The Palestinian leader says coming weeks could be bloodiest in history of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

18 March 2003

The Palestinian leader says coming weeks could be bloodiest in history of Israeli-Palestinian conflict

As a possible US attack on Iraq drew closer, leading Palestinian activist and HDIP Director Dr Mustafa Barghouthi today warned that the coming weeks could be some of the bloodiest in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as it appeared increasingly likely that Israel will use the distraction of the world’s media as a cover for massive violations against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

“We are very worried that in the coming days, Israel will use a war to upgrade attacks and commit further atrocities against a Palestinian people already beleaguered by more than two years of constant killings, closure, curfew and economic collapse,” said Barghouthi, speaking at a press conference in Ramallah in the West Bank.

Barghouthi cited several warning signs of Israel’s intentions to step up attacks against Palestinian civilians, including: [INCOMPLETE] .

Recent Israeli statements regarding the year-old case of Islam Jibril, an ambulance driver the Israeli army accuses of having transported weapons in an ambulance. Although there were many inconsistencies in the Israeli charge — leading many to believe that weapons were planted in the ambulance — the Israeli army used the case — the only such case of its kind — to justify constant attacks on medical personnel during the heavy invasions of March-April 2002; they are likely to try to use this case again to justify attacks against ambulances; ·

The recent Israel army claim that only 18% of those killed during the current intifada were civilians – as opposed to the true figure of 85%. This falsification of statistics is an attempt to justify increasing attacks against civilians; ·

The murder of US peace activist Rachel Corrie, a deliberate attempt to frighten away internationals trying to protect Palestinians while publicizing messages about Israeli violations to the international community; ·

The upgrading of violent Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip, likely to be in preparation for a full-scale invasion while the international media is distracted by a war in Iraq.

“Any further upscale in Israeli aggression and occupation will cause a total collapse of the Palestinian economy,” Barghouthi warned. “Increasing curfews on a population already severely weakened by months of intense closure and curfew could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.”

According to recent figures, 30% of Palestinian children are already suffering from chronic malnutrition, while 46% of cancer patients needing treatment are unable to access such treatment and 42% of people needing dialysis are unable to access it.

Since the beginning of the current intifada, 2,344 Palestinian have been killed by Israeli soldiers, police or settlers. Nineteen percent of those deaths were children.

“If we had the population of the US, that would translate as 180,000 deaths and 3.7 million injuries — truly staggering figures,” said Barghouthi.

“From our past experiences of the first US war in the Gulf region, we know that Israel can once again impose a total, 24-hour curfew on residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, for weeks on end – destroying the economy, health care services and educational system of the Palestinian people — without a second thought,” said Barghouthi. “We call on the international community to not allow Israel to commit these violations under the cover of a war in the Gulf – we urge protection for the Palestinian people and an end to attacks against Palestinian men, women and children.”

For more information contact: HDIP, +972 (0) 2 298 5372 or +972 (0) 59 387 087