Crimes without proof

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Jerusalem – Cries and pleas rings loud and clear from the Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank town of Jenin. Jenin has been under siege from the Israeli army for 11 days, many of those days the residents have been without food, water and electricity. Without electricity the food rots, without electricity cell phones die and communication is lost with the rest of the world. Local and international relief aid workers and journalist have not been allowed to enter inside of Jenin since Israel’s occupation. The concern for war crimes, disease and lack of medical care for those inside are of top priority to International communities and relief agencies. Stories are being told of prisoners who were stripped, tortured and left standing in the cold with only their underwear on at the Jenin checkpoint. Stories permeate of families isolated inside of their homes sitting next to their loved ones dead bodies for days without any help from the local medical relief agencies to remove them. Executions, Palestinians used as human shields, the stench rising into the air from the dead bodies that lay outside in the streets blast headlines of any major international and local newspapers. This is a story left untold and many heartfelt cries will not be verified and left hanging in the still air.

Saturday 14th of April two convoys with medical supplies, food, diapers, blankets and water attempted to enter in the city of Jenin to deliver the relief to those who are in need inside of the camp. The first convoy was a group of international and local relief agencies with 24 cars and 5 trucks. The second convoy was a combined group of Israeli and Palestinian relief and humanitarian agencies working together as one unit to make a statement showing, “that they can work together and they were all concerned with what the Israeli government is doing with the Occupation of West Bank cities.” The second group organized 31 trucks and an “End the Occupation” demonstration of approximately 3,500 Israeli and Palestinians who gathered together and marched through the West Bank from the Megiddo Junction towards the Salam/Jenin checkpoint.

From the total of 36 trucks, the IDF allowed 5 trucks from the Israeli/Palestinian group and 5 trucks from the international/Palestinian group. On Sunday, it is still unknown if the relief has reached the residents inside of Jenin. The trucks were only allowed into a certain area and then unloaded. When they went inside, they found that items that were brought inside the previous day were left sitting in a local warehouse “untouched”.

Witnesses from the international/Palestinian group said that they were allowed to go inside only 20 meters from the checkpoint. They did not see any signs of destruction and local residents were walking in the streets. One witness reported that many of the residents were at first very upset with the supplies asking, “Where were you? We do not need this, we need you to help find our families.” The entire community of Jenin suffers from severe shock and resentment towards the international communities for not making Israel stop the occupation. They have been isolated and left to their own devices in attempt to protect their homes and loved ones.

According to Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), there has been 109 attacks, shootings, arrests or harassments against journalist in Israel and the West Bank. Recently since the occupations in the West Bank many foreign journalist have been deported, arrested or had their press passes taken away. On March 31, Israel authorities announced they would begin enforcing existing rules under which journalist must submit reports about defense matters t a military censor. Any Palestinians found working for foreign news would without proper documentation risk arrest. Israeli authorities threatened to fine any news organization 15,000 US if it was found to harbor Palestinians without proper permits. Most of the attacked and wounded wore clear identifications that they were TV or Press on their flak jackets or their vehicles. Since March 29, at least five journalist have been wounded and a reported 40 cases of harassment, attacks and arrests. 20 have been reported to come under fire. (LAW) It is clear the Israel government is attempting to prevent journalist the freedom to report Israel’s latest operation.

In 1949, “Additional to the Geneva Conventions”, article 79 says, “Journalist engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict shall be considered as civilians within the meaning of Article 50 paragraph 1. They shall be protected as such under the conventions and this protocol, provided that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians.” It is clear that the Israeli government is choosing to ignore the Geneva Conventions in regard to assuring the journalist safety. It is also clear, the IDF is NOT treating the journalist like “protected civilians” by shooting at the journalist, harassing and arresting them; then one should wonder how they are treating the “civilians” or residents inside of the recently occupied West Bank cities. We may never know the truth of the allegations against the IDF concerning war crimes and humanitarian issues. Once again Ariel Sharon may get away with war crimes that he may have committed due to the lack of proof and documentation.

Susan Brannon (a.k.a Amanda White) is an American Freelance Photojournalist and MMN’s correspondent in Jerusalem.

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