Thursday, May 04, 2006
An open letter to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz
Dear Minister Mofaz,
This morning I read with alarming concern about the death of yet another Palestinian innocent bystander killed by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). I know that the term “Israeli Occupation Force” does not put you at ease Sir, and I understand that you would rather use the term Israeli Defense Force but let us be realistic; After almost 40 years of occupying Palestinian land and moving Israeli citizens into said occupied land, which is a clear violation of The Fourth Geneva Convention which your country is a signatory, then the term occupation force applies.
Anyway, I am sorry for my digression. As I mentioned above, I am quite alarmed about the killing of Itaf Yusuf, a mother of five who lived in The Northern West Bank town of Tulkarim.
Minister Mofaz, are you aware that this woman, 45, was shot in the head by your forces in her own home?
In addition, the woman’s two daughters, aged 22 and 20, were present when your troops opened fire as they surrounded a house in pursuit of a “wanted” resistance fighter.
More troubling to me is the fact that the Yusuf’s husband, Ahmad Zalat, reported to an AlJazeera reporter: “We were sitting on the floor in our sitting room. Suddenly we heard heavy gunshots, we were terrified and moved to take shelter.
“Amid the chaos, my daughter was hit by a bullet in the leg and my wife was shot dead in the head.”
Adding to the Zalat’s anguish, the troops that were in the town would not allow an ambulance to reach the woman. Sir, I know that in times of conflict you have to take great care of your soldiers, but international law demands that you also protect civilians regardless of what side they are on.
From what I understand the Zalat stated that; “They ordered the driver to stop 200m away from our building, and did not allow medics to carry my wife and daughters on the stretchers.”
Eventually Zalat had to carry his family, with the help of neighbors to the ambulance but by then it was too late and they could not save his wife’s life. In addition, his daughter sustained a severe leg injury.
If this had been an isolated incident, Sir I could see not making such a big issue of it. But it concerns me for several reasons.
As you may or may not know, I lived in Palestine for three years in the Old City of Hebron. Raids, firefights in populated civilian areas, and destruction of property were quite common throughout my time there.
In fact, I recall a time in the summer of 2004 when the IOF blew up a suspected house of a resistance fighter destroying not only his family’s home, but also several homes in the surrounding area. By they way, they never did find the man and it turned out the house they blew up was indeed his family’s but he had not lived there in over ten years!
To my knowledge his mother, father and siblings are still homeless to this day.
As for your troop’s defense involving the fatal shooting of Itaf Yusuf, an IOF spokesman told AFP; “shooting broke out when a top official of Islamic Jihad in Tulkarim resisted arrest.
The soldiers opened fire after having noticed suspicious movements around the house. Before that they had been calling on the Palestinian militant to hand himself over for one and a half hours and fired warning shots in the air.”
However well you might feel that your troops took the necessary precautions to ward off harm to civilians, I still have a pressing question why fire into a civilian populated neighborhood where quite a number of women and children reside? Why not wait out the fighter and seal off the area? Wouldn’t this be more prudent rather than exposing your men, women and innocent Palestinians to increased danger?
I am by no means a military expert, but it appears that injury and death of the Palestinian civilian population continues to rise.
B’Tselem an Israeli human rights organization has consistently condemned both the actions of the IOF and Palestinian resistance fighters on civilian targets. However, the overwhelming majority of innocent casualties have come as a result of IOF aggression.
Sir, it seems that the IOF has stepped up its use of deadly force on innocent civilians. I am appealing to you to live up to the international standard of decency for those in your care.
No amount of “defense can justify the killing of an innocent mother of five. I hope you will truly look into this matter, rather than wipe it away like the many injuries and deaths before it.
Furthermore, invoking the "Intifada Law" to not allow Palestinian famalies to be compensated for the loss of innocent loved ones as a result of wrongful death at the hands of of the IOF is, to say the least, extremely troubling.
Remember Sir; you are in command of your troops. Or, if you are not, then this problem is doubly troubling and it appears that the entire “Purity of Arms” that the IOF holds itself up to is a farce.