Caterpillar equipment used in extrajudicial killing near Hebron

Press release, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, 29 April 2010

The following press release was issued by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights on 26 April 2010:

On Monday 26 April 2010, Israeli occupation forces killed a Palestinian man, Ali Ismael Ali Swaiti, 45, in Beit Awwa in the West Bank district of Hebron, after demolishing a house while he was inside. Israeli occupation forces claim that Ali Swaiti had been wanted for several years. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns this crime — which constitutes an extrajudicial execution — and calls upon the international community to work towards bringing to trial those Israeli politicians and commanders suspected of committing war crimes.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR and eyewitness testimony, Israeli occupation forces entered Beit Awwa town in the far south of Hebron at approximately 3:00am on Monday 26 April 2010, supported by military armored vehicles, a bulldozer and a Caterpillar digging vehicle. Israeli forces surrounded the house in which Ali Swaiti was located, using sound bombs. The home belongs to Mahmoud Abdul Aziz Swaiti and is located in Khellet al-Foulah, in the north of the town. During the operation, Israeli soldiers broke into numerous other houses in the area and turned them into observation points and firing posts.

After some minutes, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) evacuated at gunpoint the family living in the targeted one-story house as well as a family living in another two-story house, which belongs to the family of Ahmed Abdul Aziz Swaiti. The two families were detained outdoors for some time before they were taken to an adjacent house belonging to Abdul Jalil Swaiti. They were detained there with other families, all of whom were interrogated regarding the whereabouts of the targeted person.

At approximately 5:40am, an Israeli bulldozer began to destroy the fences surrounding the targeted house. It progressed towards the house and started to demolish it, but it retreated as it was fired at from inside the house. Israeli forces stationed in the neighboring houses opened fire at the house for 15 minutes from all sides before an explosion took place inside the house. Residents of the area reported that the explosion resulted from the shelling of the house.

At approximately 6:00am, the Caterpillar vehicle began to drive into and destroy the fences of the targeted house. After that, a digging vehicle continued demolishing the house, and then retreated to allow the renewed advance of the bulldozer and the search for the body of Swaiti.

At approximately 7:00am, the bulldozer lifted the body of Swaiti out of the rubble and dropped it onto a road close to the demolished house before moving it another 10 meters away. At approximately 7:30am, an Israeli soldier fired at least two shots at the body of Swaiti from a distance of three meters. At approximately 8:00am, Israeli occupation forces left the homes in which they had taken position.

In the meantime, Palestinian civilians had left their homes and many of them hurried towards the area of the attack. They carried Swaiti’s body to take it indoors. However, some people clashed with Israeli forces as they withdrew. Israeli occupation forces fired at those people using rubber-coated metal bullets, wounding five Palestinians including a boy and a young woman. The wounded are as follows:

1. Mohammed Mahmoud Masalmah, 23, wounded by a bullet to the head;
2. Baha Mohammed Akimi al-Amareen, 20, wounded by two bullets to the legs;
3. Hussein Yusuf Swaiti, 18, wounded by a bullet to the leg;
4. Hammam Ismael Masalmah, 17, wounded by two bullets to the legs; and
5. Asma Murshed Swaiti, 19, wounded by a bullet to the right shoulder.

The IOF spokesperson said that Swaiti had been wanted by the Israeli Security Service for eight years, as he was held responsible for carrying out a number of shooting attacks against Israeli targets near Hebron, including opening fire near the Ethna-Tarqumiya intersection on 26 April 2004, i.e. exactly six years prior to yesterday’s killing of Swaiti. The said attack resulted in the death of an Israeli soldier and the injury of two others.

PCHR reiterates its condemnation of such acts and:

1. Confirms that this act constitutes part of a pattern of Israeli war crimes perpetrated in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), which reflect Israeli occupation forces disregard for the lives of Palestinians and for the requirements of international law.

2. Reiterates its condemnation of the illegal policy of extrajudicial executions carried out by IOF against Palestinian activists. It also confirms that this policy raises tension in the area and increases the likelihood of civilian victims among the Palestinian population.

3. Calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop these crimes which constitute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

4. Calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their obligations under Article 1 of the Convention to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances, and their obligation under Article 146 to search for and prosecute those responsible for committing grave breaches of the Convention. PCHR also calls on the High Contracting Parties to uphold their responsibilities as signatories to the protocol Additional to the Convention, such as breaches, which constitute war crimes according to Article 147 of the convention.

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