Al Mezan Center For Human Rights 12 October 2004
Since the wide-scale Israeli military assault on the northern part of the Gaza Strip, 123 Palestinians have been killed, including 31 children and 20 Palestinians in other parts of Gaza. At least 407 Palestinians, including 135 children were injured. Numerous homes and private property have also been destroyed as IOF utilize air force and heavy tanks in this military operation. In addition, as the incursion continues, the civilian population of the area suffer shortage in food and water supply. In the areas which IOF occupy civilians lack the most basic needs. Al Mezan is still receiving plights from people who have been in urgent need for medicine and water.
Events of day 15, Wednesday 13 October 2004
IOF’s military operation in North Gaza entered its 15th day today, 13 October 2004. According to Al Mezan’s fieldworkers, 122 Palestinians have been killed and at least 407 wounded from IOF fire. Among the deceased are 31 children. Moreover, IOF demolished 77 homes completely and hundreds of homes partially since 28 September 2004. They also leveled an area of 510 dunams of farmland, most of which in this area. IOF also destroyed numerous public facilities, including police and security posts, schools, mosques and kindergartens were damaged or destroyed.
At approximately 7pm yesterday, 12 October 2004, ten IOF tanks and armored bulldozers stormed into Al Manshiyeh neighborhood in Beit Lahia. They leveled ten dunams of agricultural land, which is owned by the families of Al Habel, Abu Zaydeh and Al Masri. Israeli soldiers broke into a four-story-building and used its roof for observation. The families living in the building were detained into one room. IOF use the same conduct each time they use houses for observation (see the affidavit below).
51-year-old Ibrahim Muhammad Ad Dahnoun, whose house was used as a watching post by IOF twice, gave the following affidavit to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: “I live in the main Street of the town of Beit Lahia, opposite to the Tel Az Zaater neighborhood of Jabalia. I have 11 sons and daughters, 8 of whom are children. With the families of my two sons and my parents, there are 40 persons living in our 3-story-house, most of whom are children. At approximately 9:30am on Thursday 2004, as I was sitting in the second floor of my house, I heard the sound of tanks engines. It appeared to me that the sound was approaching my house. I looked through a window and saw a tank destroying the trees around the house and hit the main gate destroying it. I then saw about 20 Israeli soldiers entering the ground floor. Within moments, some of them were in the second floor. Their faces were painted with a black color. They order us to gather into one room. A soldier stood at the door and watched us as we were stuffed in the room. A soldier told us that we were not allowed to move, even to go to bring water or food, or to go to the bathroom, unless we are told to do by the guard. We were kept in the room until 11pm on the same day when the soldiers left the house. Two days later, on 2 October 2004, at 9am, I saw a tank and an armored bulldozer approaching the house. The tank opened fire at the house. A soldier’s head was seen getting out of the tank, and he waved to us to evacuate the house. We went outside, every one of us. I heard my mother weeping loudly, but a soldier opened fire near her feet and told her to silence. I spoke to the soldier, in Hebrew, and told him I needed to bring important documents from upstairs. He said I could go, but must hurry up. I went upstairs and brought our important documents. The same soldier told me that we should leave the house and find a neighbor’s house to stay in. We left for my brother’s nearby house. There were 52 individuals at his house with us. We had to stay in two stores in the ground floor because there was not any space for us. Within two days, we, and my brother’s family, were out of food and water. My parents, who are both in the 60s and suffer from heart disease and diabetes, also ran out of medicine. We stayed there until 6 October 2004, when, at about 3pm, soldiers called us through a loudspeaker and ordered us to evacuate my brother’s house and leave the area. We headed towards our family house in the center of Beit Lahia. Until today, we do not know anything about our homes and farm. In the past, the Israeli forces demolished our farm, which area is 16.5 dunams, four times and destroyed our water well. We are in a very bad condition after losing our farm and house.”
At 8:20pm yesterday about 20 IOF tanks and armored bulldozers entered the northwest of the town of Beit Lahia. They leveled 20 dunams of land, owned by the families of Al Kaseeh, Abu Hamideh, and Al Radee’. Hundreds of dunams of cultivated land have been leveled by IOF during the current incursion of north Gaza.
Israeli jet fighters, thought to be U.S. made F16s, were seen in the sky of Gaza city and north Gaza at a low height yesterday night. At 11:35pm yesterday, IOF tanks fired four shells towards As Sika Street, east of Jabalia. The shelling caused severe damage to numerous homes in the street. At approximately 12:15am today, Wednesday, 13 October 2004, IOF opened machinegun fire and flares towards Tel Az Zaatar neighborhood in Jabalia. Several homes were damaged, as a result.
IOF’s closure of the Gaza Strip continued over last night and today. Between 1pm and 5pm today, IOF allowed vehicular movement at the beach road while the Abu Holy checkpoint, in the middle of the Strip, remained close until 6pm. IOF closed the Abu Holy checkpoint on 29 September 2004, and the beach road two days earlier dividing the strip into three segments. The humanitarian situation in the southern area of the strip have been deteriorating because the population there are dependent on Gaza City for supplies. Moreover, emergency cases, especially people who need to travel for health care, have been mounting in the different areas of the strip.
The humanitarian situation in the north Gaza area continued to worsen as IOF expanded their incursion in the area. A strict siege on north Gaza has been imposed since 28 September 2004, when IOF initiated a major military operation there. Reports about civilians who are trapped inside their houses without food and medicines are mounting.
About 40 minutes after midnight today, Israeli tanks stormed into the town of Beit Lahia. Witnesses reported that a line of tanks, estimated of 45 tanks, entered the northeastern part of the town and reached the town’s center. Tanks avoided paved streets and created their own way by destroying homes and trees. Troops broke into several homes and buildings and occupied them for observation. Witnesses from the town informed the Center that tanks used narrow dirt roads and have been stationed near the municipality building in the middle of the town.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker in north Gaza reported that IOF destroyed dozens of homes as tanks and bulldozers used alleys to enter Beit Lahia. Several homes were completely destroyed, too. One of these homes is owned by Ala’ Al Bahri. The Center is still investigating the impact of the recent expansion of IOF’s incursion on human life and property.
At 3:15am today, an IOF helicopter gunship launched a missile towards a spot near the Beit Lahia cemetery killing 24-year-old Muhammad Karam Ma’rouf. Two other people were injured in the attack, one of whom critically.
At 3:25am today, an Israeli helicopter gunship launched a missile towards Block (7) in Jabalia camp. It hit a residential area and injured 42-year-old Muhammad Ash Shrafi and his wife, Amneh. Numerous homes were damaged due to this attack.
Israeli marine forces opened fire towards Beit Lahia and Jabalia beach at approximately 4:30am today. Witnesses said that military boats fired five sound bombs at the area and that several homes were damaged. They added that many children were treated from trauma.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker in north Gaza reported that IOF opened intense fire towards homes in the center of Beit Lahia, and the neighborhoods of Al Manshiyeh, Al Hatabiyeh and Al Jam’yeh at 5:25am today. Tens of homes were damaged in these areas.
At 8:50am today, IOF opened machinegun fire towards Al Manshiyeh neighborhood in Beit Lahia. Four people were injured, as a result. Three of the injured are brothers, and of whom are 3-year-old Fadi Salah and 8-year-old Nidal Salah.
At 9:30am today, two Palestinians, 37-year-old Jihad Ameen Mousa and 29-year-old Khadir Muhammad At Taluli, were announced dead at the hospital. The two of them were injured in an IOF missile attack in Block (4) in Jabalia camp on 9 October 2004.
At 10am today, IOF tanks fired a shell at a spot near the Beit Lahia Girls Preparatory School. The school building, a nearby mosque and several homes were damaged. It should be noted that this area has been frequently targeted by tank shells over the past two days. At 12:20pm today IOF fired a missile towards a crowd of people in the western part of Beit Lahia. Two persons, 38-year-old Riziq Hasan Az Zeety and 25-year-old Muhammad Said Al Masri, were killed immediately. At 2:45pm today, IOF tanks created a military post on a hill in the Al Jam’yeh Street in Beit Lahia. Witnesses informed Al Mezan that IOF have been reinforcing their presence in the town.
During half an hour, starting at 3:15pm today, IOF tanks fired about 20 shells towards Tel Az Zaatar neighborhood. Most of the shells fell into a field. They caused severe damage to many houses that are located near the field. Tanks also opened fire on the same area. Residents of the area, who have been exposed to continued firing, said they noticed that the machinegun fire sounded strange, especially after they hit solid objects.
At 10am today, medical sources reported that 10-year-old Ghadeer Jaber Mkhemar, from Khan Younis, passed away. The school girl died from an injury in the chest she sustained yesterday when she was at her desk in an UNRWA school in Khan Younis refugee camp when IOF opened fire towards the school. With the death of Ghadeer, the toll of Palestinian children, who were killed by IOF since September 2000, rises to 516 in the Gaza Strip alone.
In the middle of the Gaza Strip, IOF notified the family of Mahmud Al Aidy that their home would be demolished. The house is located east of the settlement of Nitzarim. The family was given two hours to evacuate. Al Mezan’s lawyers initiated legal action and were notified that the demolition order had been cancelled.
Al Mezan’s fieldworker reported to the Center that IOF launched tank 8 shells towards Tel Az Zaatar neighborhood in Jabalia around 5pm today. Witnesses also said that they saw Israeli soldiers, who are positioned on the Qleebo hill opposite to the neighborhood, fired about 20 bombs on the neighborhood. At 5:20pm today, Israeli tanks fired a shell towards Al Awda towers in the north of Beit Lahia. Several homes and a school were damaged, as a result.
In Rafah, southern the Gaza strip, IOF killed 16-year-old Jihad Housam Barhoum. Eyewitnesses said that an Israeli tank opened fire indiscriminately towards Block (J) in Rafah refugee camp. 8-year-old Abdul Rahman Barhoum sustained critical wounds in his back in the same incident, which took place at 6:40pm today.
Palestinian, Israeli and international statements
On 12 Oct 2004, the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, said that he was deeply troubled by the continuing military action and violence in the Gaza Strip, especially its effect on local children. Annan’s spokesman, said he deplored the “high toll of death and injuries among the civilian population” and grieved “for the many children who have been killed or wounded” during the Israeli military operations in the north of the Gaza Strip. He added that he was “disturbed by the destruction of civilian property, infrastructure and agricultural land during the operations”, and called on the Israeli Government to “do its utmost to avoid harming Palestinian civilians”. He reminded both sides of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians, and urged them to cease all forms of violence and search for a peaceful settlement.
Sultan of Oman, Qabus Ibn Said, voiced his deep concern about the suffering of Palestinian civilians due to the Israeli army conduct in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He called for international intervention to enable the Palestinian people to build his own independent state under the international law.
The UNRWA Commissioner-General, Mr. Peter Hansen, said that the killing of 10-year-school girl today, the second act of its kind within one month, was “horrific by anyone’s standards.” Hansen’s statement came after the announcement of the death of Ghadeer Mkheemar, who was injured yesterday at her desk in a United Nations run school in Khan Younis. He added that “the pace of child deaths in Gaza has been accelerating terribly in recent weeks,” and that almost every day “The most basic of the rights of the child – to life – is now being violated.” Mr. Hansen said that UNRWA schools have been attacked by the Israeli army four times during the past two years and that the UNRWA has repeatedly called on the Israeli military to stop firing at its schools. He also voiced his concern about parents hesitate to send their children to schools.
Al Mezan statement
Al Mezan Center for Human Right condemns Israel’s continued collective punishment of Palestinian civilians in the OPT, and especially in the North Gaza area. The Center emphasizes that IOF committed violations, and continue, serious violations of human rights is this area, especially the arbitrary shelling and bombardment of residential areas, the use of excessive and disproportionate force, the obstruction of ambulance and humanitarian teams movement and, he destruction of homes and private properties. The Center is especially concerned for the loss of children and civilian life in the Gaza Strip under the IOF indiscriminate firing of civilians areas and schools. Such acts breach the International Humanitarian Law and human rights standards and necessitate urgent action by the international community.
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, especially as the humanitarian situation of tens of thousands of civilians is deteriorating rapidly. The Israeli military conduct constitutes evident crimes of war and necessitate bringing the perpetrators to justice, under the provisions of the international law.
Al Mezan calls upon the United Nations Security Council to condemn the Israeli breaches of the international law and to initiate investigations in the IOF’s violations of human rights in the Gaza Strip, and to dispatch a monitoring and protection mission to the OPT is a must at this particular time.
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.