The report notes that Hebron, the largest Palestinian city on the
West Bank, which has remained in large measure under Israel Defense
Forces (IDF) control, is home to 120,000 Palestinians and 500
Jewish settlers living in the center of the city. Another 7,000
settlers live in outlying areas.
Since the al-Aqsa Intifada, according to the report, Hebron has
become a flash point of human-rights violations and the trampling
of international law. A leading source of such abuse is the
excessive use of lethal force by Israeli security forces in clashes
with Palestinian demonstrators, many of whom are unarmed and pose
no dire threat to the Israeli security personnel, or anybody else.
Many of the Palestinians who have been killed or hurt by IDF fire
in the vicinity of demonstrators were pedestrians - this fact
conveys a hint that some IDF soldiers have fired indiscriminately
in populated areas.
The report uses the term "unlawful killings" to describe
assassinations of Palestinians suspected in involvement in "acts of
terror." It documents cases in which Palestinians have been shot
and killed under dubious circumstances. The report rejects the
IDF's contention that it bears no obligation to investigate such
incidents of criminal indictments because it is embroiled in a
"state of armed dispute." It notes that Israel's systematic policy
of imposing curfews and closures against Palestinian areas
constitutes a form of "collective punishment" which is prohibited
by international law and humanitarian standards.
Some 30,000 Palestinians who live in Hebron's Israel-controlled
"H2" area have been confined to their homes by a near-permanent,
round-the-clock curfew. This drastic restriction applies only to
Palestinian residents; Israeli settlers in the H2 area are allowed
to move freely at all times. In some cases, the closure and curfews
make it easier for settlers to perpetrate attacks against
Palestinians, the report claims.
By and large, the same 21,000 pupils who live in the H2 region have
been unable to attend classes because their schools have been shut
down by closures and curfews. Scores of Palestinian breadwinners in
this Hebron area have lost their jobs. Medical personnel are unable
to do their work; health care is delayed; ambulances are stopped en
route, dodging gunfire shot by Israeli security forces. Soldiers
have beaten up the drivers, deflated the tires of their cars, or
fired shots in their general direction.
Describing attacks carried out by settlers against Palestinians in
the Hebron area, the report suggests that the IDF serves as a kind
of shield for the aggressive Jewish civilians. "It is clear that
the majority of physical attacks are initiated by Israeli settlers,
and that the IDF has consistently failed in their obligation to
protect Palestinian civilians from attacks by Israeli settlers. In
effect, settlers are using the protection provided by the IDF to
attack Palestinian civilians."
Settlers have routinely attacked the Palestinian vegetable market
in Hebron's old city, damaging produce in the market, toppling
vendors' stalls and also vandalizing and attacking a large number
of Palestinian homes in the old city. Settlers have also accosted
numerous humanitarian and human-rights workers, Palestinian
journalists, and international observers.
The authors of the report regret that, since October 2,000, Jewish
settlers in the Hebron area have been forced to live with gunfire
shot by armed Palestinians as "a matter of routine." Examples of
such Palestinian aggression noted in the report include the
sniper-fire killing of ten-month old Shalhevet Pass, and the
wounding of her father, Yitzhak Pass. Fatah members are responsible
for a share of the gunfire attacks against settlers, the report
Though Jewish settlements, the report claims, violate international
law, attacks against unarmed settler civilians, including children,
are morally and legally reprehensible. In this section pertaining
to settler issues, and other parts of the report, the authors find
that IDF responses enacted ostensibly to protect Jewish citizens
are often excessive. The authors add that "on many occasions, it
appears that IDF soldiers have responded with widespread gunfire
into civilian neighborhoods, hitting dozens of homes at a time. The
apparently untargeted nature of IDF gunfire and its civilian toll
raise serious concerns that the IDF is firing indiscriminately in
violation of international humanitarian law standards."
Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North
Africa branch of the Human Rights Watch, sees Hebron as "a
microcosm of the devastating effect of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict on civilians." The report calls on the international
community to "urge the United Nations Security Council to establish
immediately a permanent international presence in the West Bank and
Gaza to monitor publicly and regularly on the compliance by all
parties with international human rights and humanitarian law
Based on material published in Ha'aretz, 12.4.01.