Israeli occupying forces claimed that Palestinian gunmen were hiding in the residential building and had opened fire at Israeli troops. However, PCHR’s field worker in Hebron asserted that there were no signs or reports of gunfire from inside the building. PCHR is concerned that the Israeli occupying forces will demolish the property, following a similar Israeli military operation conducted in Nablus on Friday 5 September 2003, in which a 7-storey apartment building was demolished.
According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 02:00 on Tuesday, 9 September 2003, Israeli occupying forces, including a tank, 3 armoured personnel carriers (APCs), 12 military jeeps and a military bulldozer, moved into the Abu Katila neighborhood in northwest Hebron. The military imposed a curfew on the neighborhood and then surrounded an 8-storey apartment building, in which 13 families live. They opened fire at the building and ordered residents to exit the building. Residents left the building and gathered in its yard. During this part of the operation, a resident, Basem Fathi Al-Dajani, 37, was injured and then taken away by Israeli soldiers. Israeli occupying forces conducted physical searches of the residents and then detained them in a nearby nursery school. At approximately 06:00, Israeli occupying forces called out to gunmen who they believed were still in the building to exit. Then, Israeli soldiers opened fire with heavy machine guns at the building from the north, the west and the south. At approximately 06:30, Israeli soldiers began firing tank shells at the building. A number of apartments in the building sustained serious damage. This shooting and shelling continued for more than four hours. At approximately 10:20, 11-year-old Tha’er Mohammed Mansour Sayouri was hit in the head by a piece of shrapnel, killing him instantly. According to the child’s father, Tha’er was hit while he was in the kitchen of his home which overlooks the western part of the targeted building. The house is located approximately 45m to the south of the targeted building. 18-year-old Taratil Anwar ‘Abdul Hafez Abu Hamdiya, who was also at home in a nearby building, sustained a shrapnel wound to her pelvis.
PCHR’s field worker in Hebron reported that at approximately 12:20, Israeli occupying forces forced Palestinian journalists away from the area and also called on residents of neighboring houses to leave the area. At time of writing, Israeli occupying forces remain surrounding the building.
PCHR remains deeply concerned at the ongoing perpetration of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes, by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians in the OPTs. PCHR calls upon the international community, in particular the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to take immediate and concrete measures to ensure the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.