PCHR strongly condemns the assassination attempt carried out by Israeli occupying forces on Saturday morning, 7 February 2004, in Gaza city, which left dead an 11-year-old Palestinian child and injured 11 other civilians, including 3 children, one of which is currently in serious condition. The assassination attempt targeted ‘Aziz Mahmoud al-Shami, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad, who was injured and lost his left leg in this attempt. This new crime further proves Israel’s disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians, particularly when perpetrating extra-judicial assassinations, in a policy officially adopted by the Israeli government.
According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 10:30 am on Saturday, 7 February 2004, an Israeli helicopter gunship, supported by an F-16 fighter jet, launched a missile at a civilian car. Its target was a white Peugeot 205, that was traveling on al-Wihda Street near the Municipality of Gaza’s garages, in a densely populated area in the center of Gaza city. ‘Aziz Mahmoud al-Shami, 38, a senior leader of the Islamic Jihad, and Khalil Salah al-Bahtini, 25, his bodyguard, both from Gaza city, were traveling in the car. The missile hit the front of the car, and the two passengers were able to immediately escape from the hit vehicle, which lit on fire. Al-Shami was injured in his legs and subsequently lost one of them. It is worth noting that al-Shami also lost his left hand several years ago. His bodyguard, al-Bahtini, was also injured.
This attack left dead 11-year-old Tariq Majdi al-Sousi, who was killed while on his way to school, and injured 11 civilian bystanders, including 3 children. The condition of one of these children was described as critical. According to eyewitnesses, al-Sousi was thrown off his feet by the explosion and hit a nearby tree. He was evacuated to the hospital while in a very serious condition, soon after which he died. According to medical sources at Shifa Hospital, al-Shami is still in a serious condition.
PCHR remains concerned for this escalation of force by the Israeli government and its occupying forces against Palestinian civilians. PCHR believes that extra-judicial and willful killings perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians proves Israel’s disregard for international and humanitarian law. PCHR asserts that the policy of extra-judicial assassinations officially adopted by the Israeli government serves to increase tension in the region and cause more casualties among Palestinian civilians.
PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to fulfill their obligations and ensure protection for Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. PCHR also calls upon the international community to pressure Israel to stop its crimes against Palestinian civilians, and to take concrete steps to deter Israel from committing further violations of human rights.
*** Later on the same day, medical sources declared that ‘Aziz Mahmoud al-Shami died from the injury he sustained in the attack.