Occupied Palestine – The Israeli Shelling: Illegal and Morally Reprehensible
Urgent Call for International Protection Force

News release by AL-HAQ, P.O. Box 1413, Ramallah, Palestine, Tel: +972 2 295 4646, Fax: +972 2 295 4903,
haq@alhaq.org, Website: www.alhaq.org

Ramallah (Palestine), 26 February 2001

Since the eruption of the Palestinian Intifada Israeli forces have shelled many civilian Palestinian areas on a nightly basis killing and injuring numerous Palestinians and destroying their property. Indiscriminately fired Israeli shells make no distinction between civilian homes and facilities and military targets. Over the last five months al-Haq has been carefully following and documenting these developments.  After intensive bombing campaigns during the first few months of the Intifada, Israeli forces, under intense international pressure, began to limit their use of tanks and helicopters in strikes against Palestinian targets during January. Unfortunately, this reprieve proved to be only temporary.  During the last several weeks, Israeli missiles have once again begun to rain down on Palestinian civilian areas.  What follows is a case study of one of these attacks based on information gathered by al-Haq’s fieldworkers.

The National School for Blind Girls in al-Bireh came under fire from Israeli tanks and heavy weaponry on 20 February 2001.  The school was shelled for more than three hours causing extensive damage to the building.  However, of greater significance is the psychological impact that the shelling had on the disabled children in the school. "The crime is doubled when it is committed against disabled children who can hear the sound of the explosions, but can not see what is happening around them. We do not know what to do now in order to protect the children," said the school’s headmaster Mr. Hayyan al-Idrisi.

The National School for Blind Girls was established in 1978 under the initiative of the Friends of the Blind Association in Palestine with the objective of providing education for children whose parents cannot afford the expense of educating their disabled child.  The school works hard to integrate the students into the wider Palestinian society in an attempt to provide them with the same opportunities given to students without disabilities. It currently serves 75 blind female students aged 4-18 and is primarily dependent upon charitable donations given by local community members. The school provides educational, artistic, and counseling services for its students. It doubles as a home for many of the students who board there. Teachers treat students with motherly affection and the students feel safe while they are at the school.  Both students and their teachers believed that the school was a safe location in which the students could receive a good education. Unfortunately, the Israeli shelling changed this belief causing many students and staff to feel worried and on edge.

Ten-year-old Isra’ Ziedan told of the shelling as follows: "I was awakened by the sounds of shelling. I began crying and woke up the rest of the children to escape. None of the children could move out of fear. Our teacher came and asked us to move to the staircase, as it is the safest place in the building. All of the students rushed to the staircase and, as they cannot see, many fell down out of panic and fear. After I left my room I started looking for my brother who attends the school with me, but I could not find him. Our teacher then asked us to pray for the shelling to stop and to ask God to protect us. Ulfat, who is only 4, would not stop crying until our teacher Suhier came and hugged her." Ulfat said that at first she tried to calm down other children, but being only a child herself she was also scared of the shelling and needed someone to comfort her.  After a short time she said that she could not contain her fear and began to cry. Her teacher said that she cried throughout the rest of the shelling, which lasted for three hours.

The Israeli authorities often talk about "purity of arms", but then defile this "purity" when they use force indiscriminately against civilian targets, including innocent disabled children. In so doing the Israeli forces have violated international treaties and norms related to the rights of children, and all commonly held ethical standards.

For years al-Haq has repeatedly warned the international community about the consequences of Israel’s continuous violations of International Humanitarian Law and Palestinian civilians’ human rights.  We would now like to express deep concern regarding these most recent developments and Israel’s continued grave violations in the Occupied Territories.  Local and international human rights organizations have repeatedly called upon the United Nations Security Council to provide a protection force for the Palestinian people. Unfortunately their requests have fallen upon deaf ears and no action has been taken.  In order to stop the Israeli authorities from continuing their illegal campaign, which has instilled terror in the local Palestinian population, al-Haq now calls upon the international community to place pressure upon the members of the Security Council to take immediate action. To wait will only serve Israel’s goal of terrorizing the Palestinian people and will lead to an increased number of human rights violations.  The Palestinian people both deserve and require the assistance and protection of the international community.

END/Occupied Palestine – The Israeli Shelling: Illegal and Morally Reprehensible/2001-02-26/17065c-is