Two Israeli combat helicopters, accompanied by an F-16 fighter jet, launched two missiles at a civilian car in a densely populated area of Gaza City. Two Palestinians, allegedly wanted by Israeli occupying forces, were traveling in the car. A number of Palestinian civilians gathered around the targeted car to rescue the victims, when the aircraft launched a third missile, killing 5 Palestinian civilians, including two children, and injuring dozens.
According to PCHR’s investigation and eyewitness reports, at approximately 20:35 on Tuesday, April 8 2003, two Israeli combat helicopters, accompanied by an F-16 fighter jet, flew over Gaza City. One of the helicopters launched a missile at a civilian car (a white Subaru), that was traveling approximately 30m away from Imam Shaf’ei mosque in the ‘Asqoula area, a densely populated area in the east of Gaza City. The missile hit the left side of the car. Soon after, the helicopter launched another missile that hit the car. The car exploded and those inside were killed. Later, the victims were identified as:
Sa’ad Musa’ed al-‘Arabid, 35, from the Sheikh Rdwan neighborhood in Gaza City, a member of ‘Ezziddin al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of the Hamas movement; and Ashraf ‘Abdul Rahim al-Halabi, 28, from al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza.
Soon after, a number of Palestinian civilians gathered around the car to see what had happened and to attempt to rescue the victims. Immediately, in an action apparently aimed at causing the maximum number of Palestinian civilian casualties, a missile was launched at the crowd by one of the helicopters. Five Palestinian civilians, including two children, were killed:
Ahmed Khamis al-Ashram, 13; Sami Hassan Qassem, 16; ‘Omar Kamel Nassar, 21; Mohammed Saber Basal, 20; and Mahmoud Sa’id Farawana, 30.
In addition, 53 other civilians were injured, 8 of whom are in a serious condition. A number of houses and civilian facilities in the area were also severely damaged.
PCHR condemns this war crime, which in addition to other extra-judicial and willful killings perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces, further proves Israel’s disregard for international and humanitarian law. PCHR reiterates its warning of an escalation of war crimes committed by Israeli occupying forces, as the world focuses its attention on the war in Iraq.
PCHR asserts that the policy of extra-judicial assassinations officially adopted by the Israeli government raises tension in the region and threatens the lives of Palestinian civilians. In light of the above, PCHR reiterates its call upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their obligation to ensure protection for Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.