Al Mezan Center For Human Rights 13 October 2004
Since the wide-scale Israeli military assault on the northern part of the Gaza Strip, 129 Palestinians have been killed, including 31 children and 23 Palestinians in other parts of Gaza. At least 421 Palestinians, including 138 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 16, Thursday 14 October 2004
IOF’s military operation in North Gaza entered its 16th day today, 14 October 2004. According to Al Mezan’s fieldworkers, 129 Palestinians have been killed and at least 421wounded from IOF fire. Among the deceased are 31 children. Moreover, IOF demolished 81 homes completely and hundreds of homes partially since 28 September 2004. They also leveled an area of 610 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.
IOF expanded their military action in the Gaza Strip under worsening humanitarian conditions. At dawn today, IOF carried out a new incursion in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip. They also continued their siege and incursion in north Gaza area.
At 7:30pm yesterday, Wednesday 13 October 2004, IOF opened fire towards homes near the Education neighborhood in Beit Lahia. A 17-year-old girl, Athar Abu Ajeena, was wounded from a live bullet in the shoulder when she was at the entrance of her home. Several houses in the area were damaged.
At 9:35pm yesterday IOF launched a missile towards As Salatin neighborhood west of Beit Lahia killing 24-year-old Ramzi Ismail Abu Shaqfeh. Tanks opened machinegun fire towards homes in the same area damaging numerous homes.
At 12:05am today, IOF launched a missile towards Block (7) in Jabalia camp. Two Palestinians, 19-year-old Muhyi Ad Din Al Madhoun and 20-year-old Nidal Harb Masoud were killed. Several homes were also damaged in the attack.
IOF withdrew from parts of the town of Beit Lahia at 3am today. Al Mezan’s fieldworker, who visited these parts, reported that yesterday’s incursions left much damage to civilians’ property. Thirteen homes were demolished or damaged beyond repair, while dozens were damaged. Additionally, tanks and bulldozers damaged major parts of the infrastructure, including pavement, water and electricity networks. IOF also an area of approximately 100 dunams of land planted with strawberries and citrus fruit trees. Moreover, they destroyed 5 commercial stores, 5 motor vehicles and caused damaged to the agricultural cooperative and a mosque in the area.
At 5am today, IOF opened machinegun fire towards Tel Az Zaatar neighborhood in Jabalia. Tanks fired three shells at the neighborhood and damaged numerous homes.
At 6:20am today, IOF tanks fired a shell at a spot near the Beit Lahia Girls Preparatory School and the nearby Beit Lahia Youth Club. The school building and several homes were damaged. At 4:40 pm, tanks fired another three shells towards the same area and caused severe damage to the school, the club and the nearby mosque.
At approximately 1:45pm today, IOF opened fire towards the house of Yousif Abdul HadiAhmad in Qleebo neighborhood in Beit Lahia and destroyed one of its outside walls while seven people were inside it. They destroyed a water-well owned by the family before they occupied the house and detained its residents into one room. It is worth mentioning that IOF had demolished two houses owned by Ahmad’s sons in the same neighborhood a week earlier.
In the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, IOF stormed into Block (J) in the refugee camp at 9:45pm yesterday. Tanks fired shells towards the densely populated block killing an old man, 70-year-old Ismail Muhammad As Sawalha, and two adults. Medical sources informed Al Mezan’s fieldworker that the victims were 21-year-old Ahmad Salih Al Tahrawi and 23-year-oldAli Abdul Kareem Shaath and that they were disfigured from the shells. In addition, a 75 year-old woman, Khadra Shoman, was wounded from shrapnel in the head. Witnesses reported that the victims were killed inside their homes and while trying to escape from the area under the shelling. IOF withdrew from the area at 4:30 after they destroyed 35 homes, which were inhabited by 353 people.
IOF’s closure of the Gaza Strip continued today. Both of the beach road and Abu Holy checkpoint, in the middle of the Strip, were completely closed. 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 has been deteriorating because the population there is 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. New complaints were heard from farmers who have been banned from sending their products to the northern parts of the Gaza Strip, which suffers shortage of food. Schools and universities remained closed, or did not work as students and instructors could not reach them.
Palestinian, Israeli and international statements
On 13 Oct 2004, the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan selivered the following statement: ” The Israeli Government has acknowledged that the video of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) ambulance does in fact show the driver handling a stretcher and not a rocket. The Secretary-General is committed to preventing the illegal use of UN vehicles or facilities by armed militants. Should any further issues arise, the Secretary-General expects the Government of Israel to share with the United Nations, through normal diplomatic channels, any information it might have so that the matter may be properly investigated. The statement comes after a UN investigation team finished its probe in Israel’s allegations against UNRWA recently.
British Foreign Minister, Jack Straw condemned the Israeli violence in Gaza today saying that the Israeli Government were also failing to meet their legal obligation to ensure responses to terrorism were proportionate. In his statement, which came as the Israeli army expanded its two-week incursion in the Gaza Strip, he said he “recognized the operation was in response to Qassam rocket attacks but it had killed 115 Palestinians, including many children”. He added that his country “condemns all acts of terrorism including the firing of Qassam rockets. But Israel has an obligation under international law to ensure that its response to terrorism is proportionate to the threat it faces, as well as a duty to avoid innocent civilian casualties and humanitarian suffering. It is not meeting those obligations.” He also mentioned that he was particularly worried by the “tragic case” of Iman al Hams, the Palestinian schoolgirl who was shot 20 times on her way to school. He said he was concerned aid agencies, including an arm of the United Nations, were having problems delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza and the West Bank. “Any blockages in these supplies will only worsen the already desperate living conditions of many of the people of Gaza,” he said.
Lebanese figures renewed their support of the Palestinian people in practicing its right to self-determination and of a sovereign state where Palestinians live in dignity like other peoples. They spoke in the International Forum on Development in Palestine in Beirut and condemned the Israeli violations and crimes against the Palestinian people.
The Arab National Conference and the Arab Bar Union condemned the United States policy in the Arab region today. In a joint statement, the two organizations said that the double standards employed by the US in the region allowed Israeli crimes to be perpetrated against Palestinian civilians. They also condemned the silence of the international community in the face of the mounting crimes of the Israeli occupation, which have been concentrated in the Gaza Strip and left over 100 Palestinians killed and hundreds wounded.
Turkish Prime Minister, Rajab Ardugan, criticized the policies of Israeli PM Ariel Sharon saying they were a threat to peace and security in the region and that such policies would not provide security for the Israelis. Ardugan’s statement was brought before a delegation of the American Jewish Commission yesterday in Ankara. He strongly criticized the Israeli-built separation wall in the West Bank emphasizing his country’s absolute refusal of the Israeli practices against Palestinians in the OPT. finally, he rejected the delegation’s request to visit Israel asserting that such a visit would not be possible under the ongoing conditions.
In its two-day meeting with major donor countries, UNRWA discussed the priorities for humanitarian needs for Palestinian refugees over the coming five years with donors and host countries. The Agency’s representatives described to the meeting the suffering faced by the refugees living through the escalating conflict in the occupied territory and the difficulties faced by UNRWA in trying to deliver humanitarian services to them, especially in Gaza, where its efforts to deliver aid was delayed by Israeli security procedures at the crossings into and out of the strip. donors called in their formal statements to the meeting for Israel to fully abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law and allow UNRWA full and unrestricted access for the delivery of humanitarian aid. UNRWA speakers also informed the meeting of the death of an UNRWA staff member, teacher Maher Zakout, last Sunday who killed on his way to work during the ongoing Israeli incursion into northern Gaza and that eleven UNRWA employees have been killed in the course of the present conflict. Mr. Peter Hansen, UNRWA’s Commissioner-General, referred to recent allegations made against Agency staff by the Israeli authorities and told the meeting: “The false accusations have to stop. It is in the interests of both the refugees and Israel, for UNRWA and Israeli authorities to have a mutually respectful relationship.”
Médecins du Monde issued a medical Summary on the North Gaza incursion. It pointed out that 94 Palestinians have been killed and 417 injured in this area, many of them civilians and more than 25% persons 18 years or younger, during the ongoing Israeli operation in the North Gaza area. The sunnary also mentioned the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip and the obstacles faced by the organization in carrying out its activities, especially the denial of its personnel access to patients and several areas in the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan statement
Al Mezan Center for Human Right gravely 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. 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.
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.
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.