Palestinians check and search for survivors in a two-storey building that was brought down in an Israeli strike in Gaza city 15 July 2006. (MaanImages/Wesam Saleh)
PCHR strongly condemns the continued killing of Palestinian civilians and destruction of civilian facilities in the Gaza Strip by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), which have been exercising disproportionate and lethal force. In the past 48 hours, three Palestinians have been killed and 10 others, including a woman and a baby, have been wounded in three separate attacks by IOF in Gaza City and the central Gaza Strip. IOF have also launched three air strikes on a building of the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy in Gaza City and on two bridges in the central Gaza Strip. Additionally, IOF artilleries have continued to shell neighbourhoods and agricultural land in the north, centre and south of the Gaza Strip, in which IOF have been redeployed.
The latest of such attacks took place at approximately 10:30 on Saturday, 15 July 2006, when IOF warplanes fired two missiles at a three-storey building belonging to Sa’ad al-Yazji, a professor at the Islamic University, in al-Daraj neighbourhood in the centre of Gaza City. The first floor of the building is occupied by a sewing workshop, while the other two floors are empty. The building was totally destroyed, and ‘Omar Mahmoud Younis, 30, a worker who was in the building, was instantly killed. In addition, nine civilians living in neighbouring houses, including a woman and two children, were wounded. One of these children is only seven months old, and he was moderately wounded. The other child, 11-year-old Ahmed al-Jadba, was seriously wounded. IOF claimed that the building was used by Palestinian militants as a workshop to manufacture weapons.
Chronology of Developments in the Gaza Strip in the past 48 hours:
PCHR is deeply concerned over the IOF crimes against Palestinian civilians. PCHR stresses that an arbitrary attack that endangers the lives of civilians and their property, especially if prior knowledge indicates that civilians could be killed or wounded, or property be damaged, is a war crime as prescribed by the First Protocol Additional to the Fourth Geneva Convention.
PCHR believes that the failure of the international community and the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to take effective steps to stop Israeli war crimes has served to encourage Israel to commit more war crimes against Palestinian civilians. Not only do the legal cover provided to Israel by the US, which purposely hinders international humanitarian law, and the conspiracy of silence by Europe place Israel above the international law, but also encourage IOF to commit more war crimes.
PCHR reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of:
1) Their obligations under Article 1 of the Convention to respect and ensure respect for the convention under all circumstances.
2) Their obligations under Article 146 of the Convention to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, grave breaches, and bring such persons before their own courts, noting that such grave breaches constitute war crimes under article 147, as specified in the First Protocol Additional to the Convention
PCHR calls upon the Swiss Government:
1) To take a leading role in highlighting and acting to stop the grave breaches of international law that are currently taking place in the Gaza Strip, as is its obligation as the depository of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
2) To make efforts to mobilise the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to intervene in this situation and meet their obligations to protect the rights of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip under International Humanitarian Law.
3) To call on the Security Council to send an international protection force for the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
PCHR calls upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights:
1) To issue a statement strongly condemning Israel’s grave breaches of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
2) To make a visit to the OPT in order to see for yourself the long term damage that has already been and is currently being inflicted on the civilian population - a population who should be enjoying protection under International Humanitarian Law.
3) To call a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to ensure that these states fulfil their obligation under international law to protect the civilian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.