Israel continues aerial attacks on Gaza Strip

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continued their increasingly-dangerous attacks on the Gaza Strip, especially over the past three days. These attacks coincided with large scale incursions in the West Bank, during which IOF arrested Palestinian civilians.

These incursions are an implementation of decisions issued by the Israeli political leadership. Detentions targeted scores of Palestinian civilians, including religious figures, politicians, community leaders, academics, journalists, student activists, and nominees for the third round of municipal elections, scheduled for Thursday 29 September 2005 in the West Bank. PCHR’s fieldworkers in the West Bank reported that most of the detainees are considered Islamists, especially those close to the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). Among the detainees were Sheikh Hasan Yousef, the Hamas spokesman in the West Bank, and Dr. Mohammad Ghazal, a Hamas political leader.

PCHR’s investigations indicate that in the early morning of Sunday 25 September 2005, IOF started to carry out incursions into Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps in the West Bank. They were carried out in all West Bank governorates, except Jericho. Large contingents of forces and armored vehicles were used; and the inhabitants of targeted houses were subjected to abuse and intimidation. The incursions, which are continuously escalating, have so far resulted in the detention of 269 Palestinian civilians.

In the Gaza Strip, IOF renewed their aerial bombardment, targeting additional civilian properties in different parts of the Strip. In addition, Israel F-16 fighter jets carried out mock air raids, resulting in a state of fear among civilians.

In the early hours of this morning, Israeli military planes conducted two bombing raids against two bridges in the town of Beit Hanoun, north of the Strip. The bridges sustained heavy damage and traffic movement along the affected roads was severely hindered.

Also in the early morning hours, Israeli planes carried out two raids in Khan Younis. The first raid totally destroyed a money-exchange shop owned by the Al-Basheeti family. IOF claimed that a Basheeti family member working in the shop, and who is now detained by IOF, funneled money to Hamas. The second raid targeted an office for the Fatah movement in the centre of the city, causing heavy damage to the office.

Since 24 September 2005, IOF have carried out 18 aerial bombardment raids against houses, civilian properties, and vehicles carrying Palestinian activists.

PCHR reiterates its strong condemnation of this serious escalation in attacks by IOF in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT). This escalation effectively voids the Israeli redeployment from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank of any value. The Centre restates its position that the Israelis redeployed from these areas and did not end their occupation, which continues in its form and content in the Gaza Strip. PCHR is gravely concerned that a green light given to IOF by the Israeli government, allowing them to launch wide scale attacks, including extra-judicial killings and incursions in the Gaza Strip, will result in more casualties among Palestinian civilians. The Centre warns that the campaign of detentions is an early interference by the Israeli government aimed at influencing Palestinian elections. Consequently, PCHR calls upon the international community and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to immediately intervene to stop further deterioration and to protect Palestinian civilians from military operations conducted by IOF in the OPT.

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