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Israeli occupying forces shell a church, situated within a hospital, and destroy a number of houses in Gaza

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Israeli combat helicopters launched a number of missiles at Palestinian civilian targets in Gaza. One missile struck a church located inside a hospital in the center of the city. Another missile hit a house in al-Sabra neighborhood, while the other missiles destroyed a blacksmith's workshop. These Israeli attacks came shortly after an Israeli incursion into al-Zaytoun in which an apartment building was destroyed.
According to PCHR's investigation, at approximately 02:30 on Friday 24 January 2003, Israeli combat helicopters launched 5 missiles, 3 of which struck a blacksmith's workshop near Imam Shaf'ei School in a densely populated area in Gaza City. The workshop was totally destroyed and a number of adjacent houses were severely damaged. A fourth missile hit Saint Philips Church (an Episcopal Evangelical Church), which is located inside al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City. The missile penetrated the roof of the church and caused severe damage. The adjacent pediatric and gynecologic clinics of the hospital were also damaged. The fifth missile struck a house in al-Sabra neighborhood, which is owned by 'Abdullah Sha'ban Abu Sha'ban. The owner and his wife, who were sleeping inside the house, managed to survive. A number of neighboring houses were damaged and an 11-year-old child was injured.

These Israeli military operations came shortly after an Israeli incursion into al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City, during which the house of Mas'oud 'Ayad, who was previously assassinated by Israeli occupying forces, was destroyed. According to PCHR's investigation, at approximately 00:30 on Friday, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with tanks, moved from Netzarim settlement, south of Gaza city, into al-Zaytoun neighborhood in the southeast of the city. They surrounded the house of the deceased Mas'oud 'Ayad and arrested two of his sons, his brother and his grandson. Israeli forces destroyed a 5-storey apartment building, in which 5 families lived, owned by the family of 'Ayad. Israeli forces withdrew from the area at approximately 02:30. Later, they released the grandson, Mas'oud Nasser 'Ayad, 14, and the brother, Sa'id Hussein 'Ayad, while the sons, Khader, 35, and Hassan, 30, remained in the custody of Israeli forces. During the incursion, Israeli forces distributed leaflets, which cited that the goal of the operation was to arrest Hassan 'Ayad, claiming that he was responsible for armed attacks against Israeli targets.

PCHR condemns this escalation of Israeli illegal military actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians. Although such Israeli operations have frequently resulted in fatalities and casualties among Palestinian civilians, Israeli occupying forces continue to attack highly populated residential areas. As a party to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel should adhere to in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Furthermore, the other High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention are also obliged to ensure that Israel respect its duties under the Convention.