INVESTIGATE EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS OF PALESTINIANS says Saeb Erekat

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SECRETARY General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Saeb Erekat, has requested the United Nations initiates an official investigation into Israeli extrajudicial killings of Palestinians.

This followed a meeting with the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, in the West Bank city of Jericho on Monday. Erekat said that despite the Israeli government announcing an investigation into the brutal execution of Palestinian citizen Abed Al-Fattah Al Sharif in Hebron last Thursday, ‘. . . based on historic facts, the Israeli investigations have yet to serve justice. On the contrary, horrendous crimes, such as the assassination of Rachel Corrie, have been rewarded with impunity.’

He added that 207 cases of Israeli extrajudicial executions of Palestinians, beginning with the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Hadeel Hashlamon on September 13 2015, urgently require an international investigation. These executions are not isolated events and Israel must be held accountable for committing these crimes,’ he stressed.

During the meeting, Erekat raised the issue of collective punishment, including the retention of the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli authorities, home demolitions, forced relocation and exile of Palestinian families of those killed by Israeli troops.

Erekat and Mladenov also discussed Israel’s continuing settlement activities, including the latest plans to build 900 settlement units in the illegal settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev, between Occupied East Jerusalem and Ramallah.

As with all international organisation Palestine has joined or acceded to, including the International Criminal Court, Erekat said, ‘we offer our full support, including furnishing reports and evidence, to Mr Heyns and other relevant UN and international bodies in order to initiate immediate investigations into the current situation and bring justice to the people of Palestine.’

l Israeli authorities on Monday issued administrative detention orders against 27 Palestinian detainees, placing them in prison without charge or trial, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).

Ten of the detainees received administrative detention orders for the first time, whereas the remaining 17 received renewed administrative orders. There are some 500 Palestinian detainees currently being held under administrative detention, a controversial Israeli practice which allows detention of Palestinians without charge or trial for up to six-month intervals that can be renewed indefinitely.

Israeli officials claim the practice is an essential tool in preventing attacks and protecting sensitive intelligence, but it has been strongly criticised by the international community as well as by both Israeli and Palestinian rights groups. According to the Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem, international law stipulates that administrative detention may be exercised only in very exceptional cases.

Multiple human rights groups have accused Israel of using administrative detention regularly as a form of collective punishment and mass detention of Palestinians, and that it frequently uses administrative detention when it fails to obtain confessions in interrogations of Palestinian detainees.

Palestinian detainees have continuously resorted to open-ended hunger strikes as a way to protest their illegal administrative detention and to demand an end to this policy, which violates international law.

• Israeli police raided a chicken slaughterhouse in the Bedouin town of Shaqib al-Salam in the Negev at dawn on Monday and rounded up scores of Palestinians from the West Bank who worked there without permits. One of the workers told Ma’an that around 100 Israeli police officers raided the Oof Ooz slaughterhouse and rounded up more than 100 workers.

They were then taken in buses to an Israeli police station before being sent back to the occupied West Bank. ‘Police officers had very precise information about the place and they inspected every corner where workers could be,’ the witness said, implying that the raid was made based on inside information. An Israeli police spokesman said he was looking into the reports.

Earlier this month, Israeli security forces began a crackdown on undocumented workers, detaining at least 250 Palestinians without work permits on March 10 alone. Large-scale raids against undocumented workers have occurred in the wake of attacks against Israelis committed by Palestinians working in Israel illegally. Palestinians who seek to work in Israel need a special work permit usually granted by the Israeli Civil Administration in coordination with the Israeli Ministry of Labour, but such permits are difficult to obtain.

The Bank of Israel reported in March that the number of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank working in Israel – legally and illegally – has doubled in the past four years. Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers are forced to seek a living by working in Israel as the growth of an independent Palestinian economy has been stifled in the West Bank under the ongoing Israeli military occupation, according to Israeli human rights organisation B”Tselem.

l Israeli forces issued a notification on Monday calling for a Palestinian company to stop building a structure in the village of Idhna near Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank. The structure belongs to Khalid Muhammad al-Batran, who began building it a year ago and said he has not received any demolition notices until now.

Al-Batran said that he was surprised on Monday when he received the demolition notice.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Israeli authority in the Palestinian Territory, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The majority of home demolitions in the occupied West Bank occur in Area C, which is under full Israeli military control. In order for Palestinians to build in Area C, land owners must obtain building permits from the Israeli authorities. Such permits are nearly impossible to obtain for Palestinian, forcing communities to build illegally.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) found that between 2010 and 2014, only 1.5 per cent of 2,020 Palestinian building permit requests submitted were approved. As of mid-February, the number of Palestinians displaced due to Israeli demolitions in 2016 was already equivalent to over half of the total number displaced in all of 2015, a senior UN official said last month.

l Israeli settlers on Monday gathered outside the home of a human rights worker in Hebron to hurl abuse at him, a day after he captured on camera an Israeli soldier killing a wounded Palestinian, which sparked an international outcry. Emad Abu Shamsiya, a staff member with Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, told Ma’an after settlers threatened him: ‘I now fear for my life and the life of my family. I’m afraid they might attack my house and do me harm.’

He added that he fears suffering the same fate as the Dawabsha family, who were killed in an arson attack by settlers last year in the village of Duma in the occupied West Bank. Palestinian residents of Hebron Abd al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif and Ramzi Aziz al-Qasrawi, both 21 years old, were shot down on Thursday after allegedly stabbing and moderately wounding an Israeli soldier near a military checkpoint in Hebron’s Old City.

Shamsiya recorded rare video footage of an Israeli soldier shooting al-Sharif in the head at point-blank range in plain view of the medical team after he had already been shot at least once and left motionless on the ground. The incident has brought a barrage of condemnation from the Israeli leadership and led Israel’s army to detain the soldier responsible and launch an investigation.

The release of the graphic video has called attention to what rights groups, international leaders, and Palestinian officials call a policy of ‘extrajudicial executions’ by Israel against Palestinians, since a wave of unrest swept the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel last October.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said on Friday he strongly condemned the apparent ‘extrajudicial execution’ of al-Sharif. ‘This was a gruesome, immoral, and unjust act that can only fuel more violence and escalate an already volatile situation,’ Mladenov said.

Tel Rumeida – where Shamsiya’s house is located and the site of the Thursday’s incident – has long been a flashpoint for tensions between Palestinians and Israeli settlers and military, and is the location of an illegal Israeli settlement.

Mistreatment of Palestinians in the Hebron area has been common since the city was divided in the 1990s after a US-born settler, Baruch Goldstein, massacred 29 Palestinians inside the Ibrahimi Mosque. The majority of the city was placed under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, while the Old City and surrounding areas were placed under Israeli military control in a sector known as H2.

The area is home to 30,000 Palestinians and around 800 Israeli settlers who live under the protection of Israeli forces. Hebron residents frequently report attacks and harassment by the settlers carried out in the presence of the forces.