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        Economic and Social Council
12 June 2003

Original: ENGLISH

Sixtieth session
Item 8 of the provisional agenda


Letter dated 22 May 2003 from the Permanent Observer for Palestine
to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights

As the international community awaits the Israeli acceptance of the “road map” which has been accepted by the Palestinians, Israel continues to unleash its horrific military assaults against the Palestinian people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, undermining any chances for real peace, while its troops continue escalating their attacks against Palestinians, invading, demolishing, shelling and killing Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Since the publication of the “road map” on 30 April, at least 35 Palestinians and one British journalist have been killed by Israeli soldiers.

In violation of international law, in violation of the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations and with the aim of keeping international witnesses out of areas where Israeli troops are carrying out controversial actions against the Palestinians, the Israeli military forces announced on Thursday, 8 May 2003 that foreigners crossing into the Gaza Strip, including United Nations staff and journalists, would be obliged to sign a form absolving the Israeli army of any responsibility for death or injury incurred as a result of military activity.

This new travel restriction comes after a string of incidents involving foreigners in the occupied territories. A British journalist was shot dead two weeks ago, while an international volunteer was crushed to death and another was pronounced clinically dead following incidents involving the Israeli army in the past two months.

Further, since Sunday, 11 May, Israel imposed its tightest military closure on the Gaza Strip for years. The Israeli authorities closed the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip in both directions. Under the strict new closure, nobody - Palestinian or foreigner - could cross into or out of the Gaza Strip, except foreign diplomats.

Last Thursday, the Israeli occupation forces conducted a large-scale incursion into the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, killing three Palestinians. Muhammad Zaanen, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, was shot in the head. He was left unassisted to bleed for three hours since Israeli troops prevented paramedics from reaching the scene. Muhammad died of his wounds. The other two were Nedal Karim, 22 years old, who was shot in the chest, and Khalil Qarmot, 33 years old, who was shot in the abdomen. Some 20 other Palestinians were wounded in the onslaught.

The day before, in their incursion into Nablus, the Israeli occupation forces killed another Palestinian named Taissir Abu Shihab, 26, and wounded two others.

Israeli tanks also surrounded the nearby town of Beit Lahiya and the Jabaliya refugee camp between Beit Lahiya and Gaza City and cut off the electricity in the area.

Another 14-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by the Israeli occupation forces on the grounds of the main hospital in the northern West Bank city of Jenin. Diya’ Hawadreh was killed and six other Palestinians, also inside the hospital compound, were wounded in the attack.

Meanwhile, acts of aggression at the hands of the Israeli military forces and armed settlers, such as the destruction of large areas of Palestinian agricultural land, use of Palestinian civilians as human shields in military operations, obstruction of the movement of ambulances, humiliation and ill-treatment of patients and medical teams, invasions, arrests, arbitrary searches of innocent Palestinian civilians and homes, invasion of hospitals and detention of scores of Palestinians without trial, continue to harm Palestinian civilians on a daily basis.

Furthermore, Israel continues to confiscate more Palestinian land to fulfil its project of building a separation wall in the West Bank, increasing further the plight of the 12,000 Palestinians who will be cut off from their land, work and essential social services.

Israel has also accelerated its policy of house demolitions in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. From September 2000 to April 2003, at least 12,737 Palestinians have seen their homes demolished by the Israeli military forces who invade their towns supported by tanks, armoured personnel carriers and helicopters and use explosives to destroy Palestinian homes on the very heads of their inhabitants.

In the light of the continued deterioration of the situation of human rights in Occupied Palestine, we appeal to Your Excellency to protest in the strongest terms Israel’s imposition of such arbitrary and unprecedented measures, which are in direct contravention of international law and international humanitarian law, to call on the Israeli authorities to reopen the Erez crossing immediately, on a 24-hour basis, to call on Israel to end its occupation of Palestine and to come to terms with the fact that the Palestinian people are human beings with an inalienable right to exist and live in freedom and independence.

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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