Cataloging (Some of) Israel’s War Crimes

The Israeli invasion of the West Bank has been an evil affair. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed, at least 200 in Jenin alone. After barring the Palestinians from retrieving the bodies in that town, Israel has announced that it will bury them all in a common grave–no doubt in an attempt to hide the grisly truth.

One of the first victims of Israel’s invasion was not a Palestinian “terrorist” but a young American mother, 21-year-old Suraida Saleh, killed by Israeli soldiers in Ramallah. She and her husband were trying to drive to safety at her father’s house. She had her 9-month-old baby in her lap when she was shot in the head.[1]

Many of the dead simply bled to death, or succumbed in agony to untreated wounds, because Israel refused to allow ambulances to enter residential areas. The International Red Cross, the World Health Organization and the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees all have said people have died because Israeli forces had stopped rescuers from getting through.[2]

Abdullah Washai had to watch his 17-year-old brother, Munir, slowly bleed to death in Jenin. He took several hours to die. A hole had been ripped in his shoulder by a round from an Israeli helicopter. When the boy’s mother, Mariam, ran into the street screaming for help, Israeli soldiers shot her dead.[3]

In Bethlehem, Samieh Abdeh, 64, and her son, Khaled Abdeh, 37, bled to death after being hit by Israeli fire inside their family home. Because Israeli troops prevented ambulances from reaching the house, family member Sami Abdeh was forced to watch helplessly as the life ebbed out of his two loved ones.[4]

In perhaps the most despicable of these incidents, Israeli troops have forced wounded civilians to bleed to death just yards from hospitals. A 56-year-old Palestinian grandmother, Weedad Safran, was shot by an Israeli sniper as she left Ramallah hospital after having a cast removed from her leg. She died after soldiers prevented medics from treating her.[5]

And doctors at al-Razi Hospital in Jenin have reported that a man bled to death on the hospital’s doorstep after soldiers prevented medics from rescuing him.[6]

Throughout the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers continue to murder civilians. Manal Sofran, a Ramallah housewife, was shot in the head while calling her husband Sami and their four children to come inside. Three Ramallah men were shot in a single day. One died in a taxi after delivering a woman relative to Ramallah Hospital to give birth. Soldiers shot another in the chest as he stood in front of his home. A third was killed trying to drive relatives out of Ramallah to their home villages.[7] 

Another kind of murder took place when Halema Hussein Atrash, from al-Walaja village near Bethlehem, pregnant and in a difficult labor, was denied the care required to deliver her baby. He was stillborn as Israeli troops refused to let her vehicle through a checkpoint to get to a hospital.[8]

Several Palestinians have recounted being used as human shields by Israelis. Ali Mustafa Abu Siria, 43, an Arabic teacher in Jenin, was seized by an Israeli army patrol, who led him out of his home handcuffed and at gunpoint and forced him to walk ahead of the troops and their sniffer dogs. When he was shot–by Israeli crossfire, he believes–they did nothing to help him.[9]

In their siege of the Church of the Nativity compound in Bethlehem–denounced by Pope John Paul II as “unimaginable and intolerable”–the Israelis have shot and killed Khaled Syam, a 23-year-old policeman from the Gaza Strip who was fighting a fire started by an Israeli smoke grenade in the adjoining St. Catherine’s Church [10], and Samir Ibrahim Salman, the basilica’s mentally disabled bellringer.[11]

Still alive, as of this moment, is Armin Sinanian, 22, an Armenian Orthodox cleric shot by an Israeli sniper when he looked out a convent window.[12]

Israeli soldiers ransacked Bethlehem’s Christmas Lutheran Church. Rejecting offers by its pastor, the Rev. Mitri Raheb, to peacefully admit the troops, the soldiers bashed in 31 doors and smashed 57 windows in the three-story compound.[13]

The Israeli desecration of holy buildings mirrors the enormous damage to property and civil infrastructure caused by the invasion.

Edward Gargan, writing for Newsday from Bethlehem, reports that “an exhaustive tour” revealed “wide-ranging destruction by Israeli troops,” and that a five-hour trip of the city “found not a single car that had not been destroyed.”[14]

Reporting from Jerusalem for the Baltimore Sun, Peter Hermann has described how “institution by institution, Israel’s military re-occupation of the West Bank has destroyed the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority.”[15]

Other reports concur. Daniel Williams, on location for the Washington Post, writes that “the battering of Palestinian Authority facilities has been a highlight of this week’s invasion,”[16] and Tracy Wilkinson, reporting from Ramallah for the Los Angeles Times, says that “at its core, the offensive is a systematic attempt, fathered by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and midwifed by his military commanders, to finish off the Palestinian Authority, any remnant of the landmark Oslo peace process and, most important, Arafat.”[17]

Bashir Abu Walid, a Ramallah resident, says that, to Americans, Palestinians are “just statistics” to be allowed to die.[18]

What are we doing to prove him wrong?


[1] “Israeli Soldiers Shoot and Kill a US Citizen as She Holds Her 9-Month-Old Baby in Her Lap,” April 3, 2002, press release from Democracy Now!. Online at

Raeed N. Tayeh, “Details Emerge About American Woman Shot Dead By Israeli Soldiers,” American Muslims for Global Peace and Justice, April 1, 2002.

[2] Justin Huggler, “Death and Destruction Spread across West Bank,” The Independent, April 6, 2002. Online at

[3] Justin Huggler, “Jenin: ‘My mother Ran for Help. A Soldier Shot Her in the Head,'” The Independent, April 11, 2002. Online at

[4] A graphic photo is online at

[5] Suzanne Goldenberg, “The Bodies, the Chaos – and the Debris of War in a City under Siege,” The Guardian, April 3, 2002. Online at,2763,678042,00.html.

[6] Suzanne Goldenberg, “Refugees Flee Camp with Reports of Israeli Abuses in Jenin,” The Guardian, April 12, 2002. Online at,2763,683098,00.html.

[7] “‘We are Just Statistics’: Ongoing Israeli Shootings in Ramallah Raise Questions of Civilian Targeting,” Daniel Williams, Washington Post, April 11, 2002. Online at

[8] Jonathan Cook, “‘We Lost Our Baby Boy,'” Observer, April 7, 2002. Online at,11581,680281,00.html.

[9] Suzanne Goldenberg, “Refugees Flee Camp with Reports of Israeli Abuses in Jenin,” The Guardian, April 12, 2002. Online at,2763,683098,00.html.

See also Justin Huggler and Said Ghazali, “Witnesses Tell How Elderly Were Used as Human Shields for Tank Forces,” The Independent, April 9, 2002.

[10] Phil Reeves, “Carey Envoy Pleads for the Body of Muslim ‘Martyr’ in Christian Shrine,” The Independent, April 12, 2002. Online at

[11] Robert Fisk, “Unholy War: The Bethlehem Bellringer, the Doctor, the Mother. The Innocent Keep on Dying,” The Independent, April 7, 2002. Online at

[12] Phil Reeves, “Monk Shot in Besieged Basilica of the Nativity,” The Independent, April 11, 2002. Online at

Amos Harel and Anat Cygielma, “Monk Seriously Hurt in Bethlehem,” Ha’aretz, April 11, 2002.

[13] Keith B. Richburg, “Israeli Forces Inflict Widespread Damage in Bethlehem; Residents Describe Operation As Driven by Hatred, Revenge,” Washington Post, April 8, 2002. Online at

[14] Edward A. Gargan, “Troops and Terror Among the Ancients,” Newsday, April 9, 2002. Online at

[15] Peter Hermann, “Institutions Targeted in Israeli Incursions; Army Destroying Infrastructure of Palestinian Authority,” Baltimore Sun, April 7, 2002. Online at ection.

[16] Daniel Williams, “Attacks Strip Away Foundation of Palestinian Rule,” Washington Post, April 5, 2002. Online at

[17] Tracy Wilkinson, “Arafat, Oslo Accord Are Sharon’s Prime Prey,” Los Angles Times, April 9, 2002. Online at

On the destruction of Palestinian civil society, see also: Suzanne Goldenberg, “Sharon Tries to Destroy All Traces of Arafat Rule,” The Guardian, April 6, 2002. Online at,2763,679900,00.html.

Barbara Plett, “Palestinian Society Lies in Ruins,” BBC, April 12, 2002.

[18] .”‘We are Just Statistics’: Ongoing Israeli Shootings in Ramallah Raise Questions of Civilian Targeting,” Daniel Williams, Washington Post, April 11, 2002. Online at