The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights condemns in the strongest possible terms the crime perpetrated by Israeli occupation forces yesterday evening, 25 December 2003, when Israeli helicopter gunships fired 2 missiles at a civilian car in northern Gaza city. 5 Palestinians were killed in the attack and 15 others were injured. This new crime is part of a longstanding policy of extrajudicial killings (assassinations) perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces against the indigenous Palestinian leadership and civilian population. Three of the victims in yesterday’s attack were civilian bystanders.
According to PCHR investigations and eyewitness testimony, around 17:45 yesterday, 25 December 2003, Israeli helicopter gunships fired two missiles at a Palestinian civilian vehicle. The vehicle, a white Subaru, was moving on Saftawi Street in a busy part of Gaza city. The attack was also very close to the headquarters of the General Federation of Trade Unions.
As the car moved down the street, two missiles were fired from the Israeli helicopter gunships. The missiles hit the car directly, killing two of three passengers immediately. The third passenger sustained severe injuries. One of those killed was identified as Moqlid Humaid, 36, from Jabalya refugee camp. Humaid was a leading figure in the military wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement and had survived a similar assassination attempt on 1 December 2002, when Israeli helicopters gunships also fired at the car he was driving. On that occasion, he and other passengers were able to escape with light injuries. Nabil Shuraihi, 31 from Nuseirat refugee camp, was also killed while he was riding in the vehicle with Humaid. Three civilian bystanders in the area were also killed. The civilians were all from the northern Gaza city neighborhood where the attack occurred. Their names are: Ashraf Hasan Radwan (18); Wa’il Mohammed Daqran (25); and Sa’id Awad Abu Rukab (37).
Projectiles and shrapnel from the two missiles also resulted in the injury of 15 other civilian bystanders. According to medical sources at Shifa Hospital, where the injured were transferred, some civilians sustained serious injuries from the attack.
According to medical sources and PCHR investigations, the missiles used in this crime were apparently similar to those used in the assassination committed in Nuseirat refugee camp on 20 October 2003, which also resulted in numerous casualties among civilian bystanders (see PCHR press release of 20 October 2003).
Unlike most previous Israeli assassination carried out by helicopter gunships, which usually result in the total burning of the body, the bodies of Humaid and Shuraihi were not burned.
PCHR’s fieldworker who observed the dead bodies explained the presence of dozens of small holes and lacerations. The missiles used in these assassination attacks carry hundreds of small cubic projectiles which are spread around the area upon impact. The projectiles are approximately 0.5 centimeters in length and can affect large distances around the targeted area. The missiles fired in last night’s attack in northern Gaza indiscriminately spread projectiles across the area, seriously injuring many civilian bystanders.
PCHR expresses its deep concern over this new escalation by Israeli occupying forces. Such aerial attacks in densely-populated civilian areas demonstrate the Israeli occupying forces’ increasing disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians. This latest crime is new evidence of Israel’s continued defiance of international law, including international humanitarian law.
PCHR demands an immediate halt to all willful killings and injuries of Palestinian civilians and other grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention perpetrated by the Israeli military in the OPTs. Furthermore, in light of the deteriorating humanitarian situation, PCHR repeats its calls to the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to take immediate steps to ensure the protection of Palestinian civilians in the OPTs.