This morning, Israeli occupying forces seized direct control over the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun. They are, by the time of writing, still present in the town. The Israeli forces, reinforced with dozens of heavy military vehicles and helicopters, invaded the town from several directions.
During the night they destroyed six houses belonging to the families of Palestinian activists who have carried out attacks on Israeli targets – a policy of collective punishment prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
So far, five Palestinians, including two children, have been killed. In addition, 10 Palestinian civilians have been wounded.
According to PCHR’s investigation, at approximately 01:30 on Sunday, 23 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with heavy military vehicles and covered by intense shelling, moved from Erez crossing in the northern Gaza Strip, and from the east and northeast of the town, and invaded Beit Hanoun.
An hour later, Israeli forces surrounded a house belonging to the family of Mosa’ab ‘Abdullah al-Sabe’ who was killed in an armed attack near the Erez crossing on Friday, 21 February 2003. Israeli soldiers ordered the family to get out of the house, but the owner refused. At approximately 06:00, Israeli forces broke into the house, which is located in a densely populated area, after its residents had left it and escaped to neighboring houses. Israeli soldiers planted explosives in the house and destroyed it. Israeli forces also destroyed 3 other houses in the area owned by Ibrahim, Fa’eq and Mohammed al-Sabe’.
In al-Amal neighborhood, known as al-Boura, in the east of Beit Hanoun, Israeli forces destroyed two houses owned by Yasser Zweidi, allegedly wanted by the forces, and his son Ibrahim.
At approximately 06:30, Israeli forces positioned at the entrance of the town shelled residential areas and streets in the town. The Israeli shelling was focused on the area surrounding Hammouda fuel station. Two Palestinians, a security man and a child, were killed by the Israeli shelling of the area. Another child was also killed by the Israeli shelling in another area in the town. The three victims were identified as:
1. Ahmed ‘Eid Mohammed ‘Afana, 17, from the Tal al-Za’tar area, shot by a live bullet in the thigh, which caused an intensive hemorrhage, while he was near the Hammouda fuel station. He died in hospital two hours after he had been wounded.
Mohammed Sarhan Hawila, 28, from Jabalya refugee camp, a member of the Palestinian National Security Force, was shot by a live bullet in the abdomen, while he was near the Hammouda fuel station. He died in hospital 3 hours after he had been wounded. Mohammed Ramadan al-Kahlout, 16, from Jabalya refugee camp, was shot by a live bullet in the chest.
At approximately 12:00, Israeli forces, for no apparent reason, shot dead two Palestinians – a worker and a security man - after they had forced the two to take off their clothes. The two may have been killed after they had been arrested. According to an eyewitness, Israeli soldiers stopped the two men and forced them to take off their clothes. The eyewitness then hid in order not to be seen by the Israeli soldiers who were approximately 200m away, but he heard sounds of shooting. Nearly an hour later, he learned that the two men were killed by the Israeli soldiers, as an ambulance evacuated their bodies to hospital. The victims were identified as: Ayman Abu Sharar, 32, from Al-Boreij refugee camp, a member of the Palestinian Border Police, shot by a live bullet in the head; and Wa’el Mohammed al-Gharbawi, 31, from Jabalya, a worker a texture factory, shot by a live bullet in the neck.
PCHR strongly condemns this serious escalation in the violence perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians, which coincides with the wide scale aggression on the West Bank city of Nablus. PCHR calls upon the international community to put an end to its silence and immediately intervene to stop these grave breaches and attacks.
PCHR believes that the failure of the international community to take steps in order to stop the numerous grave breaches of international humanitarian law, perpetrated by the Israeli military, encourages Israel to commit more hideous attacks.
PCHR reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 of their obligations under the Convention to ensure the protection of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to take effective steps to stop the persistent, flagrant violations of the Convention by the Israeli occupying forces.