Today, Thursday, 13 May 2004, Israeli forces killed 12 Palestinian civilians, including a child, and injured at least 20 others in Rafah. Eleven of the victims were killed by shrapnel from missiles launched by Israeli helicopter gunships. According to Palestinian medical sources in Rafah, most of the wounded are in a serious condition. This Israeli military escalation followed the destruction of an Israeli military vehicle near Salah al-Din Gate on the Egyptian border, south of Rafah, which left 5 Israeli soldiers dead. The Israeli offensive on Rafah is still ongoing at the time of going to press.
According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 01:15 on Thursday morning, an Israeli helicopter gunship, which protected Israeli military vehicles positioned along the Egyptian border opposite to Block L in Rafah refugee camp, launched a missile at a number of Palestinian civilians who were in a street in the camp. Seven civilians were killed instantly, one of whom has not been identified yet: Eihab Jamal Yousef, 19; Mohammed ‘Azmi al-Bouji, 19; Hani Mohammed al-Mughayar, 20; Ramez Jamal Abu Ghali, 23; Hassan Khader ‘Awaja, 18; and Fu’ad Khaled Abu Hashem, 19. Six other civilians were injured, 2 of whom are still in a serious condition.
At approximately 02:00, more Israeli military reinforcements were brought to the border. Soon after, Israeli heavy military vehicles, reinforced by helicopters, moved into Block O in Rafah refugee camp. They shelled the area intensely. Then Israeli military bulldozers started to demolish a number of Palestinian houses. Three Palestinian civilians were injured by the Israeli shelling. At approximately 10:00, an Israeli helicopter gunship launched a missile at the area. Four Palestinian civilians, including a child, were killed: Sami Yousef Abu Jazar, 22; Mohammed Mousa Mowafi, 15; Hamed Fayez Abu Hamra, 18; and Mahmoud Jamal al-Siksik, 18. Eight other civilians were injured. Seven of them are in a serious condition, according to medical sources.
More Israeli military reinforcements were then brought to the border. When Israeli military vehicles moved close to al-Brazil neighborhood, they opened fire at the areas. A 12th Palestinian civilian, Ahmed Mohammed al-Yaqoubi, 19, was killed by a live bullet in the back, when he was near his house.
PCHR is gravely concerned for such serious Israeli military escalation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip, which has resulted in a high number of casualties among Palestinian civilians and caused wide scale destruction to civilian properties.
PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop this aggression. PCHR also reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 of their legal obligations to ensure respect for the Convention and take concrete steps to stop grave breaches of the Convention perpetrated by Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.