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From the field

Illusions of Restraint: Human Rights Violations During the Events in the Occupied Territories, September 29 - December 2, 2000

December 2000, Summary

B'Tselem has completed research and fieldwork and is releasing a report addressing human rights violations in the Occupied Territories over the past two months. The report concludes that, in spite of claims to the contrary, Israel has not adopted a policy of restraint in its response to events in the Occupied Territories.

This report, like the report addressing events on the Temple Mount on September 29, constitutes one in a series of reports addressing human rights during the "Al-Aqsa Intifada." The report is devoted primarily to the issue of the use of force by the IDF and the Palestinian Authority, attacks on medical teams and journalists, and restrictions imposed on them. In addition, the report touches on restrictions on freedom of movement and settler violence. B'Tselem will produce separate reports addressing these two issues more comprehensively.

Since the beginning of these events on September 29, until December 2, 264 people were killed in the Occupied Territories, and over 10,000 were injured:

  • 204 Palestinian civilians were killed by IDF forces, of them 73 minors aged 17 and under.
  • 24 members of the Palestinian security forces were killed by IDF forces.
  • 4 foreign nationals were killed by IDF forces.
  • 3 Palestinian civilians (at least) were killed by Israeli settlers.
  • 13 Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinian civilians.
  • 11 members of the Israeli security forces were killed by Palestinian civilians.
  • 5 members of the Israeli security forces were killed by members of the Palestinian security forces.

The principle findings of B'Tselem's report are as follows:

  • Israel uses excessive and disproportionate force in dispersing demonstrations of unarmed Palestinians;
  • Israel did not develop non-lethal methods to disperse demonstrations or train its soldiers to confront such demonstrations. This in spite of the fact that Israel was prepared for the events of the past few weeks. As a result, soldiers only had at their disposal rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition, which caused many Palestinian casualties, and many injuries to medical teams and journalists.
  • Collective punishment, in the form of Israel's severe restrictions on Palestinians' movement in the Occupied Territories, makes life unbearable for hundreds of thousands with no justification. These restrictions are also imposed on medical teams and ambulances.
  • Curfew is imposed on tens of thousands of people for the convenience of settlers (in Hebron, Hawara and Silat a-Daher), constituting blatant discrimination. Such a severe injury to a large population, for the welfare of another population, represents a grave human rights violation.
  • Over the past few weeks there have been many incidents of settler attacks on Palestinians. In some of these incidents, IDF soldiers were present but did nothing to protect Palestinians, as they are obliged to do as the occupying force. This phenomenon is not new, and B'Tselem has warned in the past that Israeli authorities do not take sufficient measures to end this phenomenon.
  • The Palestinian Authority does not make serious efforts to prevent children from participating in demonstrations, in spite of the grave danger.
  • The Palestinian Authority does almost nothing to prevent Palestinians from attacking Israeli civilians. The establishment of settlements is a violation of international law and therefore illegal; however, this does not justify attacks on settlers or on settlements. Intentional attacks on civilians are absolutely prohibited, regardless of the circumstances.
  • The Palestinian Authority does not prevent armed Palestinians from shooting from within populated areas, thereby exposing its civilian population to the IDF's response.
  • Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority prevent journalists from freely covering the events, thereby restricting freedom of speech. This is done in various ways, including physical attacks and property damage.

In light of B'Tselem's findings, and the scope of the events, B'Tselem calls for the establishment of an independent and professional, international commission of inquiry to examine these events. Only such a commission can conduct a serious investigation of all human rights violations that have taken place in the past weeks.