Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinian activists in latest extra-judicial assassination in Gaza City

PCHR strongly condemns the latest extra-judicial assassination carried out by Israeli occupying forces in Gaza City on Sunday, 24 August 2003, which left dead 4 members of the military wing of Hamas movement, the Ezziddin al-Qassam Brigade. PCHR is deeply concerned about the persistent escalation of aggressive acts carried out by Israeli occupying forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. PCHR is especially concerned by the Israeli government’s official adoption of the policy of extra-judicial assassinations; the only state in the world which openly commits such crimes.

This latest assassination came only 3 days after the assassination of prominent Hamas leader, Isma’il Abu Shanab and two of his bodyguards in Gaza City and a few hours following a key statement issued by the Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. Mofaz indicated that there will be a resumption of military activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including the assassinations of prominent activists of the Hamas movement and Islamic Jihad.

According to PCHR’s investigation, at approximately 21:40 on Sunday, 24 August 2003, 2 Israeli combat helicopters flew over Gaza City. The target was a blue civilian car, in which 4 Palestinians were traveling along the coastal road near the Palestinian Presidential Guard (Force 17) junction in the densely populated Sheikh ‘Ejlin neighborhood in the southwest of Gaza City. When the individuals in the car became aware of the approaching helicopters, they got out of the car, but the helicopters launched 4 missiles in the direction of the fleeing passengers. The 4 Palestinians were instantly killed by the missile strike and 2 passing civilians were wounded. Later, the victims were identified as:

1. Ahmed Rushdi Mustafa Eshtaiwi, 24, from al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City; allegedly wanted by Israeli occupying forces;

2. Waheed Hamed Subhi al-Hams, 21, from Rafah;

3. Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Abu Hilal, 23, from Rafah; and

4. Mohammed Kana’an ‘Abdul Hai Abu Lebda, 20, from Rafah.

PCHR strongly condemns this latest assassination and expresses deep concern about the escalation of such acts carried out under the orders of the Israeli government. PCHR contends that the policy of extra-judicial assassinations and indiscriminate killings continues to prove Israel’s blatant disregard for international law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention which considers such acts as war crimes. PCHR asserts that the policy of extra-judicial assassinations serves only to increase tension in the region and gravely threatens the lives of Palestinian civilians. In light of this, PCHR calls upon the international community to end its silence towards Israeli aggressive practices, and reiterates its call for the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations to ensure protection for Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 - 2825893. PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip.