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Date: Tue, 15 Jul 97 12:43:39 CDT
From: law <lawe@netvision.net.il>
Subject: West Bank: Violence Escalates


The return of the iron fist policy: Israeli military escalates aggression against Palestinian civilians

From the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment
14 July 1997

The cities of Bethlehem and Hebron have been targeted by the Israeli military for the return of the brutal military Iron Fist policy, once condemned worldwide.

In Bethlehem, the situation is becoming increasingly unstable. Daily clashes, which began a week ago, have resulted in dozens wounded and contributed to an already very tense situation. In the past several days, undercover Israeli units infiltrated the Palestinian-controlled Area A in Bethlehem and kidnapped civilians and members of the Palestinian Authority, adding to the climate of terror and instability. In addition a LAW field researcher obtained the affidavit of one civilian, Mohammed Ali Mohammed Salah, 21 years-old from el Khader village near Bethlehem, who was taken from his taxi by Israeli soldiers on July 9, brutally beaten and his legs broken.

In Hebron, violence is escalating as a result of these Iron Fist tactics. In the past three days, the Israeli army sealed the section of Hebron still under Israeli military occupation (zone H-2), home to about 20,000 Palestinians and 400 Jewish settlers and, forced Palestinian merchants to close their stores. In addition, Israeli soldiers entered the Palestinian autonomous area of Hebron (zone H-1) disguised as Arabs, and arrested demonstrators.

In an alarming development, the Foreign Press Association charged the Israeli army with deliberately targeting journalists during the demonstrations. On 13 July, five journalists were among the 15 Palestinians wounded by plastic-covered metal bullets. One journalist was shot in the head. The wounded were: Imad Isseid from APTV, Mazen Dana from Reuters, Amer Jabari from ABC, and Diya Juabi, from Abu Dhabi television. All of them are veteran journalists well-known to the soldiers in the area.

These recent events are terrorizing the local population and pushing the area closer to all-out confrontation. LAW believes that the Israeli government's purpose in escalating tensions emanates from its larger objective to maintain permanent military control over the Palestinians and prevent the emergence of a Palestinian state. Recent announcements by the Israelis regarding further settlement expansion, the house demolition in Silwan last Sunday, and the decision to allow Noam Friedman, the Israeli soldier who opened fire on Hebron residents in January, to go home every weekend and attend classes twice a week, reinforces anger and resentment of the Palestinians and highlights the double-standard of the Israeli government.

LAW condemns in the strongest possible terms the increasing violence and terrorism inflicted on the Palestinian populations of Bethlehem and Hebron, and calls for an end to the re-emergence of the iron fist policy. These most recent actions violate both international agreements and the Oslo Accords, and places the Israeli government directly responsible for the deteriorating situation in the area.