Israeli forces launched military attack on Nablus

Israeli army jeeps take position during a military operation at the entrance of the Balata Refugee Camp in the West Bank city of Nablus February 20, 2006. (MAANnews/Rami Swidan)

The city of Nablus and Balata refugee camp have been subject to a large-scale Israeli military operation for the past three days. Three Palestinians, including 2 children, have already been killed during these operations. Another 30 have been injured, some seriously. Severe restrictions on the movement of civilians have also been imposed.

PCHR’s initial investigations indicate that in the early hours of Sunday morning, 19 February 2006, IOF troops, supported by armoured vehicles and helicopter gunships, moved into the city of Nablus and the nearby Balata refugee camp. These troops launched a house-to-house search operation in the refugee camp. Over the course of the following 2 days, IOF sent reinforcements into the city. And as of Tuesday, 21 February 2006, the number of IOF tanks, armoured personnel carriers and vehicles had reached 40.

IOF used excessive force against Palestinian civilians, who demonstrated against the incursion. And on the first day of the operation, IOF killed 2 children in an unprovoked attack. They were killed by an IOF sniper who had assumed position in the house of Jamil El-Tirawi in the middle of the refugee camp and who subsequently fired at the two children. The children had been standing in front of their houses at the time. PCHR’s investigation reveals that there had been no apparent reason for firing at the children, other than the intent to kill. Each was hit with a bullet to the neck. And although demonstrations and stone-throwing do not in any respect justify such responses from the Israeli military, as they do not pose any considerable danger to the lives of soldiers, it is noted that such activities had already stopped prior to the killing.

The two children were Ibrahim Ahmad Mohammad El-Sheikh Issa, 17; and Mohammad Ahmad Mohammad El-Natour, 17.

And in the pre-dawn hours of Monday, 20 February 2006, IOF killed Ahmad Mohammad Nayef Abu Sharkh, 29, as he was confronting the IOF incursion into the refugee camp. He was hit with two bullets to the chest and died shortly after reaching the hospital.

Furthermore, IOF operations have resulted in the injury of 30 civilians, including 22 children. Some of these injuries have been classified as serious.

The military operations were accompanied by a series of strict restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians throughout Nablus. PCHR’s fieldworker reported that IOF troops, at checkpoints on entry points into the city, had started since the beginning of the week to tighten search procedures, to restrict movement and to detain hundreds of civilians for hours. In addition, IOF set up temporary roadblocks on a number of key intersections along main roads. Troops at these roadblocks subjected Palestinian commuters to searches and abuse.

PCHR condemns these actions, which are considered war crimes perpetrated by IOF in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). These crimes are fulfilling previous Israeli threats to impose additional sanctions against the Palestinian people. The Centre points to the fact that these actions against Palestinian civilians increase tension in the area and threaten to cause additional casualties among the Palestinian population. The Centre calls upon the international community to intervene immediately to put an end to these war crimes. The Centre calls upon the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their responsibility to ensure the right of protection of Palestinian civilians in the OPT.

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