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At a time when serious efforts are being exerted by concerned parties, including the League of Arab States and the new Palestinian national unity government, and hopes are rising to revive the peace process towards the just and peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel, the occupying Power, continues to carry out violent and unlawful policies that are totally contradictory to the concept of peace and serve only to further inflame and exacerbate the difficult situation on the ground. Countless violations and grave breaches of international law are being committed by the Israeli occupying forces against the Palestinian civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, every single day.
During the month of March, the Israeli occupying forces carried out numerous violent military invasions and incursions in Palestinian cities, towns and refugee camps, killing and injuring more Palestinian civilians, including children, destroying more civilian property and infrastructure, and further terrorizing and traumatizing the besieged civilian population. Repeated incursions have been carried out in particular in the Nablus and Jenin areas, as well as in the Gaza Strip. This past weekend the occupying Power resumed its policy of extrajudicial killings, using its lethal helicopter gunships to fire missiles near the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, killing a Palestinian man and wounding several others. This comes on the heels of threats by Israeli officials to carry out yet another full-scale military invasion of the Gaza Strip.
In addition, the Israeli occupying forces have continued carrying out daily raids and arrests throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in the cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, Al-Khalil, Bethlehem and Jericho and surrounding areas. The occupying forces have also continued the illegal practice of using Palestinian civilians as human shields during door-to-door searches in some of these raids. Among the hundreds of Palestinians arrested and detained in the recent period were 18 Palestinian men seized by the occupying forces following a raid of the Palestinian military intelligence headquarters in Ramallah on 7 March 2007 and 13 young boys from Al-Arroub refugee camp north of Al-Khalil who were arrested by the occupying forces on their way to school on that same day. Regrettably, the number of Palestinian civilians being imprisoned and detained by Israel, the occupying Power, continues to swell as a result of such arrests, with a total of more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, curren tly being held in Israeli jails and detention centres, most in abhorrent and inhuman conditions.
At the same time, the Palestinian people continue to be subjected to violence, harassment and vandalism at the hands of armed, fanatical Israeli settlers illegally transferred by Israel, the occupying Power, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. In recent weeks, Israeli settlers have set fire to cars, occupied a building in the centre of Al-Khalil, rampaged through the town of Khirbat Safa and fired at homes, and, on 8 April, a group of Israeli settlers beat and wounded three Palestinian schoolgirls in the village of Um Tuba and tore apart their school books. In grave breach of international humanitarian law, Israel, the occupying Power, continues its illegal settlement campaign throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, confiscating more land for the expansion and construction of settlements, building more Jewish-only bypass roads to serve these settlements and allowing the illegal settlers to act with impunity towards the Palestinian civilian population.
In this connection, Israel, the occupying Power, also continues its unlawful construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in particular in and around East Jerusalem, in total disrespect for the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and the resolutions of the United Nations and in grave breach of international law. Land confiscations and destruction of properties for this purpose continue unabated. Demonstrations against such illegal activities continue, and the Israeli occupying forces have wounded dozens of Palestinian civilians, including in the villages of Bil’in and Al-Ma’sara, in recent protests against this unlawful apartheid wall, which is destroying their livelihoods, their land and their communities and which, in conjunction with the settlements, is destroying the territorial integrity of the Palestinian Territory and the prospects for achieving the two-State solution.
Israel, the occupying Power, continues to impose more than 500 checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, intentionally and severely restricting the movement of persons and goods. This illegal practice continues to have a disastrous impact on the Palestinian economy and on the socio-economic life of the Palestinian people. Such restrictions even continue to be imposed on humanitarian and medical personnel and vehicles, with several recent reports of Israeli occupying forces preventing the movement of ambulances and harassing and attacking ambulances at checkpoints. Israel also continues to impose frequent, prolonged closures on the Occupied Palestinian Territory and has in particular subjected the Rafah crossing in the Gaza Strip — the only point of entry and exit for Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip — to repeated and arbitrary closures, exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and fuelling tensions.
As a combined result of the ongoing illegal settlement activities, construction of the wall and imposition of checkpoints and roadblocks, Occupied East Jerusalem has remained under siege during the current period, isolated from the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and deteriorating socially, economically and culturally. The occupying Power has continued to severely restrict the access of Palestinian civilians to the Holy City and to obstruct their access to holy sites, particularly Al-Haram Al-Sharif compound. Moreover, Israel, the occupying Power, continues to carry out illegal excavations in Occupied East Jerusalem in the Old City despite the calls for cessation of such activities, and extremist Jews have been allowed to enter Al-Haram Al-Sharif compound in recent days under the protection of Israeli occupying forces, actions that have in the past inflamed Palestinian and Muslim sensitivities and threaten today to seriously destabilize the fragile situation.
Overall, a review of the current period paints a bleak picture of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. This is the sad reality of the Palestinian people under occupation as they continue to suffer the violation of their human rights and grave humanitarian hardships under Israel’s oppressive and illegal policies, which affect every aspect of their lives and are at the root of all problems and strife. At the same time, the Palestinian people also continue to suffer as a result of the international aid blockade that has been imposed for more than a year now and has yet to be lifted despite the formation of a national unity government under the leadership of President Abbas. While attention is focused on the efforts to revive the peace process and on the actions of the new unity government of the Palestinian Authority, this dire situation on the ground cannot be ignored, for it is far from normal, near disastrous, and will surely undermine any progress that may be achieved. Attention must also be urgently focused on the actions of Israel, the occupying Power, and the international community must take measures to compel Israel to cease acting with impunity and to uphold international law — it must be compelled to cease its violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, to cease its illegal policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and instead to genuinely pursue the path of peace. There is a real opportunity at present for progress towards the resumption of the peace process towards the achievement of the two-State solution and a peaceful settlement, and the international community should uphold its responsibilities in this regard to ensure that this opportunity is not lost like so many before it.
The present letter is in follow-up to our previous 279 letters to you regarding the ongoing crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, since 28 September 2000. Those letters, dated from 29 September 2000 (A/55/432-S/2000/921) to 1 March 2007 (A/ES-10/382-S/2007/119), constitute a basic record of the crimes being committed by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian people since September 2000. For all of these war crimes, State terrorism and systematic human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people, Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
Accordingly, in follow-up to the above-mentioned letters, I regret to inform you that, since 2 March 2007, at least 17 more Palestinian civilians have been killed by the Israeli occupying forces, raising the total number of martyrs killed since September 2000 to 4,478. The names of the martyrs that have been identified are listed in the annex to the present letter.
I should be grateful if you would arrange to have the present letter distributed as a document of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly, under agenda item 5, and of the Security Council.