Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continued their military operations in Balata refugee camp and the eastern part of Nablus for the 5th consecutive day. On Thursday, February 23, Israeli forces killed five Palestinians, including three in an extra-judicial assassination.
PCHR’s initial investigations indicate that at approximately 06:00 in the morning of Thursday, 23 February 2006, an armored IOF force consisting of 30 military vehicles resumed military operations in Balata refugee camp and the eastern part of Nablus. Helicopter gunships provided aerial support for the ground forces.
IOF troops embarked on a house to house search in the target area. Scores of children and youth gathered in the Daheya area, and started throwing stones at the IOF vehicles. Immediately, IOF opened thick fire at them. Ibrahim Mohammad Ali Sa’idi, 19, was injured by a bullet in the abdomen. He was evacuated to Rafedia Hospital by ambulance. Efforts to save his life failed, and he was pronounced dead 30 minutes later.
At approximately 11:00, IOF fired at Na’im Mohammad Saleh Abu S’reis, 22, from Balata refugee camp. He was hit by a bullet in the abdomen. An ambulance evacuated him to Rafedia Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 13:12 after efforts to save his life failed. IOF claimed that they fired at him for breaking the curfew imposed on the refugee camp.
In a new crime of extra-judicial assassination, IOF killed 3 citizens in Balata, and claimed that they were “wanted.” PCHR’s initial investigations indicate that at approximately 15:15, IOF besieged the house belonging to Mohammad Abu Khamis in the Qar’an neighborhood, in the center of the refugee camp. IOF fired rockets at the house; and gun-ships fired heavy machine gun at the house. Three Palestinians who were inside the house were killed: Hammouda Esh’teiwe, 38; Mohammad Abu Khamis, 32; and Hasan Fathi Hajjaj, 22.
Furthermore, IOF gunfire since the morning resulted in injuring 7 civilians, including 2 whose injuries are serious. The two are: Issam Fathi Radi Makhlouf, 22, bullet in the abdomen; and Maher Walwiel, 40, bullet in the abdomen.
In an incident of targeting medical personnel, IOF deliberately fired at an ambulance tending the wounded. The driver of the ambulance, belonging to the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, was hit with two bullets, in the hand and left leg. His name is Jarir Zakaria Qanadilo, is 37 years old, and is from Nablus. Based on eyewitness accounts, PCHR’s fieldworker indicated that the ambulance driver was injured while attempted to tend to Zakaria Abu Asab, who was hit with a bullet in the shoulder, in the center of the refugee camp.
In addition, two international volunteers, both females, were injured. A Dutch volunteer was injured by shrapnel in the shoulder; and an American volunteer was hit with a bullet in her hand.
PCHR strongly condemns the continuing IOF war crimes perpetrated in Balata refugee camp and Nablus since Sunday, 19 February 2006. These crimes have led to the death of 8 people and the injury of 45 others. These crimes are fulfilling previous Israeli threats to impose additional sanctions against the Palestinian people.
The Centre points to the fact that these actions against Palestinian civilians increase tension in the area and threaten to cause additional casualties among the Palestinian population. The Centre calls upon the international community to intervene immediately to put an end to these war crimes. The Centre calls upon the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their responsibility to ensure the right of protection of Palestinian civilians in the OPT.