AL-HAQ PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
30 May 2007
As a human rights organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq is gravely disturbed by the extrajudicial execution carried out on 29 May 2007, on Ramallah Main Street, near the city centre. A detailed report of the events will be prepared once Al-Haq has carried out further investigations. The information below is based on first hand testimony gathered by Al-Haq staff members in the immediate aftermath of the event.
At approximately 17:00 an Israeli force of about 20 soldiers, including under cover agents disguised as civilians, got out of a truck and a car on the Main Street of Ramallah and killed 22 year-old Omar Mohammed Abd al-Halim. The victim was standing outside Nazareth restaurant with another man. As a member of a Palestinian security force he was carrying a walkie-talkie and a firearm when the Israeli military forces appeared. The soldiers made no attempt to arrest Omar Mohammed Abd al-Halim. As he attempted to escape on foot he was shot in the neck by a uniformed soldier, and fell to the ground. An undercover soldier in civilian clothes then shot approximately six bullets into his body, finally kicking him to make sure that he was dead. A number of civilian bystanders were forced into Nazareth restaurant by the Israeli soldiers. In the meantime Palestinians had gathered and began to throw stones. The Israeli forces, reinforced by approximately ten military jeeps, responded with gunfire, lasting for approximately half an hour, during which eight civilians were injured.
Two Palestinian ambulances, clearly marked with the red crescent emblem, attempted to reach the area to provide medical assistance to the injured, but were ordered at gunpoint to stop by the Israeli forces. When the ambulances tried to proceed the Israeli soldiers opened fire and one of the ambulances was hit in the tyres. Consequently it was immobilised and could not reach the injured.
Al-Haq is deeply concerned at this and other recent extrajudicial executions of Palestinians carried out by Israeli military forces throughout the OPT. Omar Mohammed Abd al-Halim could have been arrested, rather than executed, after being wounded. The practice of targeted assassinations, officially endorsed by the Israeli executive and judicial branches, constitutes an inherent violation of the right to life and the right to a fair trial as enshrined in binding customary and conventional international law. Also, the execution of an injured person amounts to a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Additionally, under customary international humanitarian law, medical personnel exclusively assigned to medical duties must be respected and protected in all circumstances. The term medical personnel clearly includes ambulance services. The attack on the ambulances described above clearly violates this essential rule of international law and constitutes a war crime.
Finally the conduct of the operation by the Israeli forces raises serious concerns as to the disregard for the protection accorded to civilians under international humanitarian law. The operation was carried out at 17:00 in the afternoon, a busy time of day, on a crowded street near the centre of the city. Further, Israeli undercover agents operating within a civilian population increases the risk of casualties.
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