Gaza City, in particular, offices of the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of National Commerce, as well as an office of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the northern area of the Gaza Strip. All buildings were destroyed, including houses and vehicles parked in the neighbourhood.
54. Two sources indicated that during the period under review, about 175 to 250 houses were reportedly demolished in the West Bank, roughly one third of them in East Jerusalem and two thirds in other parts of the West Bank. These demolitions were generally taking place in areas close to Israeli settlements and within the boundaries of East Jerusalem, most of the time under the pretext of security or because the owners of the houses were unable to comply with the intricacies of the building permit system. Around 100 houses in the Bustan neighbourhood of Silwan district, south of old Jerusalem City, were affected by such demolitions, which were perceived as measures of collective punishment.
55. As indicated by several sources, living conditions of Palestinians in OPT continued to deteriorate due to the suspension of international aid, which had amounted to around US$ 9 billion in the last few years. The situation was further aggravated by the inability of the Palestinian Authority to pay the salaries of civil servants in both civilian and security sectors out of a monthly budget estimated at US$ 165 million.
56. Should the situation persist, poverty was expected to increase to 74 per cent by 2008. Moreover, per capita income would probably decline a further 25 per cent below the 2005 level. The conditions in OPT exacerbated the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian population. Unemployment and poverty rates drastically increased. The number of people affected by poverty grew from 600,000 in 1999 to 1.6 million in 2005, defined by a daily income of $2.10. The rate of unemployment was 34 per cent in OPT as a whole, and 44 per cent in the Gaza Strip. This rate increased to 55 per cent during times of complete closure imposed by IDF. The poverty rate approached 50 per cent in OPT and 70 per cent in the Gaza Strip alone. The per capita income was 40 per cent lower than three years ago. On the economic front, the gross national product significantly decreased, threatening the agricultural and industrial sectors, commerce, transportation and tourism.
57. This aggravated poverty was increasingly marginalizing the weak, the elderly, children and the handicapped and preventing them from access to a whole range of basic health and other social services. Women, who constituted one third of the PA workforce, were seriously affected as they could no longer attend to the needs of their families, at a time when women’s empowerment was so badly needed to cope with missing husbands, fathers, brothers or sons. A few cases of “honour killings” were registered as well as an increase in domestic violence. A new trend became noticeable, as of May 2006, with the harassment by Israeli authorities of Islamic charitable organizations. In Hebron, the Islamic Centre, which was reportedly distributing 25,000 food parcels to the poorest, had all its computers and financial books searched. A number of other Islamic centres were forced to close.
58. The considerable level of destruction suffered by the Palestinian population led a group of Israeli and Palestinian human rights NGOs to file a joint petition on 1 September 2005 challenging a recent law adopted by the Israeli Knesset aimed at preventing Palestinians from bringing lawsuits for damages or injuries incurred in the course of military action by IDF during the current intifada. Following the first hearing held on 30 July 2006, the court issued an interim injunction freezing the dismissal of lawsuits that would have been rejected under the law. The case is still pending.
E. Right to just and favourable conditions of work
59. As indicated by ILO, a slight improvement in the employment situation was noted in 2005, especially in the second quarter of the year, with the creation of 55,000 new jobs compared to 2004, including 13,000 in Israel. Some 37,000 workers had joined the labour force, while 18,000 unemployed had found a job. However, during the last quarter of 2005, there was a drastic deterioration in the employment situation in the West Bank, mainly due to the intensification of closures. In the Gaza Strip, the improvement lasted throughout 2005, likely influenced by the Israeli withdrawal and the easing of communications between the northern and southern areas of the Strip. 8
60. During the period under review, the public sector accounted for 23 per cent of employment, 16.9 per cent in the West Bank and 38.1 per cent in the Gaza Strip. Employment in Israel represented 10 per cent of total employment in 2005 with 30,920 working permits issued to West Bank residents by March 2006 and 4,961 to Gaza workers. With the increase of closures, about 15,000-20,000 Palestinians were probably working in Israel without a permit. Unemployment rates were believed to be significantly higher in the north (Jenin) and south (Hebron) of the West Bank and the north and centre of Gaza, compared to much lower rates in the central West Bank and southern Gaza areas. Local economic features and the influence of internal and external closures as well as restrictions on movement and economic activity were held accountable for these differences. 9
61. It should be emphasized that the multifaceted restrictions imposed on Palestinians entailed their economic activity becoming localized, owing to ever-increasing transport costs and impediments on the movement of Palestinian products and, more recently, by a noticeable decline in Palestinian employment in Israel. Local employment grew through self-employment, unpaid family labour, small or micro-enterprises, as well as services supported by locally produced goods. Most of these enterprises employed an average of four workers. Agriculture was becoming a safety net for the people who had lost employment or whose main activity was no longer sustainable. A new pattern was developing, namely the arrival of Palestinian women in the labour market to compensate for losses in male wage salaries. Some of these women had been able to start various kinds of income-generating activities with the support of micro-credit institutions. One Palestinian businesswomen’s solidarity group was supporting about 2,000 women entrepreneurs, out of a solidarity network of some 30,000 clients. However, the demand for such micro-loan assistance was estimated to be about 150,000 requests. 10
62. Should progress be reached in the proposed reforms of the Palestinian finance administration and civil services as well as in the judiciary and the security sector, within the framework of a viable two-State solution, redundant personnel, especially in the security sector, might become available for new labour market opportunities after a period of vocational training or retraining. Therefore, the promotion of decent work in OPT, the alleviation of impediments on the mobility of people, goods and services within the West Bank and between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as a sustainable trade pattern with Israel and the rest of the world were considered to be key elements of success for private business investments and international development assistance. 11
63. An unfortunate situation however developed as of 2 September 2006, when tens of thousands of Palestinian civil servants initiated a strike to protest the non-payment of their salaries. They included several thousand teachers and members of security forces who demonstrated in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza. As a result, all public school facilities were closed on the very first day of school throughout OPT. In the West Bank, all shops closed on 6 September to show solidarity with civil servants. In the Gaza Strip, 1,800 municipal workers initiated a strike on 23 August resulting in a heavy accumulation of uncollected garbage, possibly leading to an environmental disaster. The situation was said to be very tense throughout OPT.
F. Right to health
64. According to information provided by WHO to the Special Committee, dated July 2006, the current health crisis in OPT was characterized by three main factors. The first one was a consequence of five years of intifada and movement restrictions, resulting in economic deterioration, growing unemployment and escalating poverty. Health indicators remained generally unchanged despite problems of constrained access, malnutrition, injuries and mental health issues. Over one quarter of children under five and a third of women of childbearing age were anaemic. Indications of increased vulnerability to distress and mental illness, heart disease, hypertension, malignancy and diabetes, which were the main causes of death together with perinatal conditions, were highlighted. Another potential threat was the emergence of avian influenza outbreaks among poultry in the Gaza Strip. The second factor resulted directly from the interruption of funds to the Palestinian Authority since the Hamas electoral victory in January 2006. The Ministry of Health budget was deprived of roughly US$ 60 million per month, generating huge gaps in the delivery of basic health services with harsh consequences for the Palestinian population, as the ministry provided more than 60 per cent of primary health-care services, including the management of 22 hospitals throughout OPT; the NGO community was running a dozen hospitals. The third factor of the crisis was due to recent security developments, especially in and around Gaza, which caused many casualties and injuries and hence an increased demand for emergency medical services.
65. The critical electricity shortage resulting from the destruction of the main power plant in the Gaza Strip has reduced the distribution of water by the Palestinian Water Authority to four hours a day in each neighbourhood of Gaza, for a total population of 1.3 million people. Solid waste and sewage disposal was also affected by shortages of fuel. In addition, two-month emergency stocks of essential drugs held at Ministry hospitals in the Gaza Strip were running low, especially for basic medicines and surgical supplies. 12
66. A potential collapse of health services provided by the Ministry would particularly affect the four governorates of Jericho, Salfit, Gaza Mid Zone and Rafah, where the Ministry was the sole provider of health care. The majority of births and over 73 per cent of all surgical operations were performed in Ministry hospitals. Should the current financial crisis not be addressed, further consequences would entail higher malnutrition rates, an increase in mental health disorders, reduced coverage of immunization programmes, inadequate early detection and rapid response for communicable diseases and increased risk of disease outbreaks, and disruption of reproductive health services with a potential rise in mother and child morbidity and mortality, and an increased risk of unwanted pregnancies. 13
67. According to another source of information, a number of companies manufacturing and importing medicines were refusing to supply them to hospitals, as they had not been paid for earlier shipments or were uncertain that they would be paid for ordered medicines. Basic equipment to anaesthetize patients and perform operations and cleaning material were lacking. In the Al-Shifa hospital of Gaza City, run by the Ministry, 19 children were receiving dialysis treatment for kidney problems. Normally, they were supposed to receive their treatment three times a week. Due to the shortage of medical equipment and staff — still unpaid and often obliged to remain at home — the hospital had reportedly been forced to reduce the frequency of dialysis treatment to two sessions a week. This had severe consequences for several children who, in addition, suffered from congenital diseases requiring expensive monthly hormone treatments to avoid anaemia. Sometimes, the families of these children had to buy themselves unsubsidized medication from outside pharmacies to complement drugs available in the hospital, while enduring long and hazardous journeys to the hospital. 14
G. Right to education
68. Numerous recreational, cultural and sport activities had to be cancelled due to the unavailability of funds and the current level of violence in the Gaza Strip. The attendance at UNICEF safe play areas in Brazil camp, in Rafah and in a Bedouin village in northern Gaza decreased by 50 per cent and 20 per cent respectively, because families were afraid to send their children to outdoor activities during military incursions. Since the beginning of 2006, more than 9,800 children and adolescents in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have participated in psychosocial sessions aimed at reinforcing their capacity to protect themselves and cope with violence. Some 36 volunteers from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society had been trained to lead mine-risk education activities with children, families and communities in high-risk areas, including northern Gaza, with a view to protecting them from injuries from unexploded ordnance. UNICEF recently ordered for disadvantaged teenagers 110,000 school bags equipped with a full set of school supplies for the forthcoming term, distributed 100,000 additional copies of worksheets covering the main subjects of study for grades 1 to 6, and helped about 750,000 college students to catch up with their studies during curfews, military operations or closures. UNICEF also initiated the establishment of about 10 non-formal learning spaces for some 10,000 adolescents in areas with a high proportion of school dropouts. 15
69. According to another United Nations agency, there was great concern that school facilities in the Gaza Strip would not be repaired in time to accommodate children for the forthcoming term, as there were no funds to renovate damaged schools and buy much-needed schooling equipment. In the West Bank, the construction of the wall was preventing large numbers of children in Jericho, Hebron and Bethlehem governorates from attending school. Similarly, teachers and professors were not in a position to report regularly for duty.
H. Right to liberty and security of person
70. A report submitted to the Special Committee indicated that many issues regarding detention had not changed substantially during the period under review, although the level and harshness of violence against detainees had reportedly diminished. However, hundreds of complaints were lodged by detainees who alleged that they had been abused and, in a number of cases, tortured. In most cases, complaints highlighted ill-treatment inflicted by the Israeli General Security Service (GSS) during the period of interrogation. The question of incommunicado detention deserved special attention during the period under review. About 180 pre-petition letters on behalf of 345 Palestinians and 100 urgent petitions had been addressed by an Israeli legal NGO to the State Attorney’s Office and the High Court of Justice respectively to challenge incommunicado detention orders by GSS. From January to July 2006, 94 additional pre-petition letters on behalf of 243 detainees had been also sent to the Attorney’s Office, and 10 urgent petitions to the Court. In a significant number of cases, incommunicado detention orders had been rescinded.
71. According to another source of information, the total detainee population in Israeli jails amounted to about 9,400 persons, an increase of 900 persons compared to 2005, of whom 810 were administrative detainees, mainly held in the Neguev, Ofer, Ayalon and other detention centres. Often, IDF transferred to administrative detention prisoners who had completed their formal sentence, thereby prolonging their detention for indefinite periods. As of June 2006, 359 children were still detained in Israeli jails, a few dozen more than in 2005, enduring like adults similar torture, medical negligence and other forms of ill-treatment, including inadequate food and nutrition, and denial of visits and recreational facilities. There were 120 female prisoners, a decrease from 2005; five of them were said to be under 18 years of age and 27 were students. There were also 22 married women and 18 mothers, some of whom had reportedly not seen their children for years.
72. A brief study received by the Special Committee highlighted the pattern of “concealed torture” taking the form of hostile acts and physical abuse of persons arrested in their homes, on the street or at checkpoints and while they were being taken away to unknown places. These unlawful acts were committed by a wide range of actors: army, police, border patrol, special forces and settlers. Two young men aged 16 and 30 were reportedly arrested respectively in Azzah refugee camp near Bethlehem and in the town of Bani Nai’m, Hebron, on 19 February and 6 January 2006, taken to Gush Etsion Detention Centre, south of Bethlehem, and severely beaten on sensitive parts of their bodies by Israeli soldiers. The second young man was exposed, outside the detention centre for several hours, to freezing temperatures with his hands tied to the steel wall of the camp.
73. Another young man of 23, from Al-Eizareyah, arrested on 8 December 2005, testified that he had been subjected to various forms of torture from the moment of his arrest at his home until he was brought to the Russian Compound Detention Centre in Jerusalem. Forced to partly strip his clothes off and to remain in the cold in front of his house, he was later blindfolded, handcuffed and taken away in a military vehicle. During the transport, he had been stripped of his remaining clothes and threatened at gunpoint. Later, in a military camp, still naked, he was photographed by the soldiers and again subjected to degrading treatment.
74. On 14 March 2006, the media abundantly reported on the attack carried out by IDF against the prison in Jericho, in the Jordan Valley, with 50 jeeps, 3 tanks and 2 air force helicopters. One of them launched a missile at the prison while troops used machine guns, tanks and, later, an armoured bulldozer to knock down the walls. The purpose of the attack was to remove from the prison and transfer to an Israeli prison five jailed Palestinian militants involved in the assassination in 2001 of former Israeli right-wing Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi. Following the incident, 44 of the 200 detainees in the prison surrendered, two prison guards were killed and others injured.
75. More recently, it was reported that on 29 June 2006, Israeli authorities arrested more than 25 Palestinian members of the Cabinet and the Palestinian Legislative Council. Two days earlier, the Knesset had passed a law allowing the court to decide in absentia on the extension of the detention of a security suspect and the extension to 96 hours of a person’s interrogation without judicial control.
I. Rights to freedom of opinion and freedom of association
76. A source reported that Israeli authorities had allegedly facilitated the access of hundreds of foreign journalists to witness the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Such cooperation between IDF and the media had been rare during the rest of the period under review. Palestinian photojournalists and cameramen had often been injured while covering weekly Friday demonstrations against the wall in Bi’lein, west of Ramallah. On 16 September 2005, IDF closed the western and northern parts of Bi’lein, surrounding dozens of Palestinian civilians and Israeli peace activists who were demonstrating peacefully. The soldiers fired rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd. On that occasion, a Euro News cameraman was severely beaten by an Israeli soldier and had his arm broken. A similar incident occurred on 4 November concerning a journalist from the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel.
77. On several occasions, Israeli forces prevented journalists from covering shooting incidents, house demolition operations or excessive use of force. Towards the end of 2005 and the beginning of 2006, several foreign journalists were reportedly abducted by various Palestinian armed groups or unidentified gunmen and detained for several hours before being released. Hospitals were said to witness regularly scenes of tension between Palestinian police and the press. Police and security forces allegedly prevented Palestinian photojournalists from taking pictures of the injured in hospitals.
78. Following the abduction of Corporal Shalit on 25 June 2006, Israeli authorities imposed restrictions on journalists with Israeli citizenship or holding dual nationality trying to enter the Gaza Strip to cover the events. During the month of July, three journalists were wounded in two separate incidents. On 19 July, a technician with Al-Jazeera, allegedly wearing a vest labelled “TV”, was shot in the left leg while standing near his vehicle on a main road in Nablus. Later on the same day, the correspondent for a United States-funded Arabic TV station was hit in the torso and left hand by rubber bullets as he was watching, reportedly at a safe distance, an attack by 50 IDF armoured vehicles, including tanks and bulldozers, against a Palestinian security compound and several other government buildings in Nablus. On 26 July, a Palestinian TV cameraman was allegedly targeted and wounded by an Israeli tank shell while filming civilians caught in the fighting between Palestinian militants and IDF in the densely populated Shijaiyah neighbourhood of Gaza City.
VI. Human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan
79. On 2 August 2006 the Syrian authorities submitted to the Special Committee during its consultations in Geneva their thirty-eighth annual report on Israeli practices affecting the human rights of Syrian Arab citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, covering the period June 2005 and July 2006. They expressed regret and concern that the Special Committee had not been able to visit the region, while emphasizing that this should not become a precedent in the future. Such a visit would express the depth of international concern over Israel’s policy of continuing its occupation of Arab lands and the inhumane practices of the occupation authorities in the occupied territories against the Arab residents who own that land.
80. The paragraphs below attempt to summarize the views submitted by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic.
A. Past legacy
81. The Security Council, in resolution 497 (1981), declared the Israeli decision to annex the Golan null and void. For its part, the General Assembly adopted resolution 60/108 of 8 December 2005 determining “that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken or to be taken by Israel, the occupying Power, that purport to alter the character and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan are null and void, constitute a flagrant violation of international law and of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, and have no legal effect”. The annexation has also not been accepted or recognized by the Arab population of the Golan. General Assembly resolution 60/40 entitled “The occupied Syrian Golan” demands that “Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 in implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions”.
82. At its sixty-first session, the Commission on Human Rights in resolution 2005/8 reaffirmed the illegality of Israel’s decision to impose its laws and jurisdiction over the occupied Syrian Golan, called upon Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and of the Security Council, to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan, to desist from its repressive measures against them; and called upon Member States not to recognize any of the legislative or administrative measures and actions taken or to be taken by Israel that purported to change the character or legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan.
B. A further deteriorating human rights situation
83. According to the Syrian report, the Israeli settlement policy and land confiscation continued unabated. Forty-four existing Israeli settlements built on the ruins of Arab villages destroyed by the occupation expanded: the largest one, Katzrin, now had more than 18,000 settlers. The Director-General of the Housing Ministry approved 1 million shekels to build a synagogue in Katzrin and also granted 1-dunum plots of land to new settlers. On the eve of general elections, the Government of Israel announced a massive project to encourage settlements in the occupied Golan with the establishment of a new neighbourhood of houses and the construction of a new high-tech factory, as well as of a winery and a luxury resort. In a renewed effort to cut off contacts among people living in the occupied Golan, Israeli authorities told the inhabitants of the Syrian village of Al-Ghajar to evacuate the northern part of the village, which meant the evacuation of 90 per cent of the residents, to the southern part, and the confiscation of 900 dunums of their land.
84. As noted in last year’s report, the occupation authorities pursued their policy of using water resources of the occupied Syrian Golan for themselves. Israel was using all the water from the Banyas river whose annual flow was said to be 121 million m 3 per year. Although part of Lake Tiberias belonged to Syrian territory, it was used by Israel as a storage and distribution reservoir for the Jordan and Yarmuk river system. Nothing had changed in the exploitation of water resources by the Tahal and Mekorot companies, which had an adverse effect on agricultural yields and citizens’ livelihoods, including by the drying up of springs supplying Arab villages with water. Agricultural work was the principal source of livelihood for Syrian Arab citizens of the occupied Golan. The Israeli occupation authorities had adopted a policy of restricting their lands and production, while imposing exorbitant taxes on agricultural products amounting to as much as 50 per cent of their value, leaving very little to the farmer. For the second consecutive year, Syrian farmers in the occupied Golan were able to market their apple harvest in Syria, under the supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations.
85. Fifteen detainees — four more than last year — were still detained in Israeli jails on charges of resisting the occupation. Aged from 16 to 38 years, they were subjected to the worst kinds of physical and psychological torture in prisons far away from their places of residence. In addition, hardships and penalties were still imposed by the occupation authorities on their families and relatives when they attempted to visit the detainees. One of the prisoners, mentioned in the Special Committee’s report of last year, left jail after 19 years of detention only to enter hospital with blood cancer and loss of sight in one eye on 4 April 2005. He passed away on 7 July 2005. Another detainee sentenced to 27 years’ imprisonment in 1985 was moved from detention to hospital owing to his critical health condition, which was concealed from his family. Four other detainees had been released but were currently living under house arrest.
86. According to the Syrian report, Israeli mines were still a persistent threat as they were laid in areas adjacent to towns, villages and pastures, threatening the population and farm animals as well as preventing inhabitants from freely accessing and exploiting their lands. On 12 May 2006, an Israeli mine exploded near a group of children in the border village of Kanakir, killing a 10-year-old girl and injuring three other children. Since 1967, 364 similar casualties have occurred, including 186 fatalities, most of them children.
87. As already emphasized in previous reports of the Special Committee, Israeli authorities continued to bury their nuclear waste in a wide tract of land close to the Syrian border 100 m from the summit Jabal al-Sheikh, in a tunnel 95 m deep and 5.7 m wide, the construction progressed further. According to a member of the Knesset, Israel was said to have laid in the area dividing Israel and Syria along the Golan neutron mines containing explosive radioactive material capable of annihilating all humans and living things in their path, without damaging vehicles.
88. In the sphere of education, the situation was as bad as reported by the Special Committee last year for six primary schools, three junior secondary schools, two secondary schools and one preparatory academy in the village of Mas`ada; overcrowded, insalubrious and not fit for education, despite high tuition fees paid by the parents. University students who had completed their studies often had no other solution than to emigrate to find jobs. Those who chose to stay in the occupied Golan were still not free to follow specific fields of study unless they accepted the occupation and Israeli nationality, which they rejected. Insuperable conditions were imposed on the admission of students to Israeli universities. The occupation authorities had banned the publication of magazines and newspapers, including Israel’s Arabic press, in the Golan, and imposed heavy censorship on useful books covering national and political subjects. On 13 April 2006, the Executive Board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) called on the Director-General to continue his efforts to preserve the human, social and cultural fabric of the occupied Syrian Golan, undertake efforts to offer appropriate curricula and provide more grants and adequate assistance to the educational and cultural institutions of the occupied Golan.
89. For many years, workers in the occupied Syrian Golan had suffered from discrimination in hiring, wages and the taxation on wages. In addition, as already noted in former reports of the Special Committee, there were no institutions or trade unions except the Israeli labour union to protect the rights of Arab workers, who were not permitted to lodge any complaints. Unemployment was high in the occupied Golan and most of the workers were confined to insecure temporary jobs, as positions in governmental and other public institutions were reserved for settlers. Workers unable to pay high taxes on their wages were losing their employment and had their properties seized.
90. The health condition of the Syrian population in the occupied Golan has not improved since last year owing to continued lack of hospitals and medical clinics as well as basic health centres. The minimum facilities, such as gynaecological and obstetrics clinics, X-ray clinics and emergency wards, were still lacking. The Government of Syria had, however, been able to open a specialized hospital under the supervision of the Syrian Red Crescent available for the population in the occupied Golan.
91. The situation of Syrian women and children in the occupied Golan was reported to be of great concern. Women still deprived of basic health care and other facilities were leading hard lives with little means to live on when close relatives were detained, subjected to oppressive harassment measures when visiting their relatives in prison, and worried about the fate of their children who lacked proper education and were often victims of mine explosions. Women and children were also among the some 2,500 Syrians who had been held in Israeli detention facilities for the last 38 years. Many women and men in the occupied Golan had been suffering for years from the trauma of the separation of their families, some of whose members had remained in Syria while others were living in the occupied sector.
VII. Conclusions and recommendations
92. Despite the postponement of its field visit and as a result its inability to gather direct evidence from witnesses, the Special Committee has observed through other means the serious deterioration of the human rights situation in OPT and in the occupied Syrian Golan. Not since the inception of its mandate in 1968 has the Committee ever confronted such anger and misery among the Palestinian people and other Arabs in occupied territories and disrespect for their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.
93. The Special Committee observes that Palestinians see themselves as constant subjects of collective punishments in every single area of their daily lives. Since the establishment of the elected Hamas-led Government in March 2006, the shortage of funds resulting from aid cut-off and the non-payment of taxes and revenues by Israel, leading to severe economic hardships for people in OPT, have been perceived as economic sanctions against Palestinian people. Perhaps for the first time, some Palestinians are questioning the role of the United Nations in the current crisis. Moreover, Palestinians in OPT feel that their plight has been neglected by the international community.
94. Not much has happened at the international level since the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the illegality of the construction of the wall in OPT and the subsequent adoption of General Assembly resolution ES-10/15 in July 2004, either to persuade Israel to comply with international law and the ruling of the Court or for the Quartet to work closely with the parties, including other international and regional actors, to implement the road map towards a just and lasting settlement of the conflict. The construction of the wall proceeds unabated and the register of damage contemplated in the above-mentioned resolution has yet to be established by the Secretary-General.
95. The Special Committee supports the call by the Human Rights Council for the dispatch of an urgent fact-finding mission headed by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. It expresses the sincere hope that the fact-finding mission of the Human Rights Council will take place as soon as possible.
96. The Special Committee is also of the view that time has come for Israel to grant compensation for the multifaceted damages inflicted in OPT not only as a consequence of military incursions and operations, but also due to the construction of the wall, which is affecting all aspects of the daily lives of Palestinians.
97. The Special Committee wishes to reiterate the recommendations made in its last year’s report, and inter alia:
(a) The General Assembly should:
(i) Urgently consider innovative ways to fulfil its responsibility with respect to all aspects of the question of Palestine until it is resolved in conformity with relevant United Nations resolutions and the norms of international law and until the inalienable rights of the Palestinians are fully realized, and to this end provide the Special Committee with a renewed mandate in line with current realities and taking into account the hopes and aspirations of those living in occupied territories;
(ii) Request the Security Council to ensure the implementation of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and Assembly resolution ES-10/15 requesting Israel to comply with its legal obligation to cease the construction of the wall in OPT, including in and around East Jerusalem; to dismantle the segments of the wall already built; to repeal all legislative and regulatory acts adopted in view of the construction of the wall; and to make reparation for the damage arising from the construction of the wall;
(iii) Request the Security Council to consider sanctions against Israel if it persists in paying no attention to its international obligations;
(iv) Ensure that other States are not taking actions to assist in any way the construction of the wall in OPT, either directly or indirectly, and that bilateral agreements between Israel and other States do not violate their respective obligations under international law;
(v) Encourage the members of the Quartet to fully implement the road map in such a way as to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the conflict, based on relevant United Nations resolutions, including Security Council resolutions;
(vi) Request the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to take concrete measures in respect of their obligations to ensure Israel’s respect for the Convention. A meeting of the High Contracting Parties to that effect should be urgently convened;
(b) The Government of Israel should:
(i) Recognize the de jure and de facto applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention to OPT and the occupied Syrian Golan and distinguish in all circumstances between military objectives and civilian persons and objects;
(ii) Ensure respect for international law and the principle of appropriate use of means and methods of warfare, and cease its policies of excessive use of force and extrajudicial killings of Palestinians, as well as the destruction of land, civilian and public property, houses and infrastructure;
(iii) Stop its policy of confiscating Palestinian land, which affects the territorial integrity of a future Palestinian State, and of expanding Jewish settlements in OPT, which is threatening the contiguity of Palestinian lands;
(iv) Restore freedom of movement for the Palestinian population throughout OPT by lifting road closures, roadblocks and other impediments such as checkpoints and stop building roads accessible only to Israeli settlers and preventing easy access to Palestinians, in particular women and children, to their fields, schools, places of work, hospitals and other health-care facilities, as well as the passage of ambulances;
(v) Facilitate and implement the reopening of the Gaza airport and seaport;
(vi) Stop building the separation wall between Israel and OPT, the long-lasting effect of which is to prevent the attainment of a just and sustainable peace between Israel and the State-to-be of Palestine, and fully comply with the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and all provisions of Assembly resolution ES-10/15;
(vii) Stop carrying out mass arrests and arbitrary detentions and imposing humiliating and cruel treatment on all Palestinians and other Arabs detained in Israeli jails; guarantee those arrested a fair trial and detention conditions in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and with the Fourth Geneva Convention;
(viii) Urgently pursue its efforts in relation to the implementation of the road map, in particular the withdrawal of its military presence within OPT and the occupied Syrian Golan;
(c) The Palestinian Authority should:
(i) Apply fully the provisions of the Fourth Convention as relevant to OPT;
(ii) Abide by pertinent provisions of human rights law and international humanitarian law;
(iii) Agree on a modus operandi aimed at solving the urgent human rights and humanitarian crisis currently facing OPT, and at fully restoring law and order in OPT; urgently find ways to ensure the payment of unpaid salaries to all civil servants working for the Palestinian Authority in cooperation with international supportive mechanisms;
(iv) Comply with the requirements of the road map as laid out by the Quartet;
(v) Stop the current cycle of violence and exert control over Palestinian armed groups in such a way that they refrain from any further acts of violence;
(vi) Arrest and bring to justice, in accordance with international standards, those responsible for planning or participating in attacks against civilians;
(vii) Pursue efforts already undertaken to implement much-needed legislative and other reforms for greater democratization in OPT, especially in the areas of justice, education, health and employment, and to ensure greater protection of women against various forms of violence, including domestic violence, and women’s participation in the life of their communities.
98. The Special Committee also urges concerned civil society groups and diplomatic, academic and research associations to use their utmost good will and influence to make the present appalling human rights and humanitarian crisis of Palestinians, including the human rights situation in the occupied Syrian Golan, widely known by all available means. Efforts undertaken on behalf of Palestinians by Israeli NGOs should be commended and encouraged, while helping these NGOs to have their work better known and recognized within the Israeli civil society and by concerned Israeli institutions.
99. Civil society groups and diplomatic, academic and research circles should press their respective Governments to comply fully with article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and with their international obligations as contained in the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and Assembly resolution ES-10/15.
100. The Special Committee strongly encourages international and national media to give accurate and wide coverage to the current human rights and humanitarian crisis in OPT, including substantive analyses of the situation and its root causes, with a view to mobilizing national and world opinion for a just and lasting settlement of a 38-year-old conflict.
1 During the current year, the documentation and other material made available to the Special Committee included the following:
(a) General Assembly resolutions 60/104 to 60/108 and related Assembly reports concerning Palestine and the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices;
(b) Letters dated 3, 7, 21 and 28 August 2006 from the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council;
(c) Letter dated 27 July 2006 from the Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council transmitting a letter of the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States regarding the follow-up of the resolution adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States during the extraordinary session, held at the ministerial level in Cairo on 15 July 2006, on the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian territories;
(d) Putrajaya Declaration on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories at the special meeting of the extended Executive Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Putrajaya, Malaysia, 3 August 2006;
(e) Statements, publications, yearly reports and other material provided by Palestinian and Israeli non-governmental organizations;
(f) A report received from the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic;
(g) A report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (E/CN.4/2006/29);
(h) A report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders (E/CN.4/2006/95/Add.3);
(i) Reports of the Secretary-General on assistance to the Palestinian People (A/60/90 and E/2005/80);
(j) Reports of various United Nations agencies such as ILO, OCHA, UNICEF, WHO, WFP and the World Bank;
(k) Various reports and yearly reports from international non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues.
2 The situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, Report of the Director-General, Appendix, International Labour Conference, 95th Session 2006, p. 4.
3 At its first session, the Human Rights Council in decision 1/106 requested the relevant special rapporteurs to report to the next session of the Council on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestine.
4 See note 2 above, pp. 8-9.
5 Under the Guise of Security. Routing the Separation Barrier to Enable the Expansion of Israeli Settlements in the West Bank, Binkom (Planners for Planning Rights)/B’tselem (The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) report, December 2005, p. 29.
6 West Bank Closure Count and Analysis, OCHA, January 2006, p. 8.
7 See note 2 above, pp. 10-11.
8 Ibid., p. 23.
9 Ibid., pp. 23-24.
10 Ibid., pp. 28-29.
11 Ibid., p. 35.
12 The Health Crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Strategy Paper, WHO, July 2006, pp. 1-2. According to another source of information, the Ministry of Health operates a network of 630 clinics throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including 230 mother and child clinics, 153 specialist clinics, 197 family planning clinics, and 58 dental clinics, covering 64.5 per cent of the total health needs of the Palestinian population. Other health providers such as UNRWA, the Palestine Red Crescent Society and NGOs provide altogether about 35.5 per cent of health needs, especially in the field of primary health care.
13 Addressing the Health Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, WHO, June 2006, p. 11.
14 Gaza’s Dialysis Patients: Hostage to Politics, Defence for Children International, Palestine Section, 8 June 2006, pp. 1-2.
15 Gaza Fact Sheet, UNICEF, 27 July 2006, pp. 1-4.