11 Palestinians, mostly civilians, killed
and dozens of houses and civilian facilities destroyed in offensive on
In the third major onslaught against the Gaza Strip in one week, Israeli occupying forces killed 11 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 3 children and two old men, when they invaded the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabalya and its refugee camp. Eight of the victims, including a fireman, were killed by one tank shell, while they were trying to put out fire that had broken out in a house. More than 50 Palestinians, including two journalists, were injured; more than 10 of them seriously. Israeli forces also destroyed 8 houses totally and 3 others partially. Only one of these houses was the target of the Israeli destruction; namely the house of 'Abdul Karim Ziada, the father of Suhail Ziada who was killed while carrying out an armed attack east of Gaza city on 5 May 2002. Israeli forces also destroyed 4 civilian facilities totally and 7 others partially. These developments took place when Israeli forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles and helicopters and covered by intense shelling, encroached into Jabalya and its refugee camp, an moved towards Ziada's house, as part of the retaliatory campaign launched by these forces against houses of Palestinians, who have carried out attacks against Israeli targets, and those wanted by these forces.
PCHR is deeply concerned about the escalation of the military campaign launched by the Israeli military against the Gaza Strip, which has left dead dozens of Palestinian civilians and rendered dozens of houses and civilian facilities destroyed. According to PCHR's documentation, since 6 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces have carried out incursions almost daily into the Gaza Strip, which have left dead 53 Palestinian civilians.
According to PCHR's investigation, Israeli occupying forces thrust into Jabalya in a military operation that continued until this morning to destroy the house of 'Abdul Karim Ziada as part of the retaliatory campaign against families of wanted Palestinians and those who planned, facilitated or carried out armed attacks against Israeli targets.
According to PCHR's investigation and eyewitness reports, at approximately 00:00 last night, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with dozens of heavy military vehicles and combat helicopters and covered by intense shelling, moved from the Beit Hanoun crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, approximately 4km to the south on Salah al-Din Street, towards the edges of Jabalya. Then, they moved approximately 1km into al-Quds Street inside the town. On their way, Israeli heavy military vehicles destroyed a number of Palestinian shops, stores and civilian facilities and demolished walls of 3 houses of the families of Sha'ban, Mansour and 'Eid. Then, they moved northward towards Jablaya refugee camp. They surrounded the house of 'Abdul Karim Mahmoud Ziada, the father of Suhail Ziada who carried out an armed attack against Israeli forces east of Jablaya last year. They forced its residents out together with 9 residents of a neighboring 200-square-meter house, owned by Fawzan Mahmoud Ziada. They handcuffed the men of the second house and held all other residents of the two houses in one room. Then, they searched the two house and planted explosives inside. At approximately 03:30, they destroyed the two houses and detained Mohammed and Hassan 'Abdul Rahman Khalil.
Israeli combat helicopters launched 6 missiles at the road linking between Jabalya and its refugee camp at an early stage of the incursion. A missile fell near the house of Mohammed Shihda al-Bayari, 61, a muezzin. Al-Bayari was killed by shrapnel throughout the body, and 5 other Palestinian civilians were injured. Another missile hit the house of a 170-square-meter, 2-storey house, destroying its first floor. The house was owned by Mohammed Abu 'Obaid, the father of Karam Abu 'Obaid who carried out an armed attack against "Dogit" settlement in the northern Gaza Strip. The other missile hit streets injuring a number of Palestinian civilians.
During the incursion, Israeli heavy military vehicles and combat helicopters opened fire at Palestinian houses, severely damaging dozens of them and a number of civilian facilities. According to eyewitnesses, Israeli forces willfully fired at Muhsen 'Awadh Abu 'Ouda, 30, a Palestinian policeman, wounding him in the feet. Then, an Israeli tank moved towards him and smashed his head.
Also as a result of the Israeli indiscriminate gunfire and shelling, two Palestinian civilians: 'Abdul Rahman Mahmoud Mohammed Miqdad, 21, and Na'el Mahmoud Abu Seedu, 30, were killed.
At approximately 05:30, Israeli occupying forces fired several artillery shells at a 450-square-meter, 4-storey house, in which 6 families counting 21 people live, owned by Ahmed Mohammed Faraj Saleh. The shells hit stores located under the house, burning them. Firemen were not able to reach the house until 06:45. A number of Palestinian civilian gathered to help firemen extinguish the fire. Immediately, an Israeli tank fired a shell at them, although firemen and fire engines were clearly marked. Seven Palestinian civilians, including a fireman, were killed, including:
1. Bahaa' Khalil Abu Wrda, 18;
2. Eihab Ahmed Nabhan, 14;
3. Naji Isma'il Abu Jalila, 24, a fireman;
4. Tha'er Jaber Rihan, 14; and
5. Hamdi 'Othman 'Aabed 'Obaid.
The two other victims, who according to medical sources are children, have not yet been identified.
Approximately 90 Palestinians were injured. This number includes two journalist: Ahmed Jadallah and Shams 'Oudetallah Shana'a, from Reuters, and 4 medical personnel: 'Awad Ahmed Abu Marasa, a paramedic; Yusri 'Aayesh al-Masri, an ambulance driver; Jihad 'Abdul Karim Abu 'Ataya, director of Jabalya ambulance station; and Mohammed Shihda al-Muqayad, a paramedic. Ambulances faced difficulties in reaching the affected areas. Three ambulances, including an UNRWA ambulance, were damaged.
During this incursion also, approximately 12 Palestinian houses were damaged by the Israeli shelling and gunfire. Following are details of the houses that were destroyed or rendered inhabitable:
1. A 3-storey house with a number of stores owned by Ahmed Mohammed Faraj Saleh. It was hit by a number of tank shells;
2. A 3-storey house owned 'Abdul Karim Mohammed Ziada, which was destroyed by explosives;
3. A house owned by Fawzan Mahmoud Ziada, which was destroyed by explosives;
4. A 2-storey house owned by Mohammed Mustafa by 'Obaid, which was hit by shells;
5. A house owned by 'Abdullah Dahlan, was damaged by shells falling near it;
6. A house owned by 'Eid al-Sha'er, was damaged by shells falling near it; and
7. The house of Harbi al-Najjar, which was hit by a number of shells and live bullets while its residents were inside.
Israeli heavy military vehicles widely destroyed the infrastructure of the town and destroyed approximately 11 civilian facilities.
PCHR is deeply concerned about this Israeli systematic policy, which does not only target houses of Palestinians who have carried out armed attacks, but also houses of their relatives and neighbors as well as civilian facilities. PCHR strongly condemns these illegal military actions carried out by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians and their property, which will lead to further deterioration in the region. This escalation comes in the first week after the new Israeli government took office. The Defense Minister of the new government, Shaul Mofaz, has threatened to escalate Israeli military operations inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip and intensify the military campaign against the Palestinian uprising, without paying any consideration to the lives of Palestinian civilians, including children and pregnant women. PCHR calls upon the international community to put an end to its silence and immediately intervene to stop these grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention perpetrated by the Israeli military. PCHR also reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 of their obligations under the Convention to ensure respect for the Convention, and take effective steps to stop the persistent, flagrant violations of the Convention by the Israeli occupying forces.