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20 April 2003

INTRODUCTION On 28 September 2000, Ariel Sharon, then leader of the Israeli opposition and now Israeli Prime Minister, visited the Al Aqsa Mosque, the most important Islamic site in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
Sharon's actions caused protests to erupt at the al Aqsa mosque compound, and the following day Israeli soldiers killed five Palestinian demonstrators.
The violence that continued inaugurated what is now known as the Al Aqsa Intifada or “uprising�.
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have used a variety of techniques to punish Palestinians.
For twenty-eight months the Occupied Territories have been under a comprehensive siege restricting people's movement, making their daily life extremely difficult.
The army has systematically destroyed homes, uprooted trees and bulldozed agricultural land.
Educational, religious and economic establishments have been routinely and arbitrarily targeted.
As of June 2003 nearly three thousand Palestinians have been killed owing to the excessive and lethal force used against them.
Thousands more have been wounded.
Israel has been systematically violating Palestinian human rights since 1948.
Its crimes against Palestinian civilians and their property have tended to lessen or increase according to the political situation both inside and outside Israel.
Since the outbreak of the Al Aqsa Intifada, however, the situation has worsened significantly.
In late March 2002, the IOF seized control of almost all the territory handed to the Palestinian Authority following the signing of Oslo Declaration of Principles and subsequent negotiations in the West Bank and Gaza.
In the Gaza Strip Israeli incursions into Palestinian towns and villages took place daily.
During these invasions, the IOF murdered civilians, destroyed homes, businesses, wells and agricultural land.
Home demolitions were concentrated in the town of Rafah, especially along the border with Egypt.
With the increase in violence against the Palestinians, hundreds of peace activists began to frequent the Palestinian territories in an attempt to provide protection for Palestinian civilians and to bear witness to the crimes of the occupation.
In Rafah, activists of the International Solidarity Movement set up a continued presence in an attempt to slow down or prevent continued terror against its civilians.
According to the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, 3,575 homes have been destroyed in the Gaza strip as of May 2003.
1,336 of these homes were in Rafah.
In addition, 219 residents of Rafah have been killed by the IOF since the outbreak of the Intifada on September 28, 2000.