The IOF began redeploying their troops around the town of Beit Hanoun at 1am this morning, 7 November 2006. They left the town at 2am after inflicting serious damage against human life and property during their seven-day incursion.
Initial field reports from Al Mezan’s fieldworkers who were deployed in the town state that IOF caused large damage to the town’s streets, water, sewage and electricity lines. The main bridge in the town was also destroyed. It was also reported that at least 200 homes were at least partially destroyed or damaged. In addition, IOF destroyed 30 stores, one historic mosque (An Nasser Mosque was built in 625 by a Mamluk leader in the town) and numerous vehicles. Al Mezan is still collecting data and evidence from the town. The figures are expected to rise as the Centre continues its documentation of the loss of property.
Moreover, IOF killed 55 Palestinians during the Beit Hanoun incursion (60 in the Gaza Strip as a whole) and injured over 200. Medical sources told Al Mezan that 48 of these injured suffer from serious wounds.
Al Mezan Centre strongly condemns the violations by the IOF of the human rights of Palestinian civilians during this incursion. The Centre also emphasizes that IOF’s conduct has gravely violated the basic protections provided by international humanitarian law (IHL), which is confounded by the continued use of excessive force in a nondiscriminatory, disproportionate way. The fashion in which IOF targeted homes and the infrastructure necessary for the survival of the population and, at the same time, imposed a siege on the residents left the most vulnerable civilians in enormous jeopardy. Such intentional targeting of civilian objects and medical teams without necessity is a clear violation of IHL. Moreover, the collection of the entire male population of the town and their protracted detention for long hours under harsh conditions constitutes a method of collective punishment.
The Centre again queries the state of silence that has characterized the international reactions to these serious violation of human rights, and especially of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Times of War. In addition, the Centre particularly questions the awkward silence of the main international human rights bodies, both intergovernmental and nongovernmental, in the face of such violations. It also calls for immediate intervention to investigate what our investigations suggests to be grave breaches of IHL, which can amount to war crimes, and to bring those who ordered or perpetrated them to justice. This is especially significant in the face of possible incursions by IOF into other parts of the Gaza Strip in the near future, according to statements by high ranking Israeli officials. The international community has a clear obligation to guarantee the protection of civilians under occupation.