Amnesty International 1 October 2004
Amnesty International is concerned for the safety of the Palestinian population in the Jabaliya refugee camp and elsewhere in the northern Gaza Strip, where the Israeli army is carrying out a large-scale offensive.
In the past two days the Israeli army has killed more than 35 Palestinians, including several children and other unarmed residents who were not participating in armed confrontations with Israeli soldiers. Most of those killed and injured were hit by Israeli army tank fire and at least two were killed by a missile fired by a helicopter gunship.
The Israeli army has deployed scores of tanks and armoured vehicles, backed by helicopter gunships. Frequent reckless shooting and shelling from Israeli army tanks and Apache helicopters into densely populated Palestinian refugee camps and other residential areas in the Occupied Territories have killed and injured thousands of unarmed Palestinians in the past four years, including hundreds of children.
This latest Israeli army incursion follows the killing of two Israeli children by a Palestinian mortar attack on the Israeli town of Sderot on 29 September. Such mortar attacks by Palestinian armed groups against Sderot have become more frequent in recent months and have previously killed two Israeli civilians, including a child. On the morning of 30 September Palestinian armed groups in the northern Gaza Strip also killed an Israeli woman resident of a settlement and two Israeli soldiers.
In the past two days the Israeli army has also destroyed some 20 Palestinian homes in the area and Israeli officials have indicated that they intend to carry out further destruction of Palestinian homes and properties in the area Last week the Israeli army also destroyed some 35 homes in the Khan Yunes refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.
Amnesty International is concerned that the Israeli army’s use of excessive force in this latest incursion in the Gaza Strip will result in further loss of lives and wanton destruction of Palestinian homes and property. Reprisals against protected persons and property are prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention and Israel is obliged to ensure that any measures taken to protect the lives of Israeli civilians are consistent with its obligations to respect human rights and international humanitarian law.
Israel should immediately allow international human rights and humanitarian organizations to enter the Gaza Strip. At present Amnesty International delegates and staff members of other international organizations are denied access to the Gaza Strip.
Amnesty International also reiterates its call on Palestinian armed groups to put an immediate end to attacks on Israeli civilians, whether in the Occupied Territories or in Israel. The organization also calls on the Palestinian Authority to exert all possible efforts to prevent such attacks.
Amnesty International also repeats its call on the international community to deploy monitors to Israel and the Occupied Territories, with the aim of ensuring the protection of the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis.