Israel extrajudicially executes Hamas leader and his family

Destruction in Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 1 January 2009. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

3:40pm Gaza Time (+2 GMT):

The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) has continued its military operations in the Gaza Strip for the sixth consecutive day. Air strikes and attacks from ground forces and naval vessels have continued around the clock. The vast majority of their targets have been civilian objects, and most of the casualties have been civilians. Attacks have particularly targeted houses of individuals Israel claims are connected with resistance groups. Other attacks hit the parliament and other government facilities.

The most significant attacks by IOF today was an air raid that targeted the houses of Abu al-Jabin family and Nizzar Rayyan, who is a leader in the Hamas movement. At approximately 2:40pm today, Israeli aircrafts fired five heavy missiles at the two houses, which are located in the middle of Jabaliya refugee camp — one of the most densely-populated places in the world — killing at least eight people, including 49-year-old Rayyan, his wife Nawal Rayyan, his six-year-old son Abdul-Rahman Rayyan, and another woman related to him, 49-year-old Sabah Abdul-Rahman Rayyan. Ten houses were destroyed completely and dozens others were damaged. The number of casualties in this attack is expected to rise.

Other heavy air raids targeted populated areas throughout the Gaza Strip last night and today. At approximately 11:30pm yesterday, 31 December 2008, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a park in the al-Shabora refugee camp, killing many civilians and destroying dozens of homes. During the drafting of this press release, the IOF launched an air raid at the Hawouz Hill, opposite to the al-Nada Towers in Beit Hanoun, killing a woman and a girl child.

According to the monitoring of Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, 337 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by the IOF since the start of the ongoing Operation Cast Lead. The number people who have been injured is more than 1,100, including 105 children and 52 women. Today at dawn, the corpses of two brothers were found under the rubble of Waid Society, which was hit on 27 December 2008. Hundred of houses have been destroyed and thousands damaged, causing thousands of people to be forcefully displaced in the Gaza Strip.

According to its monitoring, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights asserts that the IOF has perpetrated grave breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL), amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the course of its ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip. The IOF has focused, and continues to focus, its attacks on civilian objects, particularly houses, police stations, public facilities and mosques. It has also attacked medical crews. In doing so, the IOF has shown despicable disregard to civilian life.

Al Mezan, therefore, deplores the inaction on the part of the international community, which only has only allowed for, and perhaps encouraged, such violations of IHL and human rights standards, including the perpetration of war crimes in Gaza. Al Mezan renews its calls upon the international community to uphold its legal and ethical obligations by taking concrete, effective measures to ensure Israel’s compliance with the applicable rules of international law, and to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects in Gaza. Al Mezan finds it ironic that international community continues to call for such compliance while it must act to ensure it, to protect and aid civilians, and to prevent the perpetration of grave breaches of IHL.

As a first step, the Center calls for an urgent convention of the conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Times of war, of 1949, to consider the continuous breaches by Israel of its obligations under the Convention and take the necessary measures to ensure respect of its rules with regard to the Israeli military actions in Gaza. Civil society organizations are also called upon to exert pressure on their governments so that they act in conformity with their human rights and humanitarian obligations.

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