On Tuesday morning, 15 January 2008, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed 17 Palestinians, including five civilians, and wounded at least 30 others, five of whom are in a serious condition, during an incursion into the al-Shojaeya and al-Zaytoun neighborhoods of east Gaza City. The incursion continued until noon. Preliminary investigations conducted by Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) indicate that most of the victims were killed by tank shells, and that IOF troops used excessive lethal force without regard for the lives of Palestinian civilians living in the affected areas.
PCHR strongly condemns these latest crimes, and continues to be gravely concerned about the escalation of attacks by IOF against the Gaza Strip. PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene in order to stop these crimes, as well as repeated Israeli threats to invade the Gaza Strip en masse, which will undoubtedly cause even more destruction, including deaths and injuries, to the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
According to the preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 8:00am on Tuesday, 15 January 2008, IOF heavy military vehicles moved nearly 3,000 meters into Palestinian areas around Malaqa Square, which lies between al-Shojaeya and al-Zaytoun neighborhoods in the east of Gaza City. IOF then indiscriminately opened fire at anything that moved within the area. A number of militants from the Palestinian resistance clashed with IOF, and the IOF responded by firing tank shells. As a result, five Palestinian fighters were killed:
- Rami Talal Farahat, 30.
- ‘Aahed Sa’dallah ‘Ashour, 27.
- Mahmoud ‘Ata Abu Laban, 21.
- Hussam Mahmoud al-Zahhar, 22.
- Saleem ‘Abdul Haq al-Mdallal, 20.
IOF continued to indiscriminately shell Palestinian houses and agricultural areas. As a result, three Palestinian farmers were also killed:
- As’ad ‘Eissa Radwan Tafesh, 65;
- Marwan Sameer ‘Ouda, 22.
- Sa’id Mustafa al-Sammouni, 50.
Another two civilians, including a student, were also killed during the incursion:
- Ayman Fadel Malaka, 35, a car trader who was in the car market located neat the affected area.
- ‘Abdul Salam ‘Atiya Abu Laban, 19, a student.
In addition, thirty Palestinians, including a woman, were wounded by the IOF gunfire. The conditions of five of those wounded during the incursion is described as “serious” by medical sources.
IOF withdrew from the area at approximately 12:30pm. Soon afterwards, Palestinian ambulances rushed to al-Shojaeya and al-Zaytoun. Medical personnel found the bodies of seven fighters from the Palestinian resistance who had been killed by IOF during the incursion.
The victims were identified as:
- Mohammed Majdi Hejji, 20.
- Sakher Saleem Zwayed, 27.
- Mustafa Yahia Selmi, 20.
- Mos’ab Saleem Selmi, 21.
- ‘Abdullah Taleb Salem, 23.
- Mohammed Sabri Hana, 20.
- Khamis Abu Sawawin, 25.
PCHR is gravely concerned about this continuing escalation in attacks by IOF, and therefore:
1. Condemns these crimes, which are part of a series of continuous crimes committed by IOF in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) with total disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians, considering them a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population in violation of Article 33 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
2. Stresses that IOF do not pay attention to the principles of necessity and proportionality when using their full-fledged arsenal against members of the Palestinian resistance, who are sometimes present in densely populated areas.
3. Calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop such crimes, and calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention, Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, to fulfill their obligation under Article 1 of the Convention to ensure respect for the Convention in all circumstances, as well as their obligation under Article 146 to search for and prosecute those who are responsible for perpetrating grave breaches of the Convention, as such breaches constitute war crimes according to Article 147 of the Convention and the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I).