Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahhar, a prominent leader of the Hamas movement, survived an Israeli assassination attempt carried out this morning in Gaza City by Israeli occupying forces. Al-Zahhar’s son and one of his bodyguards were killed in the aerial attack that targeted al-Zahhar’s house in central Gaza City. 20 Palestinian civilians, including al-Zahhar’s wife and daughter were wounded. Today’s attack is the latest in a series of extra-judicial assassinations perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians. PCHR strongly condemns this crime and calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop the continuous deterioration in the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
According to PCHR’s investigation, at approximately 10:15 on Wednesday, 10 September 2003, Israeli warplanes launched missiles at Dr. Mahmoud al-Zahhar’s house in the densely populated al-Sabra neighborhood in central Gaza City. The 2-storey house was totally demolished in the attack. Ambulance and rescue personnel arrived at the scene shortly after the strike and removed 2 bodies from the rubble of the building. The 2 victims were later identified as al-Zahhar’s son, Khaled, 25, and his bodyguard, Shehda Yousef al-Deeri, 32, from Gaza City. Al-Zahhar was moderately wounded in the attack and more than 20 other Palestinian civilians, including al-Zahhar’s wife and daughter, were also wounded. Medical sources described the conditions of several of the wounded, including al-Zahhar’s wife, as serious. At the time of writing, rescue personnel are still in the process of searching for possible victims.
PCHR field workers reported that the Israeli attack also damaged several neighboring houses, as well as the nearby al-Rahma mosque. PCHR field workers reported that the destruction sustained to al-Zahhar’s house indicates that it was probably attacked by fighter jets, in an assault reminiscent of an attack that occurred on 22 July 2002, when Israeli forces used F-16 fighter jets to target a house in the densely populated al-Daraj neighborhood in the center of Gaza City. This attack resulted in the deaths of 16 Palestinians, including Sheikh Salah Shehada, a leader of the military wing of the Hamas movement, along with his wife, daughter and bodyguard. The other victims, mostly children, were residents of neighboring houses.
PCHR strongly condemns this crime, which further proves Israel’s disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians. PCHR is concerned that Israeli occupying forces may continue to escalate their aggression against Palestinian civilians and increasingly employ excessive force against Palestinian civilian targets, including the use of warplanes. PCHR reiterates its call for the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to immediately intervene to stop war crimes perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians in the OPT.