- Destruction of the Civilian
- The wide-scale destruction of the Jenin camp has shocked
many observers. Much of the physical damage was caused by bulldozers sent
in to clear paths through Jenin camp's narrow, winding alleys. In some
cases civilians were not adequately warned of the impending destruction,
and in one case a handicapped person died as his house was bulldozed above
him and as relatives pleaded with the soldiers to stop (see below). Others
were caught inside as the destruction began. The damage caused by the
bulldozers caused permanent damage to many buildings and rendered others
uninhabitable or unsafe. Water and sewage mains were disrupted, as well
as much of the other infrastructure.
- Particularly in the initial stages of the incursion,
witnesses described how the IDF's armored bulldozers began destroying
their homes while they were still inside, endangering the lives of
Bulldozers initially entered the al-Damaj area of the camp on the east
hill of the camp. Bulldozers were able to enter the area below Hawashin
area on April 6 and 7, and the Hawashin district on April 9 and 10.
- Ahmad Jalamna, aged thirty-seven, lived on the southeast
outskirts of the Jenin refugee camp, where bulldozers first entered the
camp at the beginning of the incursion. He recalled how IDF bulldozers
began destroying his home while his family was still inside on the second
day of the attack, April 4, and then shot at his elderly mother when she
tried to go outside and stop the bulldozers:
- Then they brought the bulldozers. In ten minutes, they
had destroyed the shop [in front of the house] and some of the rooms [of
my house]. I was in the basement and came inside with the others. I told
my mother to go out. When the soldiers saw her, they started shooting at
her and I pulled her back inside. Then, they threw a sound bomb
- Human Rights Watch documented one case in which a
was buried alive when IDF bulldozers collapsed his home. Jamal Fayid was
a thirty-seven-year-old paralyzed man living in the Jurrat al-Dahab area
of the camp, and his family could not evacuate him in time. Despite the
pleas of the family, the IDF bulldozer refused to stop the demolition
of the home on April 6. Jamal Fayid was killed in the collapsed building
(see below for more details). It is difficult to see what military goal
could have been furthered or what legitimate consideration of military
necessity could be put forward to justify the crushing to death of Jamal
Fayid without giving his family the opportunity to remove him from his
home. The remains of a number of Palestinian militants have been recovered
from collapsed buildings, as well as those of civilians who were known
to have died but whose remains could not be evacuated prior to the
At this writing, recovery efforts continue at the Jenin refugee camp,
and it is possible that more remains of civilians or armed Palestinians
killed during the bulldozing will be recovered. Human Rights Watch is
not aware of any cases of missing people who are believed to be buried
under the rubble at the time of this report.
- On April 9 in the Hashawin area, Samia Abu Sha`ab
how his father was shot dead by IDF soldiers after trying to get
to stop destroying their home while they were inside: "The bulldozers
started destroying the outside half of our house. Half of the house was
very destroyed. My father went out to see what had happened. He spoke to
the driver of the bulldozer and explained that his family was inside. The
bulldozer stopped."134 Shortly afterwards, Samia's father, Muhammad
Abu Sha`ab, was shot dead by an Israeli sniper as he stood inside his
half-destroyed home (see below). The family was forced to flee the home
and had to abandon the corpse of their father inside. When they returned
after the offensive, their home had been bulldozed and they had to use
a bulldozer to recover their father's remains.
- The most significant damage occurred in Hawashin
after the April 9 ambush and killing of Israeli soldiers by Palestinian
militants. Because most residents had fled the area by the time it was
leveled by bulldozers, Human Rights Watch has been unable to establish
precisely when the damage occurred. It is thus difficult to compile an
accurate picture of when and how the razing took place. However, it is
clear from the wholesale damage, the only area of Jenin camp to be
leveled, that the destruction was deliberately comprehensive.
- Based on detailed maps in which individual buildings
can be identified, Human Rights Watch counted a total of 140 completely
destroyed buildings in the camp-many multi-family dwellings-of which more
than one hundred were located in the completely razed area of the Hawashin
district. While there is no doubt that Palestinian fighters in the
district had set up obstacles and risks to IDF soldiers, the wholesale
leveling of the entire district extended well beyond any conceivable
of gaining access to fighters, and was vastly disproportionate to the
- The destruction in other areas of the camp was
in its effect on the civilian population, and disproportionate to the
military objective obtained. Aside from the razed Hawashin district, over
200 houses sustained major damage, most so serious as to render the homes
within uninhabitable. Those assessments were based only on those houses
where damage is externally visible. At the time of Human Rights Watch's
research no assessment had been made of how many houses had been damaged
by the internal "mouseholing" IDF forces used to get from house
to house. UNRWA has registered at least 400 families who were rendered
homeless by the IDF military operation in the camp, and estimates that
their final count of families rendered homeless could reach as high as
800, according to UNRWA Director for the West Bank Richard Cook.135 Based
on this estimate, as many as 4,000 residents, representing more than a
quarter of the camp's residents, could have been rendered homeless.
- The wholesale leveling of more than one hundred
in Hawashin district, most of them multi-family dwellings, was clearly
an act of extensive destruction. Hawashin district-the location of the
ambush in which Israeli forces suffered their greatest casualties-was the
only area of the campaign to be targeted for such complete destruction.
Those who argue that the IDF's actions there were justified point to the
many explosive devices found in the district, and speculate that many
of the houses may have been booby-trapped. The last Palestinian fighters
to surrender were holed up in Hawashin district. Important in this context
is also the fact that Israeli forces at the time were under considerable
political and diplomatic pressure to conclude the operation quickly. While
it may be the case that the wholesale leveling of the district fulfilled
a military objective, speculation concerning the extent of improvised
devices in the area and reasons of expediency were not sufficient grounds
to meet the "absolutely necessary" standard required by
humanitarian law. The extraordinary degree of destruction in this
area raises serious questions about the military rationale that could
have justified such actions. This is a case that fully justifies the need
for a U.N. fact-finding team to give its utmost priority to the situation
in the Hawashin district.
- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC),
which promotes adherence to the Geneva Conventions, took the unusual step
of speaking out publicly about the extent of destruction of the civilian
infrastructure in Jenin camp and the inadequate safeguards taken by the
IDF to protect civilian life and property in the camp. Rene Kosirnik,
the head of the ICRC delegation, stated:
- When we are confronted with the extent of destruction
in an area of civilian concentration, it is difficult to accept that
humanitarian law has been fully respected.... If you suspect your
operation will cause disproportionate damage to civilians or civilian
then you have to stop the operation.136
- Human Rights Watch concludes that the Israeli military
actions in the Jenin refugee camp included both indiscriminate and
attacks. Some attacks were indiscriminate because Israeli forces,
the IDF helicopters, did not focus their firepower only towards legitimate
military targets, but rather fired into the camp at random. This
use of firepower added significantly to the civilian casualty toll of
the fighting and the destruction of civilian homes in the camp. The
offensive in Jenin refugee camp was also disproportionate, because the
incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, and damage to
objects was excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military
- Inability of Civilians to Flee
- Thousands of civilian refugees remained in the camp
when the IDF launched its attack. Many became trapped inside their homes
by the crossfire that raged around them. Camp residents were also trapped
in their houses by IDF gunmen, such as the one who shot at twenty-one
year old Susanna al-Ghada' when she moved aside a curtain from her window
on April 5, and the one who shot seventy-year-old Yusuf Muhammad as he
ran to call in children playing in his neighbor's yard on April
- Many of the people interviewed by Human Rights Watch
described being unable to flee the camp, initially because of the
and later because they had been confined to their houses by IDF soldiers.
Fifteen-year old Rhim Salem was kept by IDF soldiers in a house at the
edge of Hawashin district until April 15 with twenty-four other people;
soldiers also occupied the house, which borders the area completely
to rubble.138 Many residents ran from house to house inside the camp
as the houses they were sheltering in were progressively targeted by IDF
- Many civilians were also trapped by the fighting, unable
to leave their homes and flee to safety. Lina Sa`adiya, in her late
lived with her brother's family and mother in a home near the government
hospital. Lina's elderly mother, Farida, was paralyzed and often confused.
On April 3, the first day of the incursion, the family was eating lunch
when a helicopter-fired missile hit the kitchen, and the second floor
began to burn. At first the family called for help, but realizing that
no one would be able to come to them, they fled to a neighbor's house,
two doors away.
- The next day, April 4, the fighting raged around the
home where Sa`adiya and her family were staying. Armed Palestinians in
nearby houses exchanged fire with IDF snipers. IDF helicopters sprayed
the area with gunfire and missiles. The owner of the house and Lina's
family fled. For six days, Lina and her mother stayed in the home, unable
to run, surrounded by broken glass, dust, and continuous shooting. They
had no food. They drank from the water tank but it was shot in the fighting
and the water eventually drained away.
- IDF soldiers discovered Lina and her mother at the house
on April 10 and ordered them to leave that afternoon. "A soldier
came back and told us to go to the mosque. He said they were going to
lay explosives in the area because there was still resistance in the
Lina asked the soldiers to help her carry her mother, but they refused,
shouting at her to shut up. Lina told Human Rights Watch:
- My mother was screaming from pain and distress. I tried
to carry her, but I couldn't, I was too weak. I tried to go back to my
house, but it had been destroyed by the bulldozer. The camp was empty and
all the people had gone away. I dragged my mother through the road, full
of glass and rubble and heavy shooting. I saw someone's leg, blown off,
on the street. I dragged her for an hour. Her feet were bleeding and she
was screaming. I went into a house but it was half gone and there was a
dead body in there.140
- Lina and her mother eventually found shelter in another
house in the same area. They found a packet of dry biscuits and two
of water, which sustained them for the four nights they stayed there.
Lina and her mother were still in the house when, on April 14, she heard
the sound of a bulldozer and the house began to shake. She ran outside,
shouted at the driver, and ran in again to drag her mother out. The second
floor of the house caved in as they left. Lina eventually found another
house, badly damaged and with a corpse under the rubble. She and her
stayed there another four days before they were discovered and taken to
hospital by foreign journalists on April 18-fifteen days after they had
first come under fire.
- Nidal Abu Khurj explained how he and his family had
been forced to move from house to house in the refugee camp as the houses
in which they were taking shelter came under attack from IDF helicopters
and tanks. They were first forced to flee their father's house when a
neighboring house caught on fire from helicopter shelling, and then spent
one night in a brother's house where they came under constant IDF fire.
They then fled to a second brother's house, where they again came under
attack from helicopters and were forced to remain in the bathroom with
twenty-four people to avoid the shelling.141
- On April 7, Khadwa Ahmad Hassan Samara, aged
was sheltering with her three children and twelve others in the ground
floor of her house in the al-Damaj area of the camp. Fighting raged around
the area, with armed Palestinians present some thirty meters away. A
hit the third floor of the house around noon, destroying an exterior wall
and a water tank. At 11:30 p.m. the family was startled by the sound of
a bulldozer approaching.
- Samara told Human Rights Watch:
- The first thing they destroyed was the main door. No
one could open it. We were trying to sleep in the bedroom. That is, kids
were asleep but the adults were awake, worrying. When the bulldozer came
I had a mobile. I rang my husband and screamed, "Help! Call the Red
Cross! The Red Crescent! Do anything!"142
- She and the others shouted and placed three lanterns
to try and signal that the house was inhabited. They could not leave the
house because the only door had become blocked with rubble from the
The bulldozer left after demolishing the front stairwell, only to return
at 5:00 a.m. Samara and her family were fortunate: the bulldozer stopped
after demolishing the bathroom and the children's bedroom. She and the
others broke a window and ran to a neighbor's house. There they had
minutes of rest before the bulldozer approached again:
- We smashed a hole in the exterior wall, using anything
we could find-hammers, old bits of pipe, whatever. One by one we climbed
out of the hole and went to the house of the brother of Muhammad, my
We arrived there circa 6:30 a.m.143
- On April 9, Samara and her family were sheltering in
a third house, along with more than twenty-five other civilians. Samara
did not hear any IDF warning to evacuate. It was a telephone call >from
a relative in Jordan, who was watching the al-Jazeera television station,
that convinced Samara and the others to leave. Samara called her husband,
trapped at his workplace outside the camp, to check. He confirmed that
the IDF had told the inhabitants to leave the camp. Samara and the others
made white flags, and left the house at 4:00 p.m.144 She and her family
were stopped by an IDF tank some fifty meters away, and were told
to return to their houses. After waiting for several hours in the street,
Samara and her family were allowed to walk to al-Razi hospital, outside
the camp, and arrived safely at 7:00 p.m.
- Indiscriminate Helicopter Fire
- Although missiles had been used from the beginning of
the incursion, their use became particularly intense in the early morning
hours of April 6. Testimony collected by Human Rights Watch indicates
that many areas of the refugee camp were fired upon at that time, catching
many sleeping civilians unaware. Many of the rockets used were U.S.-made
wire-guided TOW missiles. The evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch
suggests that many of the TOW missiles indiscriminately hit civilian homes
and in at least one case a civilian was killed when she was struck by
a helicopter missile. The number of solely civilian objects hit in the
helicopter attacks the early morning of April 6 suggests that insufficient
care was taken by Israeli forces to target only military objects. Due
to the dense urban setting of the refugee camp, fighters and civilians
were never at great distances. Nevertheless, such proximity does not
a valid excuse by Israeli forces' action in firing upon the entire area
as if it were a single military target.
- Kamal Tawalba, a forty-three-year-old father of fourteen
children, offered one of many compelling accounts that showed how IDF
tanks and helicopters made little distinction between legitimate military
targets and civilian homes. He told Human Rights Watch that he was alone
with his family at his home on the morning of Saturday, April 6, and had
harbored no Palestinian militants in his home: "There were no
in my house. I have fourteen children and would never have taken such a
risk." The family was asleep on the bottom floor of their home when
a tank shell hit the floor above them, setting the house on fire. He and
his family tried to leave, but were prevented >from doing so when IDF
soldiers shot at them: "I went to the gate and started calling to
the IDF soldiers to allow us to go out. I tried to ask for help-I held
two children in my arms-but they started shooting at the windows."145
A few minutes later, two TOW-missiles hit the top floor of his home,
more destruction: "After two minutes, two more missiles came to the
house from an Apache helicopter. I can tell the difference [with the tank
shells] because we could see the wires from the Apache helicopter [guiding
the missile]. I took my small baby-there was so much dust-and I went
without caring about the soldiers. A soldier started shooting at me and
told me to put the children down. He took me in the street and told me
to take off my clothes."146
- Thirty-one-year-old Samira Shalabi was with twelve
including six children, who had gathered together for safety in Samira's
mother's house on Matahin street above the UNRWA school. She says there
were no fighters in the nearby area.
- We were sleeping there; there were twelve of us. First,
they fired a rocket and some of it fell down into this room. The windows
fell in on us and because we couldn't breathe, we left the room and went
into the hallway. But the helicopters didn't stop, they kept firing rockets
continuously. People tried to help us get out, because the rocket blast
had sealed the door shut, we had to go out the kitchen window.147
- A four-year-old girl, Sara Shalabi, was injured by
in that attack; while her injuries were light enough to be initially
with first-aid, she now needs an operation to remove shrapnel.
- Many other buildings fired upon in that attack housed
only civilians, for example Yusra Abu Khurj, a mentally disabled woman
who lived in the district below Hawashin near the entrance to the camp.
She was killed by a missile from an Apache helicopter fired directly into
her top-floor room in a building at approximately 6:00 a.m.; the building
was occupied only by civilians (see below for more details).
- Indiscriminate attacks were most intense on April 6,
but they did not entirely abate afterwards. Khadija al-Ruzi, aged
described how her family had to flee their home in the Hawashin area camp
after fire from an Apache helicopter set the house alight. She said that
beginning on April 6, the area of the camp they were staying in came under
heavy helicopter fire.148 There were no Palestinian militants in her
building, but the next day an Apache helicopter strike set the building
on fire, forcing its evacuation:
- The fourth day [April 7] we had to leave our house
[the IDF] had hit it with a missile and it was burning. It was a
building. We were in one corner in the bathroom [because it had no windows]
and stayed there with twenty-eight people, men, women, and children. We
were all civilians. When the house was burning, we had to move.149
- The family ran to a neighboring house: "We left
the first house when it was first light [in the morning]. The houses are
close to each other so we could move quickly, but the shelling
They had to leave the second home that same evening at 9:00 p.m. when
it, too, came under intense tank fire. They went out with white cloths,
and the women and children were allowed to leave the camp by the IDF
in the area, while the men were stripped of their clothes and
- Some of the helicopter missile fire was so
that it nearly killed IDF soldiers. Seventy-two-year-old Raja Tawafshi
recalled how an IDF missile fired from a helicopter hit the top floor
of his home in the Saha area of the camp on April 3 as he was accompanying
IDF soldiers who were searching his home: "During their inspection,
a bomb hit the house from the IDF [helicopter] and damaged that
- On Wednesday, April 10, Karima Baklizia, in her sixties,
was taking shelter in her house in the Hawashin area with another woman
and three children. Although this was a time when fighting had been
in the Hawashin neighborhood, there were no Palestinian fighters present
in the house. An ambush and the deaths of Israeli soldiers the previous
day in the neighborhood had led to particularly intense attacks on that
neighborhood-according to confidential sources, the IDF fired at least
thirty-five TOW missiles into the camp immediately following the April
9 ambush.152 Baklizia and the others were hiding in a small bathroom on
the second floor. Three missiles hit the first floor of the house, and
the first floor began to burn. Baklizia and her companions tried to run
to the house next door, only to find that it, too, had been hit. They ran
to a second house, and stayed the night. In the early morning of the next
day, Baklizia and the others returned.
- I returned to my house to check the damage. As I went
to check there was another missile strike. I was in the bathroom and all
the house came down. It collapsed and I felt it shake, but the bathroom
is at the beginning of the house and it was still standing. Nobody can
believe that I am still alive.153
- The women eventually climbed down and walked down to
the health clinic. Baklizia's companion took off her headscarf to use as
a white flag. Both eventually found shelter with an acquaintance near
the health clinic.
- Insufficient Warnings Issued by IDF
- The IDF took some steps to minimize loss of life by
issuing warnings to camp residents, but in many areas of the camp
did not receive or hear any warnings. On multiple occasions from April
9, the IDF used loudspeakers to urge civilians to vacate their homes.
It is not clear, however, how widely or how often the loudspeaker messages
were conveyed. Many of the camp residents interviewed by Human Rights
Watch did not hear the messages directly, but instead heard about them
>from neighbors, by seeing their neighbors flee, and, as in Samara's
case, by a relative watching al-Jazeera television news in
- Issa Wishahi, who lived near the entrance to the refugee
camp and saw his son and wife killed during the IDF offensive (see below),
recalled hearing the IDF loudspeaker messages:
- On Monday [April 8] the soldiers were saying that
going out of their homes would be safe, just to carry a white flag, that
everyone who remained inside would be bulldozed. They said this in Arabic
on the loudspeakers. After that, everyone [in my neighborhood] came out
into the street.... The soldiers made that announcement from 9:00 a.m.
to 12:00 p.m. on Monday.155
- Fathiya Sa`adi vividly remembered the Arabic-language
warning that came blaring from IDF loudspeakers on Wednesday, April 10,
at about 9:30 a.m., ordering civilians to evacuate their homes. She
the message verbatim to Human Rights Watch:
- Inhabitants of the refugee camp of Jenin! We want to
inform you that the Israeli soldiers have occupied the camp and it is
under Israeli control now. We have destroyed your resistance. Now, you
must immediately leave your houses, or we will destroy the whole camp over
your heads by plane and by tanks.156
- Fathiya and her family left their home, pushing their
wheelchair-bound mother in front of them. "The [Israeli] snipers were
shooting in the air to make us afraid," she recounted.157
- Some of the civilian residents were too fearful to come
out of their homes when the IDF ordered them to leave. Sa`id Abu `Anas,
a thirty-four-year-old resident of the Hawashim neighborhood, recalled
how on the evening of Tuesday, April 9, he heard an announcement on the
loudspeakers but was too afraid to go outside: "The soldiers started
talking on the loudspeakers, saying we must come out and they would treat
us with humanity. No one came out because we thought we would be killed.
Then they asked for the women and children to come out-they let the
women, and old men go out."158 Said, afraid for his life, stayed
inside until Saturday, April 13, when IDF soldiers arrested him and the
other remaining men.
- Many other residents did not hear the warning directly
from the IDF soldiers, but were informed by their neighbors. Samia Abu
al-Saba`a, aged forty-three, recalled: "We saw some people coming
with white kafiyas [head scarves], they said the bulldozers were
the Hawashin area. They said we should leave our houses, because anyone
inside will be killed. The people told us this, not the soldiers."159
Hala' Abu Rumaila, who lived on the outskirts of the camp and whose
and husband died in the IDF attack, also recalled hearing about the
order >from neighbors who had heard the IDF message. In some cases,
this may have been because soldiers did not want to expose themselves
to the risk of entering Palestinian houses. Rim Salem recalled how soldiers
occupying the house where she and twenty-four other civilians were
tried to make her mother go to the neighboring houses in Hawashin
"They told her they were going to destroy the house, and wanted my
mother to go to the neighbor's house to tell them to leave. My mother
was afraid to do it because of the soldiers, and the IDF was afraid of
- Most warnings seem to have preceded imminent destruction
by bulldozers. Human Rights Watch did not receive information that similar
warnings were issued in advance of air or artillery attacks.
- 133 Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmad Yusuf
Jalamna, aged thirty-seven, Jenin, April 19, 2002.
- 134 Human Rights Watch interview with Samia Muhammad
M`asud Abu al-Saba`a, aged forty-three, Jenin, April 20, 2002.
- 135 Human Rights Watch interview with Richard J. Cook,
Director of UNRWA operations for the West Bank, April 24, 2002.
- 136 Chris McGreal and Brian Whitaker, "Israel
over Jenin Assault," Guardian, April 23, 2002.
- 137 Human Rights Watch interview with Susanna N`uaman
`Abd al-Hamid al-Ghada', aged twenty-one, Jenin, April 27, 2002; Human
Rights Watch interview with Yusuf Yassin Muhammad Kamil, aged seventy,
Jenin April 20, 2002.
- 138 Human Rights Watch interview with Rim Jemal Muhammed
Salem, aged fifteen, Jenin, April 28, 2002.
- 139 Ibid.
- 140 Human Rights Watch interview, Lina `Abd Allah 'Abbas
Sa`adiya, April 21, 2002.
- 141 Human Rights Watch interview with Nidal Ahmad
Abu Khurj, aged thirty-one, Jenin, April 19, 2002.
- 142 Human Rights Watch interview with Khadwa Ahmad
Samara, aged thirty-five, Jenin, April 26, 2002.
- 143 Ibid.
- 144 Ibid.
- 145 Human Rights Watch interview with Kamal Muhammad
Hussein Tawalba, aged forty-three, Jenin, April 27, 2002.
- 146 Ibid.
- 147 Human Rights Watch interview with Samira Tawfiq
Yusuf Shalabi, aged thirty-one, Jenin, April 27, 2002.
- 148 Human Rights Watch interview with Khadija `Abd
al-Ruzi, aged fifty-four, Jenin, April 19, 2002.
- 149 Ibid.
- 150 Ibid.
- 151 Human Rights Watch interview with Raja Mustafa Ahmad
Tawafshi, aged seventy-two, Jenin, April 22, 2002.
- 152 Confidential information on file at Human Rights
- 153 Human Rights Watch interview, Karima Mustafa Sa`id
Baklizia, April 20, 2002.
- 154 Human Rights Watch interview with Khadwa Ahmad
Samara, aged thirty-five, Jenin April 27, 2002.
- 155 Human Rights Watch interview with Issa Wishahi,
aged sixty, Jenin, April 20, 2002.
- 156 Human Rights Watch interview with Fathiya Yusuf
Sa`adi, aged thirty, Jenin, April 20, 2002.
- 157 Ibid.
- 158 Human Rights Watch interview with Sa`id Abu `Anas,
aged thirty-four, Jenin, April 20, 2002.
- 159 Human Rights Watch interview with Samia Muhammad
M`asud Abu al-Saba`a, aged forty-three, April 20, 2002.
- 160 Human Rights Watch interview with Rim Jemal Muhammed
Salem, aged fifteen, Jenin, April 28, 2002