Since early Wednesday, July the 13 th , the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) has witnessed a severe escalation in violations committed by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) against Palestinian civilians and their property. IOF have resumed their use of helicopter gunships to attack civilian and residential areas and continued with their state-sanctioned policy of committing extra-judicial executions. To date this escalation in attacks has resulted in the killing of 4 Palestinians, in the West Bank, while the fate of a 5th is still unknown. Further to this, across the Gaza Strip, attacks by the IOF have resulted in extensive damage to civilian property.
In the West Bank the IOF committed a number of grave breaches. In one incident a civilian, alleged by Israel to be an activist in Islamic Jihad, was killed. In another incident two civilians, alleged by the IOF to be members of the Palestinian resistance group al Qassam Brigades (the military wing of Hamas ) were extra-judicially executed. While civilians were protesting against this attack a child was shot by IOF. In the Gaza Strip 7 aerial attacks took place against a variety of targets in Gaza City — these attacks resulted in severe damage to property.
The first incident, according to PCHR’s investigations and eyewitness reports, took place at approximately 23.10 on Wednesday, July the 13th. The IOF traveling in a bus with Palestinian number plates entered the city of Nablus. The vehicle stopped in front of a civilian house in Rafidiyah neighbourhood.
Almost 50 soldiers in uniform disembarked and imposed a siege on the one story house and the adjoining garden. The resident of the house is a British national, Ann. At about 23.30 re-enforcements, 12 tanks and supporting helicopters, arrived in the area. Israeli soldiers knocked on the door of a near-by house belonging to Iyad al Bizra who was brought with two other people who were used as human shields to enter the first house. Iyad was ordered to knock on the door of the house of the British national. Inside the house was Motassim Stata, 25 years old, and the British national. The IOF interrogated both about the whereabouts of a third individual Mohammad Safwat ‘Assi, a 24 year old from Balata refugee camp. Motassim Stata was then arrested.
At 00.30, early in the morning on Thursday the 14 th of July, Israeli soldiers began to fire flares into the sky. An unknown man was seen in a near-by garden, of a house inhabited by Maher al Boulissi. The al Boulissi family heard soldiers shouting “stop” three times to this man, in Arabic. They then opened fire and killed him instantly. At about 02.30 IOF left the area and took the body of this man. Then at about 04.00 the body was returned to the Palestinian Authority District Coordination Office. He was then identified as the wanted person, Safwat ‘Assi. Eyewitnesses testified to PCHR that the IOF could have used alternative methods to detain this person instead of employing a shoot to kill policy. The IOF state that the dead man was an activist with Islamic Jihad.
The second attack came, according to PCHR’s investigations and eyewitness reports, on July the 15 th . Two IOF helicopter gunships fired six missiles at three Palestinians while they were in an agricultural area to the south-east of Salfit (which is to the south-west of Nablus). Palestinian Red Crescent Ambulances rushed to the area and found a dead body and another injured person. They were immediately transferred to Salfit clinic from where efforts were made to move the critically injured person to Ramallah. However the IOF moved into Salfit and imposed a curfew on the town.
The ambulance which was carrying the wounded person was stopped and he was detained. Until now his fate is unknown. He has been identified as Mohammad Yusef A’yash, 30 years old, from Rafat village to the South West of Nablus. The dead person has been identified as Mohammad Ahmed Marri, 20 years old from a nearby village called Qarawat Beni Hassan. IOF entered into the hospital in Salfit looking for the third person who was with the group at the time of the attack. He could not be found there. At about 20.20 Ambulance teams and Palestinian civil defense found the dead body of this third person, identified as Samer Abdulhadi Dawhqa, 26 from Salfit. IOF state that the three belong to the military wing of Hamas . However the civilians were not reported to be engaged in any military activity at the time they were extra-judicially executed.
At about 18.00 that day, in the aftermath of this attack, dozens of Palestinian children gathered in the centre of Salfit and began to stone Israeli troops who were patrolling the streets of the town. The IOF opened fire against the demonstrators. Mo’ath Jamal Sulieme, 17 years old, was shot in the head and then detained. Later on that evening the IOF announced his death.
Also in the West Bank in a related incident PCHR’s fieldworker in Tulkarm reported that the IOF, who had entered the town and Refugee Camp of Tulkarm since the early morning of July the 13 th , continues to impose a complete curfew on the area while conducting house to house searches.
In the early hours of Friday, July the 15 th , in the Gaza Strip, IOF helicopter gunships launched attacks against 7 civilian properties. Some of the properties are alleged by the IOF to be workshops for home-made rockets.
Two missiles were fired against al Sahwa Cultural Centre, which is affiliated to Hamas, in the village of Jabalya. Another missile fell into a pool in Deir al Balah. Another missile hit a metal workshop to the north of Deir al Balah. Three missiles hit a cemetry near Khan Yunis. Two missiles hit the Diwan of al Astal family in Khan Yunis (a Diwan is a building where family and friends gather each evening to socialise).
In the early hours of Saturday, the 16 th of July, two other missiles were fired at two mechanics workshops in Gaza City, near the port. One of these targets was hit in June 2004. No injuries were reported in any of these attacks. As a result of this series of attacks severe damage was caused to many of these properties.
PCHR strongly condemns this escalation in attacks by the IOF. PCHR calls on the international community to immediately intervene to “ensure respect” for international law in accordance with its obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention to do so.