A few days after the recent Aqaba summit, which was attended by both the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers in an effort to broker an agreement between the two sides, Israeli occupying forces dramatically escalated hostile military actions against Palestinians, especially extra-judicial assassinations.
Israeli occupying forces have also continued to conduct illegal actions and human rights violations against Palestinian civilians, including collective punishment, shelling of and incursions into Palestinian areas, house demolitions and agricultural land leveling. This week 5-11 June 2003, 20 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 4 women and a child, were killed and dozens of others were wounded by Israeli occupying forces.
The past 2 days witnessed an escalation in extra-judicial assassinations perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces against political and field activist of the Intifada, as these forces perpetrated 4 assassinations in Gaza city, which left dead 15 Palestinians, including 11 passing civilians. Two brothers and 2 sisters were among the victims.
These attacks came shortly after the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz stated that they gave order to the Israeli military to escalate what they described as “qualitative acts” against Palestinian activist. The worst of these assassinations took place on Wednesday evening, 11 June 2003, in al-Shojaeya neighborhood in Gaza city, which left dead 8 Palestinians, including 6 passing civilians, 2 of whom are brothers. In addition, more than 35 civilians, including 14 children, were wounded. Six hours later, Israeli occupying forces committed another assassination in Gaza city also, which left dead 2 Palestinians.
These 2 assassinations came one day after 2 failed assassination attempts. One of these attempts targeted Dr. ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-Rantisi, member of the political bureau of Hamas movement, which left dead one of his bodyguards and a passing woman. The other attempt targeted a civilian car in the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabalya, which left dead 3 passing civilians, including a woman, and wounded more than 20 others, while those who were traveling in the car were able to escape and survive.
The nature of weapons employed by Israeli occupying forces, such as combat helicopters and air-to-surface missiles, in carrying out attacks against moving cars in densely populated civilian areas, reflects a maximum disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians, and an intention to cause maximum casualties among Palestinian civilians as a form of retaliation.
In 3 cases of apparent willful killing, 4 Palestinians were killed by Israeli occupying forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A child also died from a previous wound he sustained.
This week, Israeli occupying forces conducted a series of incursions into Palestinian areas in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In the Gaza Strip, this week, Israeli occupying forces conducted 7 incursions into Palestinian areas, during which they destroyed 42 Palestinian houses in Rafah, Beit Hanoun and Deir al-Balah. They also destroyed governmental and private facilities at Rafah Terminal at the Egyptian border, south of the Gaza Strip. Israeli military bulldozers also razed 40 donums of Palestinian agricultural land in Khan Yunis and Deir al-Balah.
In a violation of international humanitarian law, which prohibits collective punishment, Israeli forces took retaliatory measures against families of Palestinians who have carried out attacks against Israeli targets in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and those wanted by Israeli forces. In this context, they destroyed 2 houses in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun and in Hebron in the West Bank.
Israeli occupying forces have maintained a total siege on the OPT. They have isolated Palestinian communities from one another and have partitioned the Gaza Strip into three separate zones, restricting the movement of people and goods. They have also maintained curfews on some areas in the West Bank. On Saturday, 7 June 2003, Israeli occupying authorities imposed a total closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. For the 4th consecutive week, Israeli occupying forces have maintained a military siege on the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun. They also restricted movement on Salah al-Din Street, the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip. On Monday and Tuesday, 9 and 10 June 2003, Israeli forces closed al-Matahen and Abu Houli military checkpoints and blocked and searched dozens of cars.
In a continuation of the policy of extra-judicial assassination officially adopted by the Israeli political and military establishments against Palestinian political and field activists of the Intifada, this week, Israeli occupying forces committed 4 assassinations, which left dead 15 Palestinians, including 11 passing civilians. Dozens of others, including a number of children, were wounded.
On Tuesday, 10 June 2003, Israeli occupying forces committed an assassination attempt in Gaza city, which left dead 2 Palestinian civilians and wounded more than 30 others, including a number of children. The failed assassination attempt targeted Dr. ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-Rantisi, a prominent leader of the Hamas movement.
According to PCHR’s investigation and eyewitness statements, at approximately 10:53 on Tuesday, 10 June 2003, 2 Israeli combat helicopters launched 6 missiles at a civilian car — a blue Mitsubishi — that was traveling in ‘Ezziddin al-Qassam Street in a densely populated area in Gaza City. Dr. ‘Abdul ‘Aziz al-Rantisi, 60, a prominent leader of the Hamas movement, his son, Ahmed, 20, and two of his bodyguards were traveling in the car.
The first missile hit the front of the car. Although the passengers were wounded by the first strike, they managed to jump from the vehicle. Shortly after, the helicopters launched more missiles, completely destroying the car. The second strike killed a woman, who was passing by the area. The woman has been identified as Khadra Yousef Abu Hamada, 30 from Al Karama housing project, north of Gaza City. Dr. al-Rantisi survived the attack, but was wounded in his left leg. More than 30 civilians, including 8 children, were also wounded. Shortly after the attack the wounded were evacuated to Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. According to medical sources, 7 of the wounded were in a serious condition, including one of al-Rantisi’s bodyguards, Mustapha Abdul Rahim Saleh, 30, from Gaza City. An hour after the attack, Saleh succumbed to his wound. Also among the wounded was PCHR staff member, Bassam Abu Hashish, 40, from Gaza City, who was wounded by shrapnel throughout his body, as he passed by the area.
In the evening of the same day, Israeli combat helicopters launched 3 missiles at a civilian car, in which 2 allegedly wanted Palestinians were apparently traveling. Three Palestinian civilians from one family were killed and the two and a number passing Palestinian civilians were wounded.
According to PCHR’s investigation and eyewitnesses’ reports, at approximately 18:30, 2 Israeli combat helicopters flew over the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabalya, apparently observing 2 Palestinian resistance men who were traveling in a civilian car in Zimmu Street. The two felt danger, so they jumped out of the car and escaped. Immediately, one of the helicopters launched a missile at the car, destroying it. A few minutes later, the helicopters launched 2 missiles, wounding the two men and 20 passing Palestinian civilians, including 8 children. Three of the wounded, including a woman, died:
1. Mohammed Fayez Ahmed Saleh ‘Abed Rabbu, 25, hit by shrapnel in the head;
2. Hammouda Faraj ‘Abed Rabbu ‘Abed Rabbu, 19, hit by shrapnel in the chest and the abdomen; and
3. Miriam Rajab Ibrahim ‘Abed Rabbu, 35, hit by shrapnel throughout the body.
On the following day, Israeli occupying forces committed another assassination, which left dead 8 Palestinians, including 6 passing civilians. In addition, about 35 civilians, including 14 children, were wounded.
According to PCHR’s investigation, at approximately 18:00 on Wednesday, 11 June 2003, 2 Israeli combat helicopters launched 4 missiles at a civilian car that was traveling in Salah al-Din Street in the densely populated al-Shojaeya neighborhood in the east of Gaza city. The missile hit the car and destroyed. Two Palestinians who were traveling in the car were killed:
1. Suhail No’man Abu Nahel, 30, from al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza; and
2. Titu Mahmoud Mas’oud, 36, from Jabalya refugee camp.
The two were members of Ezziddin al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of Hamas movement.
Shrapnel from the missile also killed 6 passing Palestinian civilians, including 2 brothers and 2 sisters:
1. Yasser Hassan Khalil Humaid, 35;
2. Khalil Hassan Khalil Humaid, 33;
3. ‘Azzam Husni al-Je’el, 40;
4. Majeda Mahmoud Mohammed Dalloul, 20;
5. Samia Mahmoud Mohammed Dalloul, 55; and
6. Rateb Mahfouz al-Je’el, 55.
In addition, 35 civilians, including 14 children, were wounded. A number of houses and civilian facilities were also damaged.
Only 6 hours later, Israeli occupying forces committed another assassination, which left dead 2 Palestinians.
According to PCHR’s investigation, at approximately midnight, 2 Israeli combat helicopters launched 3 missiles at a civilian car, white Mitsubishi, which parked near ‘Ali Ben Abi Taleb mosque in al-Zytoun neighborhood in the southeast of Gaza city. Two Palestinians who were near the car were killed:
1. Mohammed ‘Aadel Doghmosh, 23; and
2. Rawi Abu Kumail, 23, both from al-Sabra neighborhood in Gaza city.
The two were members of ‘Ezziddin al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of Hamas movement. They had got out of the car to have dinner in the area.
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