Nine Palestinian civilians, including three children, were killed in less than 4 hours this morning when Israeli occupying forces moved into Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip and Beit Lahia in the north. Twenty Palestinians were injured during the incursions.
According to PCHR’s investigation and eyewitness reports, at approximately 03:30 on Monday, 17 March 2003, around 35 heavy Israeli military vehicles, reinforced with two combat helicopters and covered by intense shelling, moved from “Netzarim” settlement, south of Gaza City, into Nusseirat refugee camp. They surrounded a 300-square-meter, 3-storey house, in which 5 families, counting 34 people, live, owned by the family of al-Sa’afin. Through loudspeakers they called on residents of the house to get out, which they did, except for 34-year-old Mohammed Rajab al-Sa’afin. Israeli forces arrested two of his brothers and his nephew when the family got out of the house.
Mohammed apparently remained inside the houses and a one-hour exchange of fire erupted between him and the Israeli soldiers. Then, the soldiers ordered the residents of the neighboring houses to get out of their houses. At the same time some soldiers broke into al-Sa’afin’s house and planted explosives inside it. Mohammed al-Sa’afin was still inside. At approximately 06:15, while they were withdrawing from the area, Israeli soldiers destroyed the house. Al-Sa’afin’s body was found distorted under the ruins. Four neighboring houses were severely damaged.
As a result of the Israeli indiscriminate shelling, 5 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children, were killed: Ilham Ziad Hassan al-‘Assar, 4, shot by two live bullets in the abdomen and the left foot while at home; ‘Omar Tawfiq Salama Abu Yousef, 17, hit in the head by shrapnel from a shell; ‘Omar Hassan Suleiman Darwish, 17, shot by a live bullet in the head; Sa’id Husni Sa’id al-Tawil, 30, shot by a live bullet in the neck; and Eyad Bashir Zuraiq, 18, shot by a live bullet in the head.
In addition, 15 other civilians were injured, 4 of them seriously.
A number of Palestinian gunmen confronted the invading Israeli forces, which opened fire at them, killing 25-year-old Ibrahim Yousef al-‘Othmani with two live bullets in the head and the chest.
During the incursion, Israeli forces raided and searched 4 houses of the Qudaih family. They then arrested 4 brothers: ‘Omar, Jamal, Jamil and Sharif Mohammed Mahmoud Qudaih, who are all members of the Palestinian police.
At approximately 06:20, while the Israeli forces were withdrawing from Nusseirat refugee camp, other Israeli forces moved approximately 3km into the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia. They moved into al-‘Atatra area, where they seized a number of Palestinian houses, from which they opened fire in all directions. Then, they called through loudspeakers on male residents of the area between 15 and 40 years old to gather in a yard near the American School and held them there. At approximately 09:00, a number of Palestinians, including members of the Palestinian Naval Police went to the streets, thinking that Israeli forces ware pulling out of the area. Immediately, Israeli soldiers in the houses they had already seized opened fire at the people. Two members of the Palestinian Naval Police were killed: Ramez Mansour Hassan al-Sidoudi, 19, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza City, shot by a live bullet in the head; and Shadi Mohammed ‘Abdullah Khurais, 22, from Khan Yunis, shot by a live bullet in the head.
In addition, 11 other Palestinians were injured.
At the time of writing, Israeli occupying forces are still detaining male residents between 20 and 40 years old.
PCHR strongly condemns the serious escalation of the illegal military actions by the Israeli government and its occupying forces against the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
PCHR reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 of their legal obligations under the Convention to ensure respect for the Convention and take effective steps to stop the continuing grave human rights violations perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians.