On Thursday morning, 11 December 2003, Israeli occupying forces killed 5 Palestinians, injured 13, and destroyed 9 houses during a military incursion into the al-Salam neighborhood in Rafah. Israeli occupying forces stated that the aim of the operation was to arrest a Palestinian wanted for involvement in attacks against Israeli targets.
According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 04:00 on Thursday, Israeli soldiers, reinforced by a number of heavy military vehicles and a military helicopter, moved approximately 600m into the al-Salam neighborhood in the south of Rafah, adjacent to the Egyptian border. Under cover of Israeli gunfire, Israeli troops surrounded houses in the neighbourhood belonging to the families of al-Qadhi and al-Waqili.
Israeli soldiers used megaphones to call on residents to exit their homes. Soldiers also called on Khaled al-Qadhi to surrender to them. Israeli forces stated that they believed him to be a member of the Islamic Jihad. Residents exited their homes and Israeli soldiers detained them for about an hour; the male residents, over the age of 18, were handcuffed and blindfolded. Khaled al-Qadhi refused to leave his house and a gunfight ensued between him and Israeli soldiers. Israeli soldiers ordered residents to evacuate the area. Shortly after, Israeli occupying forces demolished 9 houses belonging to the families of al-Qadhi and al-Waqili, rendering 65 people (11 families) homeless.
During the incursion, a number of members of the Palestinian resistance clashed with Israeli occupying forces. One armed Palestinian, Nasser Mohammed Abu Naja, 28, died after being shot in the head by a live bullet.
In addition, four Palestinian civilians were killed as a result of Israeli gunfire in the area: ‘Omar Fawzi Abu Muhsen, 28, hit by a live bullet in the abdomen; Sabri Ahmed Abu Louli, 25, hit by a live bullet in the head; ‘Ayad Mohammed al-Mahmoum, 55, hit by a live bullet in the chest; and Mohammed Rajab Zaino, 23, hit by a live bullet in the head.
In addition, 13 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children and 2 women, were wounded. Four of the injured remain in a critical condition.
PCHR’s field worker in Rafah reported that Israeli occupying forces withdrew from the al-Salam neighborhood at approximately 11:30am, after they had arrested 11 Palestinians, including Khaled al-Qadhi and 8 other members of his family.
PCHR strongly condemns the ongoing military attacks against Palestinian civilians and their property perpetrated by the Israeli military in the OPTs. The willful killing of a Palestinian civilian, and the extensive destruction of civilian property carried out wantonly and unlawfully without military necessity, constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
PCHR reiterates that the policies of retaliation and collective punishment practiced by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians also constitute violations of international humanitarian law, specifically article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to halt all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians in the OPTs.