Since Saturday morning, 15 January 2005, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have launched a wide scale offensive on al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City. They have killed 5 Palestinians and injured 5 others. This latest attack has come following a decision by IOF to close all border crossings of the Gaza Strip and decrease the time of opening al-Matahen and Abu Houli checkpoints on Salah al-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip), as an indicator of escalation by IOF in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). PCHR warns that the presence of IOF in al-Zaytoun neighborhood may cause more casualties among Palestinian civilians and more damage to civilian property.
According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, in the early morning of Saturday, 15 January 2005, IOF, reinforced by heavy military vehicles, helicopters and drones, moved hundreds of meters into al-Zaytoun neighborhood in the southeast of Gaza City.
This incursion was accompanied by indiscriminate shelling against houses and agricultural areas. IOF raided two buildings and transformed them into military sites, from which they fired at neighboring areas. They also started to raze areas of agricultural land.
At approximately 11:00, a number of members of the Palestinian resistance clashed with IOF. During these clashes, 3 members of the Palestinian resistance were killed: ‘Eissa Ibrahim Kishku, 20, from al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City, hit by a live bullet to the chest; Mohammed Farouq Bazazu, 21, from Gaza City, hit by several live bullets throughout the body; and ‘Abdul Rahman Mohammed al-Saousi, 18, from Tala al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City, hit by a live bullet to the head.
IOF also opened fire at a number of Palestinians who gathered in the streets to check what was going on. A Palestinian civilian and a policeman were killed: Fawzi Hamdan ‘Atiya Yassin, 27, from al-Zaytoun neighborhood, hit by several live bullets to the upper part of the body; and Yahia Farhan Abu Muhaisen, 25, a policeman from al-Maghazi refugee camp, hit by a live bullet to the neck.
On Friday, 13 January 2005, IOF closed all border crossings of the Gaza Strip and decreased the opening hours of al-Matahen and Abu Houli checkpoints on Salah al-Dain Street to be from 08:00 to 15:00, which will cause more suffering for Palestinian civilians and impact on their economic and social rights.
PCHR strongly condemns attacks by IOF on Palestinian civilians in al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City, shortly before the inauguration of Mahmoud Abbas as the new president of the Palestinian National Authority.
PCHR asserts that IOF have used excessive force against Palestinian civilians in al-Zaytoun neighborhood apparently to cause maximum casualties, which is evidenced by the places of injuries which were centered in the upper part of the body. PCHR calls upon the international community to stop its silence and act to provide protection for Palestinian civilians in the OPT and stop attacks on them by IOF, emphasizing that the international silence serves to encourage Israel and IOF to launch more of such attacks.