Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) carried out a wide-scale 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 town 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 Qassam and other hand-made rockets on the Israeli village of Sderot and Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. The IOD incursion is still underway for the fourth day. Sixty-five Palestinians, including 19 children, have been killed and 244, including 81 children, were injured by the time of issuing this update. Numerous homes and private property have also been destroyed as the IOF utilizes air force and heavy tanks in this military operation.
Events of day five: Sunday 3 October 2004
Al-Mezan’s fieldworker in north Gaza reported that Israeli tanks and armored bulldozers stormed into Tel Az Zaatar neighborhood in Jabalia at approximately 10:55pm on Saturday 2 October 2004. Avoiding the main street, they opened their own way through homes’ walls. They destroyed seven homes, one kindergarten, one grocery store, a sewing workshop and part of a mosque. They also bulldozed a farm with an area of 50 dunams in the neighborhood. Additionally, IOF solders broke into the house of Zaki Abu Al Kass in the neighborhood and commandeered it for an observation post. All family members were detained into one room in the house.
Sources in Balsam Hospital north of Beit Lahia reported a shortage of food and medicine supplies. After a long delay, the Ministry of Health was allowed by the IOF to take supplies to them at 4pm Saturday 2 October 2004. However, when the ambulance team reached the area, they found that the street was ruined by bulldozers. They were ordered to fill, with their hands, the holes that the IOF had dug in the street if they wanted to pass through, and they did so.
The Ministry of Health was denied access to the Government clinic in Beit Hanoun, which a suffered lack of medicines and blood. All the requests made by the Ministry to the IOF Liaison Command were denied. In addition, the UNRWA’s medical staff working in the Agency’s clinic in Beit Hanoun were not allowed access to the clinic since 28 September 2004.
The manager of Beit Hanoun Municipality reported to Al-Mezan that the electricity cut-off in the An-nada area left people without running water for four days. He said that the Municipality is neither able to reach the water well nor to provide water tanks to the population in An-Nada neighborhood and part of Beit Hanoun.
At approximately 8:30 Saturday, Israeli tanks and bulldozers took control of an area near Manshiyeh neighborhood in Beit Lahia. They bulldozed 20 dunams of farmland in the area. At approximately 11:55pm Saturday 2 October 2004, the IOF demolished the house of Aref Az-Zaaneen, which is located in the As Sikka Street in Beit Hanoun.
At approximately 2:30pm today, the IOF bulldozed 20 commercial stores near Erez crossing. These stores are the last of about 120 that used to serve Palestinian workers who work in Israel. IOF fired a tank shell near the UNRWA school in Block 4 in Jabalia refugee camp killing 22-year-old Muhammad Ash Shrafi and injuring one person.
Al-Mezan’s fieldworkers in the south of Gaza reported that this area suffers a shortage in fuel supply. The IOF prevented vehicular movement between south Gaza and the rest of the Strip over the past week while goods supply is allowed through one passage only near Gaza City.
In his affidavit to Al-Mezan, Mr. Khalil Samara, the mayor of Jabalia, warned of a crisis due to a severe shortage in drinking water in the town and its refugee camp. He informed the Center that the main three water wells, which are located in an area controlled by the IOF, are not working because of the electricity cut-off in the area. He added that the Municipality staff could not access the wells as the IOF occupy the area and would not allow them to enter it. Earlier, the IOF shelled a water well in the refugee camp.
For the second time today, an IOF tank fired a shell near the UNRWA school in Block 4 in Jabalia refugee camp killing 29-year-old Mahir Zaqout. Medical sources reported that Zaqout’s body arrived at the hospital disfigured.
Al-Mezan’s fieldworker reported that hundreds of Palestinians who need urgent medical care abroad cannot reach Rafah Crossing, the only passage abroad because of the closure that the IOF imposed during the past week. Riziq Swair, aged 21 from Gaza City, informed the Center that he suffers from cancer and cannot reach the crossing. In addition, many people in the middle of Gaza have not been able to access the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City due to the closure. So far, the Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip, which started on the night of Tuesday 28 September 2004, have resulted in the killing of 65 Palestinians.
Statements by international institutions
The French Minister of Foreign Affairs expresses his country’s deep concern about the ongoing events in Gaza and called both sides to restrain from violence. He added that violence should stop in the area and urged both sides to return to negotiations, asserting that the EU has a consensus regarding the tools to end the conflict. He also said that the EU is committed to re-activate the Road map, which leads to a two-state solution to this conflict.
The Government of Switzerland expressed its concern at the escalation of violence in Gaza and called Israel to respect international law, which prohibits the use of disproportionate force and reprisals against civilians. The Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesperson strongly denounced the killing of a high number of Palestinian civilians during the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.
The Government of Canada called Israel to end the acts of violence against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Canadian Foreign Minister expressed his country’s deep concern at the high number of Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces in Jabalia refugee camp. He called on Israel to respect its obligations and to take all the necessary precautions to avoid the loss of the lives of civilians who do not take part in hostilities. Finally, he called both sides to respect their obligations under the Road Map and international law and especially the provisions relevant to the protection of civilians.
The Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmad Abu Al Ghait, called Israel, via a phone call to his Israeli counterpart, to end its military operation in North Gaza. He said that the violence will only generate more violence and asked Israel to restrain from violent responses and leave room for Egypt’s mediation for the planned Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
Palestinian and Israeli statements
The Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, called on the world and the Israeli peace movements to take urgent action to stop the IOF’s “crimes against humanity” especially in North Gaza. Moreover, the Palestinian mission to the Arab League stated that the League will convene in an emergency session to discuss the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip and consider the possible ways to mobilize the international community to dispatch a protection mission to the OPT.
The Palestinian National Authority and the Palestinian Legislative Council condemned the international silence in the face of the Israeli operation in North Gaza. The Palestinian Minister for Negotiations Affairs, Said Erikat, said that the silence of the international community gives Ariel Sharon a license to continue his military campaign. He warned about allowing Israel to perpetrate more massacres in North Gaza.
Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, told the Israeli Army Radio last night that Israel will operate in Gaza until all Palestinian rocket fire against Israeli towns is halted. He also said the Israeli military operation “has no time limit and its aim is to alter the situation in the Gazan front, driving the rocket launchers out of range of Israeli towns and destroying the terrorist organizations by killing their leaders and destroying their weapons-making workshops”.
The Israeli Army Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon said that this operation might last for weeks.
Israeli sources said that Israel will send a letter to UN Director-General Kofi Annan tomorrow, demanding the dismissal of Peter Hansen as commissioner-general of UNRWA in protest against what Israel claims are Palestinian armed groups “using UN ambulances to smuggle arms and terrorists through the Gaza Strip.” UNRWA denounced Israel’s allegations. Peter Hansen, the UNRWA’s Chief Commissioner General expressed his concern about such allegations, which could put the safety of UNRWA’s staff in grave danger.
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights renews its condemnation of the IOF’s violations of human rights in north Gaza, especially the arbitrary shelling of residential areas and the collective punishment of the civilian population 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 enabled Israel to continue its breach of international law. Al-Mezan calls for urgent international protection of Palestinian civilians in the OPT and an end to the IOF’s 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 to 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 is receiving those cases in need of intervention in person or by telephone through its Gaza office in Izzadin Al Qassam St., tel/fax: +970 (0)8 2820447/2.