Israeli Occupation Forces Destroy the Ministry of Interior Building and a School in Further Aerial Attacks on the Gaza Strip

The international community is required to fulfill its legal and moral obligations to immediately stop Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilian property, and to enforce article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

PCHR strongly condemns the targeting of the Palestinian Interior Ministry building by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for the second time this week. In addition, the Centre condemns the military escalation against civilian property and installations, including educational and governmental institutions that are essential to the daily lives of the civilian population. The Centre warns against the continued targeting of these institutions, which will lead to a complete collapse of basic services in the sectors of health, sewage disposal, transportation, education and social services. The Centre calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their duty and ensure the protection of civilians and their property in accordance with articles 33 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibit reprisals against protected persons and their property.

PCHR’s preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 01:45 on Wednesday, 5 July 2006, IOF fighter jets dropped a bomb on the main office building of the Ministry of Interior and National Security in the densely-populated Tal El-Hawa area of Gaza City. The targeted building consisted of five stories. The bomb hit three floors and resulted in a large fire in the whole building. The structure was heavily damaged and may collapse completely as a result. Extensive damage was also caused to surrounding homes. Two civilians were injured in the attack.

It is noted that this is the second air raid against the Ministry over the past few days. IOF planes bombarded the same building on Thursday, 29 June 2006, and hit the office of the Minister of Interior, Said Siam, located in the fifth story of the building. The office was destroyed.

Shortly after targeting the Ministry of Interior, IOF planes dropped another bomb on Dar Al-Arqam School in the densely-populated El-Tuffah area of Gaza City. A number of structures and classrooms were destroyed. No injuries were reported.

It is noted that the school provides free education to thousands of children from the families of those injured and killed during the conflict, as well as the families of prisoners. This raid has been the third of its kind carried out against the school since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. In each raid, large parts of the school were destroyed.

PCHR condemns the targeting of civilian property, including governmental buildings, and views these acts as war crimes as defined by International Law and International Humanitarian Law. These acts are considered part of a policy of collective punishment imposed by IOF on Palestinian civilians and are part of wider plans to bring about the downfall of the Palestinian government. In light of this situation, the Centre reiterates its call to the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva convention to enforce article 1 of the convention relating to ensuring respect of the convention in all circumstances. The Centre calls upon these Parties to take necessary steps to impose sanctions on the perpetrators of serious violations of the convention. PCHR reminds of the Hague Regulations of 1907 that prohibits these actions against civilians and their property.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is an independent legal body based in Gaza City dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and is an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, the Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (FIDH), and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network. PCHR is a recipient of the 1996 French Republic Award for Human Rights.

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