While Palestinians have continued their preparations for holding the Palestinian presidential elections on 9 January 2005, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) killed 7 Palestinian children, including 2 brothers, by a tank shell in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia on Tuesday morning, 4 January 2005. Six of the children are from the Ghaben family. This latest attack is further evidence of the disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians and the excessive and indiscriminate use of force by IOF. Following the attack, IOF claimed that they targeted a number of members of the Palestinian resistance, but preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR refute this claim as all victims of the attack were children working on their agricultural land.
According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 07:45 on Tuesday, 4 January 2005, IOF positioned in military posts between “Elli Sinai” and “Nissanit” settlements to the north of Beit Lahia fired a tank shell at Palestinian agricultural areas located to the south of the fence separating the two settlements and Beit Lahia. The shell directly hit a number of Palestinian children who were farming their land. Seven children, including 2 brothers, were killed:
1. Hani Mohammed Kamel Ghaben, 17;
2. Mohammed Hassan Mousa Ghaben, 17;
3. Rajeh Ghassan Kamel Ghaben, 10;
4. Jaber ‘Abdullah Ghaben, 16;
5. Bassam Kamel Mohammed Ghaben, 17;
6. Mahmoud Kamel Mohammed Ghaben, 12; and
7. Jibril ‘Abdul Fattah al-Kaseeh, 16.
In addition, 7 civilians, mostly children, were injured. Four children are presently undergoing surgeries at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Parts of their bodied were cut by shrapnel and they have not been so far identified.
PCHR has been able to obtain names of three of those injured:
1. Islam Ahmed al-‘Eila, 17;
2. Tha’er ‘Ali Abu Banat, 41; and
3. Hussein Abu Banat, 15.
This latest attack came five days before the date of the Palestinian presidential election, to be added to other attacks which IOF have continued to launch against Palestinian civilians. Such attacks, including the latest one, have impacted on the election campaign that has started on 25 December 2004.
PCHR is gravely concerned at this latest escalation by the Israeli government and its occupation forces, and strongly condemns this latest attack. PCHR calls upon the international community to stop its silence and immediately intervene to stop such attacks and take necessary steps to allow Palestinians to exercise their electoral right. PCHR reiterates its call for the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations and ensure protection for Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.