Overnight, in a serious escalation of attacks against Palestinian civilians, Israeli occupying forces moved into al-Manara neighborhood near the Egyptian border, south of Rafah. During the operation that was claimed to be aimed at uncovering tunnels in the area, Israeli occupying forces killed one Palestinian child, injured 8 civilians and destroyed 14 Palestinian homes.
According to PCHR’s investigations, at approximately 23:30 on Tuesday, 23 September 2003, Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with around 20 tanks and a bulldozer, moved approximately 200m into al-Manara neighborhood near the Egyptian border, south of Rafah. The incursion was accompanied by indiscriminate shelling and Israeli forces raided a house and used it as a military site, from which they shot at Palestinian civilians and exchanged gunfire with a number of Palestinian gunmen.
The Israeli military operation, which continued until 05:30, left dead 16-year-old Mohammed ‘Eissa Hamdan, who was hit by shrapnel throughout the body. 8 other Palestinians were also wounded; 3 seriously. In addition, Israeli occupying forces completely destroyed 3 Palestinian houses and 11 partially, leaving 185 people (24 families) homeless. They also destroyed nearby fences surrounding areas of land.
In another incident at approximately 08:00 on Tuesday, 23 September 2003, the residents of 4 houses in Khan Younis were notified by Israeli forces through megaphones that their homes were to be demolished by the evening of the same day. The homes, in which 30 people live, are located in Gizan Abu Rashwan area in the southwest of the town.
PCHR suabmitted an appeal to the Israeli military legal advisor on behalf of the families to stop the demolition. In his response, the Israeli military legal advisor claimed that Israeli military activities in the area were aimed at exploding landmines, rather than demolishing houses. Furthermore, if the Israeli military were to demolish the houses, the owners would be sent official notification in order to allow them appeal the order. Nevertheless, during the evening of Tuesday, 23 September, Israeli occupying forces blocked the branch road leading to the houses in question with sand barriers. As a result, the residents were unable to reach their houses and were forced to spend the night outdoors. Israeli occupying forces also destroyed a building and 13 greenhouses in the same area and in Khuza’a village, east of Khan Yunis, Israeli occupying forces destroyed a building and razed 9 donums of agricultural land.
PCHR strongly condemns the ongoing escalation in Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilians and property. PCHR believes that the international community’s silence simply encourages Israel to continue to perpetrate crimes against Palestinian civilians. PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to fulfill their obligations and take the necessary steps to stop violations of the Convention perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.