Israeli crimes against Palestinian civilians and civilian facilities have been escalated in an unprecedented manner in January and February 2003. According to PCHR's documentation, 1821 Palestinians in the West bank or the Gaza Strip have been killed by the Israeli military since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada until the end of 2002. This year, 97 Palestinians have been killed. From the beginning of al-Aqsa Intifada until the end of 2002, Israeli occupying forces destroyed 150 Palestinian industrial workshops in the Gaza Strip. This year, they have already destroyed 125 workshops.
According to PCHR's investigation and eyewitnesses' testimonies, at approximately 22:00 on Tuesday, 18 February 2003, a number of Israeli heavy military vehicles, supported by helicopters and covered by intense shelling, moved from Nahal 'Ouz crossing, east of Gaza City, towards al-Shojaeya neighborhood in the east of the city. They took position in Baghdad Street. Approximately an hour later, an Israeli helicopter launched a missile at a car of the Palestinian General Intelligence near al-Je'el fuel station on the main road, approximately 2km away from the area of clashes. Three persons, who were traveling in the car, were killed. The three security men were chasing a suspicious car when the helicopter launched a missile at their car.
At approximately 00:30 on Wednesday, 19 February 2003, Israeli heavy military vehicles moved from the eastern border of the Gaza Strip, east of Jablaya, towards Salah al-Din Street. Then, they moved into al-Tuffah neighborhood in the east of Gaza City. They surrounded a 220-square-meter, 3-storey house in a densely populated area, in which 2 families, numbering 17 people live. The house is owned by Mohammed Mohye al-Din al-Qattaa'. Israeli forces raided a neighboring house, owned by Nahedh al-Hilu, and forced its residents out. They also used al-Hilu as a human shield. They ordered him to knock on the door of al-Qattaa's house and tell its residents to get out as the house would be demolished. Israeli forces moved the residents of the two houses to a tract of agricultural land located approximately 50m away, and planted explosives in a turnery workshop on the first floor of al-Qattaa's house. At approximately 03:00, Israeli forces withdrew from the area surrounding the house. Residents of the area thought that Israeli forces had completely withdrawn, so they moved towards their homes. Four men from the two families moved towards al-Qattaa's house to check what had happened. Immediately, Israeli forces destroyed the workshop by remote control, approximately 20 minutes after their withdrawal. Three of the men, including two brothers, were killed and the fourth sustained burns throughout the body. The house and the workshop were both destroyed. Al-Hilu's house was partially destroyed and a number of neighboring houses were damaged.
During their incursion into the neighborhood, Israeli forces destroyed a turnery workshop, a factory of plastic tools and a washing facility. A number of neighboring houses and workshops were damaged.
Israeli forces also raided the Dar al-Arqam private school. They destroyed parts of the fence and doors of classrooms, laboratories and administration rooms. They also confiscated some equipment.
As a result of Israeli indiscriminate shelling, 5 Palestinian civilians were killed and 15 others, including a physician, Ra'ed Marwan al-Safadi, who was providing medical for the wounded, were injured. PCHR's field worker in Gaza city reported that medical personnel faced difficulties in reaching the area.
Those killed by Israeli forces during this invasion were:
1. 'Ali Abu al-Khair, 25, from the al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza City, a member of the Palestinian General Intelligence;
2. Eyad 'Aabed, 27, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza City, a member of the Palestinian General Intelligence;
3. 'Abdul Rahim Abu al-Naja, 28, from Rafah, a member of the Palestinian General Intelligence;
4. Tamer Darwish al-Qattaa', 23, from al-Tuffah neighborhood, killed by the destruction of a workshop;
5. 'Alaa' Nahedh al-Hilu, 20, from al-Tuffah neighborhood, killed by the destruction of a workshop;
6. Sa'id Nahedh al-Hilu, 19, from al-Tuffah neighborhood, killed by the destruction of a workshop;
7. 'Aamer Hammouda al-Daya, 23, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood, shot by several live bullets in the head;
8. 'Abdul Rahman Fawzi al-Qassas, 25, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood, shot by several live bullets in the head and the chest;
9. 'Abdul Karim Sha'ban Bakroun, 23, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood, shot by several heavy caliber bullets in the head and the chest;
10. Munther Marwan al-Safadi, 25, from al-Tuffah neighborhood, shot by a live bullet in the chest; and
11. Mohammed Salim Abu Sahloul, 28, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood, hit by shrapnel and several live bullets throughout the body.
PCHR strongly condemns this escalation by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians and their property, which coincides with statements delivered Israeli political and military leaders, the last of which was the statement of the Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on 17 February 2003. "It is time to act not to talk; it is time to strike in the full capacity of our power," Mofaz said. PCHR believes that the failure of the international community to take action to prevent these attacks encourages Israel and its occupying forces to commit more illegal military actions. PCHR calls upon the international community to put an end to their silence and immediately intervene to stop the illegal actions perpetuated by the Israeli occupying forces. PCHR again reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 of their obligation under the Convention not only to respect the Convention, but to ensure the respect for it in all circumstances and to take effective steps to stop ongoing flagrant violations of the Convention perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces.