ISRAEL/OT: ISRAELI MILITARY ACTION IS COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT SAYS AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL IN NEW REPORT

The report, 'Israel/Occupied Territories, The Heavy Price of Israeli Incursions', releases findings from Amnesty International delegates while in Israel and the Occupied Territories in March 2002.

'The Israeli army took actions which were not clearly or obviously justified by military necessity and which breached international human rights and humanitarian law,' the organisation's delegates declared, whilst stressing that, 'it seemed clear that most of these actions aimed at punishing and humiliating the Palestinian population as a whole.'

The IDF killed and targeted medical personnel, ambulances and medical facilities, and fired randomly at houses and at people in the streets, even when curfews were lifted.

Amnesty International is concerned that scores of Palestinians who posed no evident threat to the lives of others have been killed during Israel's military incursions into towns and villages in the Occupied Territories since 27 February 2002.

- Ibrahim Jazmawi, a medical assistant, died when a tank fired on two clearly marked ambulances of the Palestine Red Crescent Society on Tulkarem's main street while the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) were occupying the West Bank town on 7 March.

- Samir Sadi Sababeh, aged 45, who was deaf and mute, was killed on 11 March by IDF soldiers when he failed to obey their summons to cross the main street of Jebaliya as they blew up buildings in the town.

The human rights organisation also believes that mass arbitrary arrests have been carried out in a manner designed to degrade those detained.

In al-Am'ari, Tulkarem and Deheisheh refugee camps, all males aged between 16 and 45 were ordered to report to a specified place, often a school. They were sorted, handcuffed tightly with plastic strip-cuffs and blindfolded. According to consistent accounts, detainees have been ill-treated and kept without food and not allowed to go to the toilet for the first 24 hours of their detention.

Delegates saw remains of houses which had been destroyed by the IDF in acts of collective punishment. When the IDF occupied houses or apartment buildings which appeared to be in strategic positions, they systematically trashed people's homes, tearing clothes, breaking furniture and ripping books, including the Qur'an.

'In any army of the world, soldiers who behave like the IDF, destroying property and looting, should be immediately court martialled,' added David Holley, an independent military adviser who was part of the delegation.

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