Jenin: War Crimes, International Law, and Durable Solutions for Refugees (Issue No.14, Summer 2002)

Jenin: War Crimes, International Law, and Durable Solutions for Refugees (Issue No.14, Summer 2002)


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Issue No. 14 of al-Majdal covers the period of April through June 2002. It focuses on Israel’s March/April military assault and, in particular, Israel’s violation of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes, in the occupied Palestinian territories. Special attention is given to the massive military assault on Jenin refugee camp. As al-Majdal notes, “The durability of any future political process between Israel and the PLO will depend, in large part, upon the willingness of the international community to uphold international law. This includes prosecution of those responsible for past and future violations and serious breaches of international law.” In addition, the issue includes a special report on a June study tour by 13 Palestinian refugee activists from the Middle East and Europe to Bosnia to investigate the process of return and housing and property restitution.

Jenin: War Crimes, International Law,and Durable Solutions for Refugees

Jenin. Israel's brutal military assault on the second largest refugee camp in the Israeli occupied West Bank in April 2002 and the response of the international community symbolized in simple but fundamental terms all that is wrong with international 'peacemaking' in the Middle East. For nearly two weeks Israeli military forces relentlessly pounded Jenin refugee camp and its 14,000 residents from the air and the ground. Following the ambush of 13 Israeli soldiers in the camp on 9 April, Israel stepped up its military assault. Some 3,000 refugees, mostly women, children and the elderly fled the camp, in search of refuge in the city of Jenin and outlying villages. 
 Armored bulldozers indiscriminately demolished refugee shelters as military forces pushed deeper inside the refugee camp. By the time the military assault ended on 11 April it was estimated that more than 50 Palestinians had been killed. Around 10 percent of the camp, including hundreds of refugee shelters had been completely leveled. Visiting the camp shortly after the withdrawal of Israeli forces, local and international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), soon uncovered evidence of serious breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law, including war crimes.

This included failure to give civilians enough warning time to evacuate the camp before American-made Apache helicopters launched their first attacks; failure to protect civilians in the camp who are protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention; allegations of extra-judicial executions; failure to allow humanitarian assistance to refugees trapped in the camp; denial of medical assistance to wounded and deliberate targeting of ambulances; excessive use of lethal force and using civilians as 'human shields'; and, extensive damage to property with no apparent military necessity. (AI Press Release, MDE, 15/058/2002) Amid mounting international pressure, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1405, 19 April 2002, calling for an international investigation into the events in the camp.


The Security Council decision to investigate allegations of serious breaches of international law in Jenin and the occupied territories represented an opportunity for the international community to break with the past. Since its inception, the primary shortcoming of the Oslo process, both in content and implementation, and the reason for its collapse has been the failure to uphold human rights and humanitarian norms, including the right of refugees to return to their homes of origin. (Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the OPT, UN Doc. E/CN.4/S-5/3, 17 October 2000) Unlike most peace agreements, including those signed between Israel and its neighbors Egypt and Jordan, the Oslo Accords stipulated that relations between Israel and the Palestinians would be conducted on the basis of an agreed upon political process rather than international law and the Charter of the United Nations.

UPDATE:Campaign for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights

Community and International Mobilization
Nakba Day 2002:

Nakba memorials of the Palestinian community in Israel start traditionally on the day Israel celebrates its independence day according to the Hebrew calendar. On 17 April 2002, Palestinians inside Israel organized collective visits to several depopulated Palestinian villages, among them Suhmata (Upper Galilee), Miska (Southern Triangle), and Umm al-Zeinat (in the Carmel Mountain). Around 7,000 people participated in the fifth Al-Awda (Return) March from the Acre-Safad intersection to the depopulated village of al-Birwa (near Acre). Participants raised the names of the destroyed Palestinian villages and banners demanding the right of return for internally displaced Palestinians and refugees in exile. Other slogans called for the end of Israel's military occupation and Sharon's war crimes committed against Palestinian towns and refugee camps.

Lobbying the UN and International Community

Refugees Invite US Secretary of State to Visit Jenin Refugee Camp: Following Israel's massive assault on the Jenin refugee camp in April refugee women and children from the camp issued a public invitation to US Secretary of State Colin Powell to visit the camp and see the destruction. The invitation was published in al-Quds newspaper in Jerusalem and distributed to all representatives of foreign diplomatic missions and international organizations in Israel/Palestine. Sanctions/Boycott Campaign Update : The grassroots campaign for a boycott of Israeli products continues to pick up support around the world, especially after the brutal military assault on Jenin refugee camp and throughout the 1967 occupied territories in April 2002. Solidarity committees in Europe have produced and disseminated flyers about the boycott in supermarkets and report that, in general, public response is positive.

War Crimes

International Criminal Court (ICC):
On 1 July 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC), located in The Hague, Netherlands, will officially come into force following ratification by more than 60 states. The ICC will be a permanent international tribunal that will try individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The ICC will have jurisdiction over crimes committed by the nationals of governments that ratify the treaty, or in the territories of governments that ratify.

Refugee Protection

There were no improvements in protection for Palestinian refugees during the second quarter of 2002. The absence of an international mechanism with a recognized mandate to provide protection for Palestinian refugees continues to have a negative impact on refugees in all areas of exile. The severity of the situation in the 1967 occupied territories where the lack of international protection is compounded by Israel's ongoing illegal military occupation understandably tends to detract from the broader systemic problems concerning protection. The latter issues will be addressed in more detail in the September issue of al-Majdal.

UN and International Protection

There were no major improvements in addressing the problem of international protection for Palestinians in the 1967 occupied territories, in general, and the specific protection gap for Palestinian refugees, in particular, during the second quarter of 2002. Not one single recommendation submitted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Commission on Human Rights Special Commission of Inquiry, and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Territories since the beginning of the al- Aqsa intifada has been implemented.

Right of Return

1967 Refugees - 35 Years of Exile: June 2002 marked the 35th anniversary of the second major wave of mass displacement in Palestine. During the 1967 Israeli-Arab war more than 400,000 Palestinians were displaced, half of whom were 1948 refugees displaced for a second time in less than two decades. As in 1948, it is estimated that the majority of the refugees were displaced due to Israeli military assault and expulsion.

Real Property Restitution

International Proposal Negates Right of Refugees to Real Property Restitution: A new framework proposal for an imposed solution to the historic conflict in the Middle East (See, 'Right of Return' above) seeks to negate the right of Palestinian refugees to real property restitution. The proposal argues that because Palestinian refugee homes and villages no longer exist or are now inhabited by Jews real property restitution is no longer an option for Palestinian refugees.

A Palestinian Refugee Fact-Finding Visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina: Learning about Return

Between 10-17 June 2002, with the escalation of Israeli military operations against Palestinians in the 1967 occupied territories, Badil Resource Center led a Palestinian fact-finding delegation to Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) to enable Palestinian refugees to study the Bosnian refugee case, including suitable mechanisms to facilitate the return of refugees and displaced persons, international involvement in BiH, and the remaining obstacles that discourage or block the return process

In Memoriam

List of 546 Palestinian victims of Israeli violence between 1 March and 13 June 2002. In total 83 were aged 18 and under. In total 361 Palestinians were killed between 1 April and 30 June 2002. 50 of those killed were age 18 and under. Between 29 September and 26 March 2002, 1653 Palestinians, including 16 inside Israel, have been killed byIsraeli security forces.
Between 29 September 2000 and 25 June 2002, 310 Israeli civilians were killed and 167 members of the Israeli security forces.
For the names of Palestinians killed between 29 September 2000 and 28 February 2002 see al-Majdal, Issues Nos. 7-13.

Refugee Assistance

Israel's military campaign to suppress the al-Aqsa intifada continues to exact a heavy demand on UNRWA services. Heavy damage to refugee shelters and camp infrastructure along with damage to UNRWA installations has required two additional emergency appeals to international donors during the past three months in addition to the Agency's regular budget and emergency appeal for 2002.

Refugee Voices

Phone Interview with Ali Ass'ad Amin Damaj ("Abu Ass'ad"), Member of the Residents' Emergency Committee, Jenin Refugee Camp, 20 and 21 April
The interview was conducted on two separate days, because of a shortage of batteries for cellular phones on the first day). Excerpts

Can you describe your current location in the camp?
We are a group of 50 people at the home of Afif Hussein Sarhan ("Abu Hussein"). His house is located in the Damaj quarter, a neighborhood in the eastern part of the Jenin refugee camp, 200 meters above the government hospital. Abu Hussein's household is usually composed of 13 family members, Abu Hussein, his wife Khitam, their 10 children aged 6 - 22, and his mother. My own house is only 6 meters away, we are neighbors. I am a refugee originating from the Khalissa neighborhood in Haifa, and Abu Hussein's family comes from the village of al-Mansi, also in the district of Haifa.

BADIL Resources

BADIL Information Packet (3rd Edition) - Includes Right of Return, Campaign for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights
Brochure, Palestinian Refugees in Exile Country Profiles, and BADIL Information & Discussion Briefs. (English & Arabic)
The Packet is also available on the BADIL website.
BADIL SPECIAL REPORT: Israel's March-April Military Campaign in the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territories and the
Destruction of the Oslo Framework. International Law, Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, and a Comprehensive and Durable Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - An Agenda for Action. BADIL Resource Center, 15 April 2002 (22 pages)
Report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural
Rights, 25th Session, 23 April 2001, General Item: Follow-Up
Procedure (Israel). (English and Arabic), 28 pages


Statement issued by the Popular Committees in the Palestinian Refugee Camps - West Bank, 26 April 2002:
To Our Steadfast People, To Our People Rooted in the Land of Palestine, Jenin al-Qassam, the site of the massacre, heralds the voice of Palestinian sacrifice and dignity from among the stench of the war crimes committed in this steadfast and heroic camp. In each Palestinian town, village and refugee camp, this voice is carried by our determination to survive, to challenge the policy of genocide, to rise above the dust of destruction and to remain steadfast in pride. Despite the bloody crime and despite the silence of the world, there is no surrender. The people of the Jenin refugee camp have refused to receive the aid sent to them by the US government and its agency USAID.