For the second consecutive day, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have continued their offensive on large areas of the northern Gaza Strip, perpetrating what may amount to grave breaches against Palestinian civilians and their properties.
At the time of writing, 4 Palestinians, including a 10-year-old child, have been killed and 53 others, mostly children, have been injured by the Israeli gunfire and shelling. PCHR’s investigations strongly indicate that Israeli troops used excessive lethal force against unarmed Palestinian civilians, without adhering to the principles of proportionality and distinction.
PCHR is worried that this offensive could be similar to an offensive on the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, which continued for one month and left dozens of Palestinians dead or injured and hundreds of donums of agricultural land and dozens of houses and civilian facilities destroyed.
According to PCHR’s investigations, in the early morning of Wednesday, 8 September 2004, Israeli troops, reinforced by heavy military vehicles and helicopters gun-ships, invaded large areas in the northern Gaza Strip. They moved from “Nissanit” settlement into Beit Lahia, from the Erez crossing into Beit Hanoun and from the northeastern border of the Gaza Strip into Jabalya.
Under the cover of indiscriminate shelling, Israeli troops established military posts on high areas, destroyed a number of roads and their infrastructure and seized complete control over Salah al-Din Street, which links between the northern Gaza Strip and other areas in the strip. PCHR’s field worker in the northern Gaza Strip reported that Israeli troops fired at Palestinian civilians who gathered in streets. 17 civilians were injured, 4 of whom are in a serious condition.
At approximately 02:00 on Wednesday, 9 September 2004, Israeli troops moved towards Jabalya refugee camp. They took up positions at al-Sikka Street to the east of the camp. An Israeli helicopter gunship fired a missile at a numbers of members of the Palestinian resistance, seriously wounding 5 of them. At approximately 03:00, Israeli helicopter gunships fired another missile at the densely populated camp, wounding 7 civilians.
At approximately 07:00, a number of members of the Palestinian resistance clashed with Israeli troops. One member of the resistance, Mohammed ‘Ali al-Haj ‘Ali, 24, was killed by a live bullet in the abdomen. At approximately 12:00, Israeli troops indiscriminately shelled the camp. As a result, 3 Palestinian civilians, including a child, were killed: Munir Anwar al-Daqas, 10, hit by a live bullet to the chest; Sami Sharif Thabet, 18, hit by a live bullet to the chest; and Mohammed Yousef ‘Ezziddin, 22, hit by a live bullet to the chest.
PCHR is gravely concerned at this serious escalation by Israeli occupying forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt), particularly in the Gaza Strip. PCHR warns of retaliatory actions against Palestinian civilians and their properties, which violate international humanitarian law and human rights law.
PCHR reminds the international community of Israeli violations of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 (Fourth Geneva Convention), particularly article 33 which prohibits collective punishment, and article 147 which considers “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” a grave breach that may amount, in some circumstances, to be a war crime under article 85-3 of Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions.
PCHR also reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of their legal obligations to ensure respect for the Convention and take effective steps to stop Israeli violations in the oPt.