The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have escalated their military operations in the Gaza Strip. IOF have killed four Palestinians, including a father and his son, and injured four others, including a child, since Sunday 4 November 2007. In addition, IOF have also launched an incursion in the eastern part of the mid-Gaza town of Deir al-Balah, carried out several missile attacks, arrested fishermen and razed agricultural land. IOF also bombarded a factory in north Gaza twice, killing three of its workers. When the second bombardment occurred, Al Mezan’s field worker and journalists were at the scene; however none were injured.
According to Al Mezan’s field investigations, at approximately 2:30am on Wednesday 7 November 2007, about twenty IOF tanks and armored vehicles penetrated the village of Wadi al-Salqa, which is located east of Deir al-Balah, and took positions in the area under heavy firing. Israeli soldiers broke into homes and used some of them as military posts. The residents have been held in one room of each home. Soldiers also arrested many people in the area. Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli Caterpillar bulldozers have been razing agricultural land. The damages and casualties are not yet identified as IOF still operate in the area.
At approximately 7:10am on 4 November 2007, an Israeli helicopter gunship launched a missile at the al-Nasir factory, which makes sewage manholes and is located in east of north Gaza’s refugee camp of Jabalia. The missile hit the guards’ caravan, killing three workers. They were identified as:
- 39-year-old Zahir Salman al-U’r,
- His son 18-year-old Ashraf, and;
- 28-year-old Muhammad Sulaiman Abu Harbid.
A fourth worker sustained moderate wounds in the attack. One hour and a half later, IOF troops fired a missile from Gaza’s eastern border. It landed in an open area east of the same factory. Twenty-year-old Hashim Ayn Kadoura was killed and 15-year-old Muhannad Mahmoud Ayid was injured from shrapnel. The second attack on the factory occurred when Al Mezan’s fieldworker was at the scene to document the impact of the first attack.
At approximately 5pm on 4 November 2007, IOF opened fire from positions at the borderline in middle Gaza at farmers injuring two moderately. Moreover, IOF vessels opened heavy fire at fishing boats in the southern Gaza town of Rafah and arrested four fishermen, one of whom is 16 years old. Those were released later on the same day.
IOF’s escalation of military attacks coincides with the imposing tougher restrictions on movement to and from the Gaza Strip. The closure practically deprives Gazans from free movement and access, which aggravates the conditions of many patients who need urgent access to hospitals, and students who need access to their universities outside the Strip.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the acts of killing, in which IOF employed disproportionate, excessive and indiscriminate force in urban areas. The Center condemns the employment of collective punishment measures by increasing the restrictions on movement to an extent that imprisons Gaza’s 1.5 million people. Al Mezan asserts that such conducts and measures represent breaches of international humanitarian law (IHL), particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War, and human rights standards. This situation requires an urgent intervention by the international community to ensure respect for human rights and protect civilians life and welfare.
Al Mezan calls upon the international community, and especially the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention, to immediately intervene to stop the Israel’s grave breaches of IHL and provide international protection for civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Persons who order or commit such breaches and violations must be held accountable for their acts.