In a Dark Hour

The Use Of Civilians During IDF Arrest Operations

[1] The case of Dubai Television journalist Maher Shalabi in Ramallah on March 30, 2002. Reported in CNN Saturday, "Israeli Ground Tactics for Occupation of Arafat Headquarters," 12:00 p.m., March 31, 2002.

[2] LAW, "Israeli forces surround house of LAW's Director Khader Shkirat," press release, March 7, 2002; Physicians for Human Rights Israel, "Palestinian Civilians Held Hostage by Israeli Army in Nablus," press release, February 21, 2002; B'Tselem, "Human Shields in Beit Jala," press release, Sepember 5, 2001. On the use of civilian buildings during military operations, see UNRWA, "Director of UNRWA Operations in West Bank Expresses Deep Concern at the Use of the United Nations School in Tulkarem to Detain Palestinians," press release, March 9, 2002.

[3] Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Aug. 12, 1949, Art. 2, 6 UST 3516, TIAS No.3365, 75 UNTS 287 [hereinafter Geneva Convention IV].

[4] Human Rights Watch, "Investigation into the Unlawful Use of Force in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Northern Israel; October 4 through October 11, 2000," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 12, no. 3 (E), October 2000; Human Rights Watch, Center of the Storm: A Case Study of Human Rights Abuses in Hebron District, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2001).

[5] Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations have strongly criticized the "liquidations" policy.  See Human Rights Watch, "End 'Liquidations' of Palestinian Suspects," press release, January 29, 2001. Human Rights Watch has previously documented a pattern of unjustified killings of "wanted" Palestinians in Human Rights Watch, A License to Kill (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1993).

[6] Human Rights Watch, "Justice Undermined: Balancing Security and Human Rights in the Palestinian Justice System," A  Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 13, no. 4 (E).

[7] Israeli authorities have said they were obliged to undertake these raids because the Palestinian Authority (PA) had failed to arrest such individuals, despite numerous requests to do so. Procedures for the arrest and transfer of individuals between the PA and Israel are set out in Annex IV of the Israel-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Human Rights Watch was unable to confirm whether the Israeli lists of "wanted" Palestinians conformed to the procedures laid out in the Oslo Agreement.  The PA's responsibility for "internal security and public order" in the areas under its authority is set out in Article XIII of the Agreement.

[8] Briefing by Director of IDF Military Intelligence Major-General Amos Malka, October 25, 2001.

[9] Human Rights Watch, "Justice Undermined." At least ten alleged collaborators were killed in street killings in the West Bank in March 2002.

[10] Of the some 161 persons detained in the incidents documented in this report, 133 were released shortly after arrest and twenty-eight were transferred to Israel. Human Rights Watch was only able to locate four instances in which individuals arrested during the raids investigated in this report had been put on trial by mid-February 2002.

[11]  For example, an incursion into Nablus on January 21, 2002 that included the "liquidation" of four alleged Hamas members. See Mohammed Daraghmeh, "Four Islamic Militants Die in Raid," Associated Press, January 22, 2002.  Human Rights Watch has previously criticized this policy as one of killing without public accountability, often carried out in circumstances where arrest would have been possible.

[12] Human Rights Watch initially requested a meeting in writing via facsimile to the IDF Spokesperson's Office on January 28, 2002. Following the receipt of the fax, Human Rights Watch called the IDF Spokesperson's more than fifteen times over a three week period, but did not receive an appointment.

[13]Geneva Convention IV, Article 27.

[14]International Committee of the Red Cross, Commentary on the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949: IV Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, p. 204 (Jean S. Pictet, ed., 1958) [hereinafter ICRC, Commentary IV].

[15] Ibid.

[16] ICRC, Commentary IV, p. 219-220.

[17] Geneva Convention IV, Article 33.

[18] ICRC, Commentary IV, p. 225.

[19]"Such measures may take different forms, such as a curfew preventing the inhabitants from fulfilling their daily duties, punishment or detention of several members of a group or family for an alleged offense by one member, or the destruction of the house belonging to the family of an alleged offender." From Dieter Fleck, ed., The Handbook of Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflict, p. 249.

[20] For previous Human Rights Watch discussion of this issue, see Human Rights Watch, Center of the Storm, p. 17-37.

[21]Declaration from the Conference of High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, December 4, 2001.

[22] See ICRC, Commentary on Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), p. 615 (Y. Sandoz et al., eds., 1987) [hereinafter ICRC, Commentary on Protocol I].

[23] Dieter Fleck, ed., The Handbook of Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflicts (New York: Oxford University Press New York, 1995), p. 218.

[24] ICRC Commentary IV, p.296.

[25] Ibid.

[26] For example, as Article 77 of Additional Protocol I specifies, "Children shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected against any form of indecent assault. The parties to the conflict shall provide them with the care and aid they require, whether because of their age or for any other reason."  Israel is not a party to Additional Protocol I.

[27] U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, opened for signature Jan. 26, 1990, G.A. Res. 44/25, U.N. GAOR 61st plen. mtg. at 166, U.N. Doc. A/44/736 (1989), reprinted in 28 I.L.M. 1448 (1989) with corrections at 29 I.L.M. 1340 (1990) (entered into force Sept. 2, 1990).

[28] Human Rights Watch, "Israel's Proposed Imprisonment of Combatants Not Entitled to Prisoner of War Status Law," background briefing, June 2000.

[29] ICRC, Commentary IV, p. 230.

[30]  The raid followed the assassination in Jerusalem of Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi on October 18, 2001.  For successive briefings by the IDF Spokesperson on the operation in Beit Rima see

[31] Human Rights Watch interview, Mahmud Yusuf Suliman 'Ali Ahmad, National Security Forces, Deir Ghassane, February 1, 2002.

[32] Human Rights Watch interviews, Beit Rima, January 29 to February 2, 2002; Human Rights Watch interview, Ramallah, February 10, 2002.

[33] Human Rights Watch interview, Mahmud Yusuf Suliman 'Ali Ahmad.

[34] The names of children given in this report are pseudonyms. All names and other information are held on file at Human Rights Watch.  Human Rights Watch interview, Yusuf A., January 29, 2002.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Human Rights Watch interview, 'Alia 'Abd al-Jabbar Hajjaj, Beit Rima, February 1, 2002.

[37] Collective punishment is forbidden under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israeli house demolitions in the Gaza Strip received wide publicity in January 2002. For a current overview of the Israeli policy of punitive house demolitions, see Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Israeli Land Sweeping and Demolition of Palestinian Houses and Civilian Property in the Gaza Strip September 2000 - September 2001, PCHR Gaza, 2001; B'Tselem, Israel's Policy of House Demolitions and Destruction of Agricultural Land in the Gaza Strip, February 2002.

[38] Hanna al-Barghouti told Human Rights Watch that her son was subsequently arrested by PA security forces on November 8, 2001, and was in custody at the time of interview of February 2, 2002. Human Rights Watch interview, Hanna Nimr Ahmad al-Barghouti, Beit Rima, February 2, 2002.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Other locations raided that evening were al-Sirra al-Shamaliyya, near Nablus; Dura, near Hebron; and Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza.  Excerpt from IDF Spokesperson's announcements, December 14, 2001: "... IDF forces operated in the Salfit region south of Ariel, from where murderous terror attacks originated against Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers. During the activity in Salfit our forces came upon several armed Palestinians who came out of targets for detention. Our forces stormed the terrorists and killed them; In all, five armed Palestinians were killed, and over 20 wanted were detained, some for investigation and some for carrying out shooting attacks against the Israeli population in the area."

[41] Human Rights Watch interview, Col. Kamal Qaddoumi Salfit, February 4, 2002; Human Rights Watch interview, Nazmi Abu Dalal, Military Intelligence Service, Salfit, February 4, 2002.

[42] Human Rights Watch obtained consistent eyewitnesses testimony alleging that IDF personnel shot and killed Muhammad 'Abd al-Ashur and Diya Nabil Mahmud Ibdah after the two men had surrendered to IDF forces.  Human Rights Watch wrote to the Israeli Minister for Defense on March 29, 2002 to request an investigation into the deaths of 'Abd al-Ashur and Ibdah.

[43] Human Rights Watch interview, city engineer, Salfit, February 3, 2002.

[44] Ibid.; Human Rights Watch interview, Fathi Sha'aban Herzallah Isleem, Salfit, February 4, 2002; and Human Rights Watch interview, 'Arifa Yassin Zayn Muhammad Isleem, Salfit, February 4, 2002. Human Rights Watch counted nineteen bullet holes in the walls and windows, including one that entered directly above the mattress where 'Arifa's daughter Juweida (thirteen) slept. Cups, plates, cupboards, couches, curtains, mattresses, windows, and window frames were all destroyed. Bullet fragments hit 'Arifa on the scalp and upper spine, the scars still visible ten weeks later.

[45] Human Rights Watch interview, Amal 'Abd al-Qadir Beni Nimr, Salfit, February 3, 2002.

[46] On reciprocal obligations see Fleck, Handbook of Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflict, p. 218.

[47] Human Rights Watch interview, Mahmud 'Ali Ahmad Maraita, Salfit, February 4, 2002.

[48] Fatah is the political organization affiliated with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. A Fatah-related armed group, the al-Aqsa Brigades, carried out at least thirteen attacks on Israeli military targets and civilians between January 1 and March 30, 2002.

[49] Human Rights  Watch interview,  Rima Kamal Hassan, Salfit, February 4, 2002.

[50] Human Rights Watch interview, Safieh Muhammad 'Abd al-Karim, Salfit, February 3, 2002.

[51] "The city of Tul Karem is used as a focal point for dispatching terrorist attacks, and within the city there are many terrorist infrastructures and terrorists. This city produced a large number of terror attacks that cost the lives of many Israelis." From "I.D.F. Activity in Tul Karem Last Night," IDF Spokesperson's announcements, January 21, 2002,

[52] Human  Rights Watch interview, Mayor of Tulkarem, Engineer Mohammad al-Jallad, February 3, 2002.

[53] Human Rights Watch interview, 'Ali Tawfiq al-Shurati, Tulkarem, February 5, 2002.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview, name and address withheld by request, Tulkarem, February 5, 2002.

[55] I.e. the Palestinian Legislative Council.

[56] Human Rights Watch interview, Fu'ad Sadiq al-Ahli, Tulkarem, February 5, 2002.

[57] Mahmud S., a fifteen-year-old, was shot running to his uncle's house; the third person injured was Ahmad al-Yas 'Aysh, whose case is described in the following paragraphs.

[58] Described by the IDF spokesperson as a "prominent Islamic Gihad activist,"Omar 'Aysh was taken to the Moscobiyya compound in Jerusalem. 'Aysh was held in incommunicado detention during his interrogation period, which was extended on February 4 for an additional eighteen days. 'Aysh's lawyer was not permitted to visit her client during this period, nor to know the charges on which he was being. All evidence and charges against him are secret. Human Rights Watch interview, Allegra Pacheco, Bethlehem, February 9, 2002.

[59] Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld by request, Artas, February 9, 2002.

[60] Human Rights Watch interview, Ahmad al-Yas Khalil 'Aysh, Bethlehem, February 2, 2002; Human Rights Watch interview, 'Adila Ahmad 'Oda, Artas, February 7, 2002.

[61] Interview, Ahmad al-Yas Khalil 'Aysh, Bethlehem, February 2, 2002.

[62]  Human Rights Watch interview, Fatin Mahmud Khalawi, Artas, February 9, 2002.

[63]  Human Rights Watch interview, Sana Shahida Salah Salahat, Bethlehem, February 9, 2002.

[64] Human Rights Watch interview, Salman Daoud Salman Ibrahim, February 9, 2002.