Today, 16 July 2006, IOF carried out a pre-dawn raid on the town of Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip. The raid comes after IOF had conducted an incursion into the northern Gaza Strip, and then redeployed its forces outside the targeted areas. During last week’s incursion, IOF committed war crimes in contravention of International Law and customs. Today’s raid has thus far resulted in the death of three Palestinian resistance activists by aerial bombardment. In addition, 10 civilians were injured. The raid on Beit Hanoun is part of a campaign against Palestinians that was announced by IOF two weeks ago.
In addition, IOF killed a Palestinian woman in El-Shoka community, east of Rafah, as a result of shelling residential structures in the area. PCHR’s field worker reported that IOF intensified shelling in the north and south of the Gaza Strip in a way that increased threat to the lives of civilians and to their properties.
It is noted that IOF have killed 89 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since 25 June 2006. There are 44 civilians among the dead, including 19 children, three women, and three handicapped. In addition, nearly 300 Palestinians have been injured, more than half of them unarmed civilians.
PCHR’s preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 00:00 on Sunday, 16 July 2006, IOF moved two kilometers into the town of Beit Hanoun from the eastern and northern areas of the town. The raiding troops fired heavily, and started to occupy residential houses in Al-Amal Quarter in the town, near UNRWA schools. The occupied houses were transformed into military outposts after their residents were detained inside the houses. And at approximately 05:30, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a group of resistance activists in Abu Odeh Street, to the north of Al-Amal Quarter. Three were killed instantly, and 10 civilians from the area were injured, including a pregnant woman. The dead are: Mo’ath Hamza Odwan (23), Abdel Karim Yousef Hamed (25), and Shehada Zuheir El-Kafarna (24). Furthermore, PCHR’s fieldworker reported that eight families were evacuated from the UNRWA schools in the area. These families were forced out of their homes due to IOF shelling near their houses, and took refuge in the schools.
At approximately 07:30, IOF troops deployed on the outskirts of El-Shoka community, east of Rafah, fired several artillery shells at houses. The shelling killed Fatima Fadel Jadallah (59), who was at the door of her house. IOF had moved into El-Shoka and occupied Gaza International Airport 10 days ago. IOF redeployed out of the area after displacing its residents, leaving behind extensive damages in civilian property and infrastructure.
PCHR reiterates its condemnation of IOF willful killing of Palestinian civilians. The Centre considers these crimes as a form of reprisal and collective punishment against Palestinians, which is a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. PCHR points to the fact that IOF do not respect the principles of necessity and proportionality when using its war machine against Palestinian resistance activists when they are in non-combat situations in civilian areas, which leads to casualties from among the civilian population and to damage of civilian property.
PCHR believes that the failure of the international community and the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to take effective steps to stop Israeli war crimes has served to encourage Israel to commit more war crimes against Palestinian civilians. Not only do the legal cover provided to Israel by the US, which purposely hinders international humanitarian law, and the conspiracy of silence by Europe place Israel above the international law, but also encourage IOF to commit more war crimes.
PCHR reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of:
1) Their obligations under Article 1 of the Convention to respect and ensure respect for the convention under all circumstances.
2) Their obligations under Article 146 of the Convention to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, grave breaches, and bring such persons before their own courts, noting that such grave breaches constitute war crimes under Article 147, as specified in the First Protocol Additional to the Convention
PCHR calls upon the Swiss Government:
1) To take a leading role in highlighting and acting to stop the grave breaches of international law that are currently taking place in the Gaza Strip, as is its obligation as the depository of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
2) To make efforts to mobilise the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to intervene in this situation and meet their obligations to protect the rights of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip under International Humanitarian Law.
3) To call on the Security Council to send an international protection force for the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
PCHR calls upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights:
1) To issue a statement strongly condemning Israel’s grave breaches of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
2) To make a visit to the OPT in order to see for yourself the long term damage that has already been and is currently being inflicted on the civilian population - a population who should be enjoying protection under International Humanitarian Law.
3) To call a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to ensure that these states fulfil their obligation under international law to protect the civilian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.