Palestinian Center for Human Rights 7 October 2003
Israeli Occupation Forces are continuing the third day of total internal and external closure of the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces have used this period to perpetrate additional violations of international humanitarian and human rights law against the Palestinian civilian population in the southern Gaza Strip.
Israeli Occupying Forces imposed a total internal and external closure on the Gaza Strip from early morning on Sunday, 5 October 2003. All main internal roads were closed, segregating the Gaza Strip into four isolated zones, in addition to all external access routes to Israel and Egypt (for further information see PCHR press release on 5 October 2003 available at www.pchrgaza.org).
Once the closure was imposed, Israeli Occupying Forces moved further into the southern Gaza Strip and began razing Palestinian land between the illegal Israeli settlement of Morag, and the Sofa Crossing on the eastern border with Israel. The large Israeli military presence in this area has cut off all travel between Khan Younis and Rafah, and Israeli soldiers have continued to open fire at Palestinians moving in the area. As a result, 1 Palestinian civilian was killed and 5 others have been injured.
According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, early Sunday morning, Israeli tanks, bulldozers and troops moved approximately 3 kilometres from Morag settlement, and were concentrated along the southern section of the main internal road, Salah al-Din Street, thereby cutting off all traffic between Rafah and Khan Younis. Israeli soldiers raided a Palestinian house located on Salah al-Din Street and took up position on the roof, from which they opened fire on Palestinians in the street below. Israeli bulldozers then began razing Palestinian agricultural land located between Morag settlement and Salah al-Din Street. During this operation, Israeli soldiers opened fire at Said Hussein Abu Azoum, 26, who was traveling on a donkey cart from Khan Younis back to his home in Rafah. Said was hit by 2 bullets: 1 in the stomach and a second in his hand. Israeli soldiers did not offer medical assistance and delayed access for Palestinian medics. Said had already died by the time a Palestinian ambulance was able to reach him.
On Monday, 6 October, Israeli military bulldozers continued the land-razing operation, focusing on Palestinian agricultural land between Salah al-Din Street eastwards towards Sofa Crossing. Israeli soldiers continued to open fire at Palestinians in the area. As a result of Israeli gun-fire, PCHR field workers have not yet been able to gain access to the razed areas. However, local landowners estimate that during this Israeli military operation, approximately 400 dunums of Palestinian agricultural land between Morag settlement and Sofa Crossing has been razed. Israeli Occupying Forces have also continued to open fire at Palestinians attempting to travel along Salah al-Din Street and on Monday, 5 Palestinians were shot and injured including 1 who remains in a critical condition.
Israeli Occupying Forces also reportedly opened fire at Palestinian medics attempting to access the wounded, including an ambulance from the Abu Yusuf Najar Hospital in Rafah.
Palestinians residing in properties in the Al Atatrah, Hai El Nasser, El Fukhari neighborhoods located to the West and East of Salah al-Din Street, have been particularly affected during this Israeli military operation. Water and electricity networks were damaged by the Israeli bulldozers, cutting off all supplies since Sunday.
Also on Monday, at approximately 12:30pm, Israeli Occupying Forces entered the Salam neighbourhood in Rafah, which is located directly adjacent to the border with Egypt. Israeli troops moved approximately 200 metres into the neighbourhood, destroying 2 Palestinian homes and damaging a third. 3 families (at least 18 people) were rendered homeless as a result.
PCHR condemns in the strongest terms ongoing Israeli military attacks on Palestinian civilians throughout the OPTs. PCHR asserts that these military attacks constitute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes. PCHR calls on the international community, specifically the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to take immediate concrete steps to ensure the protection of the Palestinian people.