Israeli forces kill 13 Palestinians in Gaza and Rafah

On Wednesday morning, 11 February 2004, 12 Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupying forces in al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza city and one Palestinian was killed by Israeli forces in the Rafah refugee camp.  Three of the victims killed in al-Shojaeya died when Israeli occupying forces destroyed a house over them.  In addition, at least 50 Palestinians, including 23 children, were injured in the two incidents.  Medical sources at hospitals in the Gaza Strip described the condition of 20 of those injured as moderate to serious. 

These developments took place as Israeli occupying forces, supported by helicopters, moved into al-Shojaeya neighborhood in the east of Gaza city and into Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.  Israeli military sources claimed that the two incursions were conducted with the aim of arresting wanted individuals.  At time of issue, Israeli forces have withdrawn from al-Shojaeya neighborhood, but remain inside the Rafah refugee camp. 

According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 05:00 this morning, an undercover unit of Israeli occupying forces moved into al-Shojaeya neighborhood in the east of Gaza city coming from Nahal Ouz crossing on the eastern border of the Gaza Strip.  The unit moved towards a Palestinian National Security Forces post.  Israeli soldiers and the Palestinian security services exchanged fire. 

As a result, a Palestinian security man, Mohammed Kamal Abu ‘Armana, 22, from al-Boreij refugee camp, was killed, and 2 other Palestinian security men were injured.  A few minutes later, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced by heavy military vehicles and covered by intense shelling, moved approximately 1500m into al-Shojaeya neighborhood.  Israeli forces surrounded a 250-square-meter, 2-storey house belonging to the family of Ashraf Abu Hassanain, 22, who was reportedly wanted by the Israeli occupation forces. 

Israeli soldiers ordered the 3 families (17 people) living in the house out.  Soon after, Israeli soldiers opened fire at the house in which Ashraf and 2 of his colleagues were hiding.  Ashraf and his colleagues exchanged fire with Israeli forces.  When the exchange of fire had stopped, Israeli forces destroyed the house with the 3 men inside.  When Israeli forces withdrew from the neighborhood, the bodies of Ashraf and his two colleagues – Ayman Nasser al-Sheikh Khalil, 22, and Mohammed al-Hayek, 25 – were found near the house. 

As a result of excessive and indiscriminate use of force, 4 Palestinians were killed and more than 40 others, including 20 children, were injured in the incursion into al-Shojaeya.  Some of the injured remain in a serious condition. 

PCHR’s field workers have not as yet been able to verify the exact circumstances of the deaths of the four Palestinians as the area was largely inaccessible due to the Israeli military presence. However, initial information indicates that during this incursion, members of the Palestinian resistance clashed with Israeli forces and as a result, 4 members of the Palestinian resistance were killed. 

The remaining eight victims have been identified as: Hani Mahmoud Abu Sukhaila, 25, from Jabalya refugee camp; Haitham Zaki ‘Aabed, 25, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood; Mohammed ‘Aayesh al-‘Ejla, 45, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood; Isma’il Mohammed Abu al-‘Ata, 28, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood; Mohammed Ahmed Helles, 17, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood; Akram ‘Oqailan, 25, from al-Shati refugee camp; Mahdi Ya’qoub Zaidia, 25, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood; and ‘Aamer ‘Othman al-Ghamari, 24, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood.

According to medical sources, the victims all died of wounds sustained from live bullets and/or shrapnel from artillery shells. 

 In the second incident, at approximately 04:00 this morning, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced by heavy military vehicles and helicopters, moved into Block J in Rafah refugee camp adjacent to the Egyptian border.  They moved forward towards Abu Baker al-Siddiq Street, which links Rafah refugee camp and Tal al-Sultan neighborhood.  Israeli forces closed the road and took up positions on the roofs of a number of houses, opening fire at the street below. 

A Palestinian civilian, Ibrahim Mohammed Zo’rob, 27, was killed by a live bullet in the head while he was standing on the balcony of his house.  In addition, 7 civilians, including 3 children, were injured.  Two of the injured were described as being in a serious condition.  Israeli occupying forces have so far maintained their presence in the area, opening fire sporadically in the neighbourhood.  Classes at 12 schools in the area were interrupted. 

PCHR strongly condemns these continued violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes, perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians and property.  PCHR believes that the failure to act by the international community serves only to encourage further violations.  PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop these violations.

PCHR also reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of their absolute legal obligations to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances and demands that they take concrete steps to stop these violations perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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