PCHR is gravely concerned at the escalation of attacks by Israeli occupation forces (IOF) throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), and the impact of this on the preparations for holding the Palestinian presidential election on 9 January 2005. PCHR calls upon the international community to pressure Israel and its occupation forces to stop such attacks in order to create appropriate conditions to allow Palestinians to exercise their electoral right and freely choose a new president for the Palestinian National Authority.
A number of Palestinian districts have witnessed a state of serious tension in light of the escalation of attacks launched by IOF on Palestinian civilians and property. Since the election campaign for the Palestinian presidential election started on 25 December 2004, which is supposed to end on 7 January 2005, IOF have killed 17 Palestinians. IOF have also moved into several Palestinian areas, disrupting the election campaigning in a number of areas.
On Thursday, 30 December 2004, IOF launched a wide scale offensive on Khan Yunis refugee camp and al-Amal neighborhood in Khan Yunis district in the southern Gaza Strip, using tanks and military aircraft. As a result, 10 Palestinians were killed, 30 others were injured, 14 houses were totally destroyed and dozens of other houses were damaged. This offensive continued until Sunday morning, 2 January 2005.
In Rafah, IOF killed 2 Palestinian civilians in the past two days, a further example of the excessive use of force against civilians. On Friday, 31 December 2004, IOF killed a 16-year Palestinian child in Tal al-Sultan neighborhood while he was playing with his friends near the Egyptian border, south of Rafah. On Saturday, 1 January 2005, IOF killed another Palestinian in the town when he was attempting to infiltrate into Israel to search for a job. Also in the past two days, IOF shelled residential areas in the town, injuring a number of Palestinian civilians.
Since this morning, Israeli military vehicles moved approximately 2 kilometers into Palestinian controlled areas in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun. PCHR remained concerned that this incursion may be a prelude for a wide scale offensive on the area.
Since 13 December 2004, IOF have continued to close Rafah Terminal on the Egyptian border, south of Rafah, which is the only outlet for Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip to the outside world. Thousands of Palestinians have not been able to travel back to the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, the continuous closure of the terminal have impacted on the economic, social and health conditions of Palestinians, and may deprive thousands of Palestinians from exercising their electoral right. In the same context, IOF have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinians. For instance, on 30 December 2004, IOF closed the coastal road that links Gaza City with the central Gaza Strip for several hours.
In the West Bank, on 1 January 2005, IOF raided and searched a number of houses in Nablus and Tulkarm and arrested a number of Palestinians. In Tulkarm, IOF attempted to extra-judicially execute a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Fatah movement, but he survived this attack, and a passing Palestinian civilian was injured. Also on 1 January 2005, IOF imposed curfews on the villages of Hijja and al-Fanduqawmiya near Qalqilya and Qarawat Bani Zaid near Ramallah.
Since this morning, IOF have stopped and searched Palestinian vehicles and humiliated Palestinian civilians while crossing military checkpoints erected throughout the West Bank.
In light of the above, PCHR calls upon the international community to effectively intervene to ensure success for the Palestinian elections through pressuring Israel to stop its attacks in the OPT and create appropriate conditions to allow Palestinians to exercise their right to vote and choose a new president for the Palestinian National Authority.