Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) carried out a wide-scaled incursion into the area of North Gaza(One of the most populated areas in the Gaza Strip; North Gaza Governorate is composed of three major residential areas: Jabalia towns and its refugee camp, the town of Beit Hanoun and the town of Beit Lahia. The population of this area is over 250,000.) at approximately 10pm on Tuesday 28 September 2004.
IOF spokespersons announced that the Israeli Army carried out the incursion to stop the launch of Qssam and other hand-made rockets on the Israeli village of Sderot and Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. The incursion is still underway for the fourth day. Forty-four Palestinians have been killed and 223 injured by the time of issuing this update. Numerous homes and private property have also been destroyed as IOF utilize air force and heavy tanks in this military operation.
Events of day four: Saturday 2 October 2004:
Al Mezan’s fieldworker in north Gaza reported that several homes in the area were isolated from Jabalia since the beginning of the incursion, which started at the night of Tuesday, 28 September 2004. Ambulances have not been allowed to reach these homes and they suffer lack of food, water and medicine. Some of the residents need daily clinic or hospital care, but they are not allowed by IOF to leave their homes. Some of the owners of these homes are: Yousif Abu Rukbeh, Hussien Abu Dawoud, Yihia Al Bukhari, Mousa Abu Rayya, and Uthman Abu Rawwah.
Under the strict siege imposed by IOF, the humanitarian situation of the North Gaza communities worsened. Al Mezan’s fieldworkers reported that there is a lack of food, medicine and water supplies in all of the besieged communities.
IOF demolished numerous homes in Jabalia, Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun. Al Mezan’s fieldworker reported that the homes of the following people were demolished: Saeed Abu Awn, Raafat Abu Awn, Khalid Khadir, Salah Abu Rukbeh, Khalid Abu Rukbeh, Judeh Abu Rukbeh, Abdul Hamid At Taluli, Mahmud Mattar, Abu Iz Abu Al Jidyan, Shihdeh Abu Al Kass, Marwan Abu Al Kass, Ahmad As Sahhar, Mahmud Salih, Hamdi At Tatari, Muhammad Sha’ban, Abu Ihab At Taluli, Kayid An Nadi, Abdul Hadi Thahir, Umar Hamada, Adnan Abu Wardeh, Rafeeq Abu Shada, Muhammad Abu Shada, Imad Al madhoun, Umar Abu Jarad and Abdul Halim Al Hilu. Many of these homes are inhabited by extended families. In one case, the home of Umar Abu Jarad, there are as many as 50 people residing in the home. In addition, IOF destroyed 8 homes owned by Al Kahlout family in Al Basateen neighborhood.
Later, IOF demolished over 30 homes which were located in the east of UNRWA ‘B’ Preparatory School in the refuge camp of Jabalia in Block 4. Residents of these homes were not allowed to collect any of their belongings before the demolition.
IOF airplane fired a missile at a crowd of people in Tel Az Zaatar neighborhood killing three, Fathi Afana, aged 45, Eid Afana, aged 36, and Ibrahim Hamdan, aged 43, and injuring four. IOF shelling of homes in north Gaza continued. Al Mezan’s fieldworker reported that 46-year-old Umar Abu Rayya was injured from a live bullet in his face when IOF opened fire in Tel Az Zaatar neighborhood about an hour after midnight.
Israeli tanks stormed into the Salah Ad Din Street isolating the Izba neighborhood in Beit Hanoun from the rest of the town. Residents of the neighborhood informed the Center they lacked water, food and medicine supply.
At approximately 6:30am, IOF fired at an ambulance of the Palestinian Union of Health Work Committees in Jabalia. The ambulance was in its way to lift sick people but could not reach its destination. 25-year-old Waheed Hamdan, from Jabalia, died at hospital around 11:20am today. He was injured when IOF bombarded a motorbike in the refugee camp yesterday killing its two riders. At about 11:30am today, IOF demolished the homes of Ali Abu Jarad and Ali Al Manay’a east of Beit Lahia.
In the Sika neighborhood east of Jabalia IOF demolished the homes of Abdul Naser Jasir and Naji Yousif Sarhan. Both of the houses were occupied by IOF three days before the demolition took place and all of the two families members were detained by IOF in one room in each house and used the houses for observation. In the same area, they also demolished the house of Muhiy Yihai.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker reported that IOF imposed a siege in the Sika Street in Beit Hanoun and ordered the residents of its houses to evacuate them. Initial reports said tens of homes were demolished in the street. The family of Wail Al Basyuni was ordered to evacuate their home, which was used by IOF for observation in the same street. Palestinian official sources announced that IOF destroyed parts of a historic Roman site east of Jabalia. The Palestinian Ministry of Tourism discovered the site four years ago.
IOF opened fire at two Palestinian journalists in the Sultan Abdul Hameed Street west of Beit Hanoun. The journalists were identified as Fadi Az Zaaneen and Muhammad Abu Shabab. IOF airplane fired missiles at a crowd of Palestinians in Tel Az zaatar neighborhood at 5:50pm killing 20-year-old Muhammad Abu Ghbayid and injuring 4 others. IOF assassinated 30-year-old Mahdi Mushtaha and 28-year-old Khalid Al Amriti as they fired a missile on their car in Gaza City. Four others were injured and a fire started at a nearby workshop.
At about 6:30pm IOF opened fire at the medical team working at the clinic of Union of Palestinian Medical Committees in Um An Naser village, north to Beit Lahia. At approximately 8:25pm IOF fired at Reuters team in Gaza and injured their car with 4 bullets. None of the four journalists was hurt.
The toll of Palestinians reached 55 at 10pm today. Some other 227 people were injured during the IOF incursion of North Gaza area.
Al Mezan’s interventions in humanitarian situations:
Al Mezan Center took initiated legal action and contacts with Israeli and international entities on behalf of victims of human rights violations. Many of the cases were in need for humanitarian assistance. Following is a list of these cases:
Three of Al Jamal family members, Nizar, Sadi and Fatima, need hospital care as they suffer problems in their kidneys. After four days of siege, their health condition deteriorated. Al Mezan contacted the Israeli Army legal Advisor and Israeli health NGO to assess their access to hospital.
The wife of Mousa Abu Raya was giving birth at her home, which is occupied by Israeli soldiers. Soldiers refused to allow her to leave the house and go to hospital. The center is following her case with the above mentioned entities.
IOF notified the family of Wail Jaber Al Basyuni that their home, which is located in the As Sika Street in Beit Hanoun, would be demolished and ordered them to evacuate it. The Center’s lawyers started legal action to prevent the demolition.
IOF took control of the house of Abdul Hadi Mustafa Ahmad, which is located in Qleebo neighborhood north to Jabalia, and detained the family’s 28 members in one room three days ago. The Center contacted the Israeli Army Legal Advisor requesting their release.
The case of two Palestinian armed group members, Samer Ad Driny and Raid Al Haj Ali, who were on way to attack an Israeli post in Erez crossing area with a third member. IOF announced the murder of the latter but did not give any information on the whereabouts of the other two. The center requested the Israeli Army Legal Advisor to provide information about them to their families.
The case of Abdul Hadi Dhahir; whose house was demolished without prior notification in spite of the Center’s intervention. IOF took control of two homes, owned by Abdul Naser Abu Jasir and Naji Sarhan in the Sikka neighborhood. The center contacted the Israeli Army Legal Advisor requesting a halt of demolition orders, but the Abu Jasir house was demolished.
The Qleebo area suffers lack of food and children milk due to IOF strict siege on it, which started three days ago. The same neighborhood also suffers from water and electricity cut-off and need urgent humanitarian assistance. The Center sent a letter to the Israeli Army Legal Advisor regarding ongoing demolitions of about 40 homes in the east of the Sikka neighborhood.
Response of Israeli officials:
The Israeli Army Legal Advisor responded to Al Mezan’s letters. He stated that there were orders for the Israeli Army to halt acts of home demolition in the As Sikka neighborhood and other places in North Gaza. He also said that there were teams from the Israeli Army Office for Humanitarian Affairs who were checking the urgent humanitarian needs for the residents of the homes that are occupied by the army in the same areas. He assured in his letter that the Israeli soldiers would evacuate all of these homes today evening. Al Mezan is investigating the developments of the situation of the subjects of its intervention.
Amnesty International issued a press release today expressing its concern for the safety of Palestinian population in the Jabaliya refugee camp and elsewhere in the northern Gaza Strip. The release, which is entitled “Israeli army must respect human rights in its operations”, criticized the targeting of civilians, both Palestinian and Israeli and the use of excessive force and the wanton destruction of homes and property. It also asserted that “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”. Amnesty called on the international community to deploy monitors to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to ensure the protection of human rights of civilians in both communities.
In a press release issued yesterday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it was “deeply concerned about the effects of the violence that has taken place in the Gaza Strip and Israel in the last few days”. It also said it was alarmed by the deaths of children and civilians who were not engaged in hostilities and asserted that “Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention is applicable in the occupied and autonomous territories and that international humanitarian law prohibits the killing or harming of civilians who are not directly taking part in the hostilities”. The ICRC urged all the parties to “respect the rules and other principles of international humanitarian law under all circumstances”.
The United States said warned against using excessive force against civilians. The deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said, “All care should be taken to protect and respect civilian life and property”. The state department said Israel should use only “proportional force” and urged it to avoid civilian casualties in its efforts to practice its “right to defend itself”.
The European Union said that Israel’s response to the rocket launches is disproportionate and that Israel should respect international law. The EU Presidency also criticized the launch of rockets at Israel.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) denounced IOF’s entry of three of its school in Jabalia and using them to fire at Palestinians. The Agency’s spokesperson in Geneva said that the Israeli Army destroyed the fences of the three schools while pupils were inside their classrooms. He also said that eight Palestinian refugees in the camp were killed as Israeli tanks shelled them from inside the schools. He denounced the IOF’s unacceptable use of United Nations well marked locations and called the Israeli military to respect the neutrality of the UN. He added UNRWA’s respects of Israel’s right to self defense, does not justify the use of heavy arms in populated areas. He also said that the Israeli Army’s operation disrupts the Agency’s efforts to help refugees.
The Russian Federation called Israel to quit the arbitrary use of excessive force in its military operation in the Palestinian Territories, especially in the densely populated areas. British MP, John Dunham, called Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister to exert economic pressure on Israel to fulfill his own promises to resolve the Middle East Issue. He also called the British Government to take brave steps towards Israel emphasizing that international pressure was important to push it to reconsider its behavior. Mr. Dunham spoke a personal experience during his visit to the West Bank when Israeli soldiers delayed an ambulance lifting his colleague for over 90 minutes despite that they knew he was suffering a heart attack and the fact that he was a parliament member.
Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Block, called the Israeli Prime Minister to initiate political negotiations with the Palestinians with its aim to accomplish a final settlement for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Block said in its statement that the Israeli Government’s claim that there was not a Palestinian counterpart to negotiate was mistaken. It also said that no state could win a war like this one and urged the Israeli Government to immediately start a peace process with the Palestinian National Authority to withdraw from Gaza.
The Israeli Army’s Southern Command refused the Palestinian condemnation of the IOF’s operations in North Gaza. He said that they [Palestinians] are not allowed to condemn this action because they are launching rockets on Israel from their homes.
Avi Bazner, the Israeli Government spokesperson, said that the current military operation is open-ended and that the Israeli Army will expand its operation to stop the rocket launches and to quaver ‘terrorist organizations’.
Al Mezan Statement
Al Mezan Center for Human Right renews its condemnation of IOF’s violations of human rights is north Gaza, especially the arbitrary shelling of residential areas and the collective punishment of the civilian population in this area, which has so far resulted in dozens of deaths and injuries and the destruction of homes and private properties. Such acts constitute grave breaches of the International Humanitarian Law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention (art. 146, art. 147).
The Center believes that the failure of the international community to effectively intervene has only urged Israel to continue its breach of international law. Al Mezan calls for urgent international community to protect Palestinian civilians in the OPT and to put an end to its collective punishment of Palestinian civilians.
Due to the Israeli incursion in North Gaza and to the presence of IOF tanks 150 meters from its office, which incurs serous dangers on the center’s office and the safety of its staff, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights was forced to close its main office in Jabalia camp. The Center receives the cases who need intervention in person or by telephone in its Gaza office in Izzadin Al Qassam St., tel/fax: +970 (0)8 2820447/2