Israeli occupying forces kill four Palestinians in Nablus and demolish apartment building

In the most violent Israeli military operation since the beginning of a cease-fire against Israeli targets declared by Palestinian resistance organizations, on Friday morning, 8 August 2003, Israeli occupying forces killed 4 Palestinians (two activists of Hamas movement and two civilians) in ‘Askar refugee camp, east of Nablus, and destroyed a 4-storey apartment building. 

 According to information available to PCHR, at approximately 03:45 on Friday, 8 August 2003, 4 armored personnel carriers, 14 military jeeps, two military bulldozers of Israeli occupying forces, reinforced with two helicopters, moved into ‘Askar refugee camp, east of Nablus, from its northeastern entrance.  Israeli occupying forces reached al-Safa Street in the camp and surrounded a 4-storey apartment building in an attempt to arrest two Palestinian activists of Ezziddin al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas movement.  At approximately 04:15, Israeli occupying forces ordered residents of the building through megaphones to leave it in 15 minutes.  Then, an exchange of fire took place between Israeli occupying forces and the two activists.  At approximately 05:45, in an excessive use of force and in disregard for the lives of civilians, an Israeli helicopter gunship launched a missile at the third floor of the building, where the activists were hiding.  The floor was totally destroyed. 

 At approximately 06:00, after the exchange of fire stopped, Israeli occupying forces used a number of residents of the building as human shields and forced them to enter the building to evacuate the bodies of the two activists.  Approximately 10 minutes later, they evacuated one of the bodies.  The victim was identified as Khamis Yousef Abu Salem, 30.  Israeli occupying forces kept the body.  At approximately 07:30, Israeli occupying forces planted explosives in the building and destroyed it.  Then, an Israeli military bulldozer moved towards ruins of the building and started to level it, apparently to make sure that the other activist would not survive.  When Israeli occupying forces withdrew from the area, Palestinian civilians started searching for the other activist.  They found his body at approximately 10:00.  He was identified as Fayez FarID Hamed al-Sader, 27.  The body was evacuated to Rafidya Hospital in Nablus.  According to medical sources, al-Sader was hit by more than 10 live bullets throughout the body. 

 At approximately 11:00, while Israeli occupying forces were completing withdrawal from the camp, they opened fire at Palestinian civilians who came out of homes to check on what was happening.  A Palestinian civilian, Mahmoud Tayseer al-Tak, 18, was seriously wounded by a live bullet in the abdomen.  He was evacuated to Rafidya Hospital in a civilian car, but all attempts made to save his life failed and he was pronounced dead in the evening.  According to eyewitnesses, Israeli soldiers in a military jeep fired at al-Tak from a distance of 50-60m.  At the same time, Israeli occupying forces fired tear gas canisters at Palestinian civilians.  Dozens of civilians suffered from tear gas inhalation, including Fawzi Ahmed Fawzi al-‘Alami, 41, who died at a hospital. 

 PCHR strongly condemns this escalatory military operation by the Israeli authorities and Israeli belligerent occupying forces.  PCHR considers the raid, and subsequent attack on civilians resulting from the raid, severely damaging to the current peace process.  By targeting members of the Hamas organization, a group that has abided by  the declared cease-fire for almost three months, Israeli forces seriously undermine the sustainability of the current peace process in the region.  Furthermore, PCHR asserts that Israeli use of force against civilians following the raid which resulted in two Palestinian deaths, once again demonstrates Israel’s disregard for international law and humanitarian law standards while operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Consequently, PCHR reiterates its call upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligations under the Convention and ensure protection for Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.