Israeli occupying troops have escalated their attacks on Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPTs), especially in the Gaza Strip. This week, 76 Palestinians, including 64 from the northern Gaza Strip, were killed by Israeli troops. These attacks recall the Israeli comprehensive offensive on the West Bank in the 2002 spring, in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed or injured. Human rights violations perpetrated by Israeli troops included willful and extra-judicial executions, incursions into Palestinian areas, indiscriminate shelling, land leveling and total closure imposed on Palestinian communities.
For the 2nd consecutive week, Israeli troops have launched a wide scale offensive on the northern Gaza Strip. During the period covered by this report, 64 Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops. Thus, the number of Palestinians killed since the beginning of this latest offensive until Thursday morning, 7 October 2004 has mounted to 74, including 37 civilians, 23 of whom were children. Two of the victims were brothers and a third victim was deaf. In addition, at least 300 others, mostly civilians, including at least 100 children, have been injured, and a number of them have been rendered permanently disabled. Israeli troops have also continued to destroy houses, agricultural land, civilian facilities and historical sites. At least 50 houses have been destroyed and 140 others have been damaged. In addition 4 UNRWA schools, a kindergarten, a mosque, a historical site and a number of civilian facilities were destroyed. Large areas in the northern Gaza Strip have been isolated, while Israeli troops have seized a number of buildings, transforming their roofs into military sites. In the meantime, electricity and water supplies have been cut from these areas. These areas also suffer from a shortage of foodstuffs, especially milk. Israeli troops have prevented humanitarian agencies into Jabalya refugee camp and neighboring areas, excluding the ICRC, whose role has been very limited.
Many Palestinian civilians, especially in Jablaya refugee camp, were seen carrying their belongings and leaving their houses, due to the Israeli shelling and the presence of members of the Palestinian resistance who are always targeted by heavy Israeli weapons. These scenes are reminiscent of the forcible migration of 1949. Israeli troops have also used Palestinian civilians as human shields in military operations, endangering their lives.
This latest offensive by Israeli occupying troops has been characterized by excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, as they have attacked civilian communities with missiles and shells. Since the beginning of this latest offensive, 34 Palestinian civilians, including 21 children, have been killed. Eight of the children were killed together in Jabalya refugee camp on the third day of the offensive, when Israeli troops fired artillery shells at them. These facts refute the claims of Moshe Ya’lon, the Israeli military chief of staff, that all of those who have been killed are militants.
Israeli occupying troops have been positioned a few meters away from Jabalya refugee camp, which is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, where approximately 120,000 people live in an area of less than 2 square kilometers. Consequently, most of the deaths (52 Palestinians) have been in the camp, and many houses have been destroyed. The Israeli offensive on Jabalya refugee camp is reminiscent off the Israeli offensive on Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank in the spring of 2002, when Israeli troops killed 49 Palestinians in a few days, injured dozens of others and destroyed many houses as they used excessive force inside the camp.
Israeli troops have also used disproportionate and indiscriminate force against members of the Palestinian resistance as many of these were killed when they were not engaged in fighting.
Statements by Israeli political and military officials that this military campaign could continue for weeks not a few days raise serious concerns for the lives and properties of Palestinian civilians. Such statements also provide further evidence of the policy of collective punishment, which has been systematically practiced against the Palestinian people. The Israeli declared war on UNRWA is an intentional policy that aims at preventing the organization for providing humanitarian assistance to the affected areas. In addition, the US support for the Israeli government and its occupying forces, transforms perpetrator into a victim, encourages this government to escalate its aggression against Palestinian civilians. The failure of the international community to stop the Israeli attacks only serves to encourage Israel and its occupying forces to further violate international human rights instruments, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.
This week, 8 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli troops in other areas in the Gaza Strip. Four of the victims were extra-judicially killed by Israeli on 2 and 5 October 2004. On 2 October 2004, an elderly Palestinian civilian was killed by the Israeli shelling on residential areas in Rafah, and a child from Khan Yunis died from a wound he had sustained in July. On 4 October 2004, a 4-year-old Palestinian child was killed when Israeli troops shelled residential areas in Khuza’a village near Khan Yunis. On 5 October 2004, Israeli troops shot dead a 13-year-old child in Rafah, when she got close to an Israeli military post for unknown reasons.
This week, Israeli troops conducted 8 incursions into Palestinian areas in the Gaza Strip. In an incursion into al-Satar al-Gharbi area in Khan Yunis on 5 October 2004, Israeli troops destroyed 9th houses and razed 52 donums of agricultural land. In the other incursions, Israeli troops destroyed 6 houses and razed 23 donums of agricultural land. Israeli troops have also continued to shell Palestinian residential areas. Israeli helicopter gunships also destroyed 2 civilian facilities in Gaza City.
In the West Bank, Israeli troops killed 4 Palestinians, including a child, and a woman died from a previous injury. On 4 October 2004, an undercover unit of Israeli occupying troops shot dead 2 Palestinians in Ramallah. On 5 October 2004, Israeli troops killed a Palestinian in Hebron. On 6 October 2004, Israeli troops shot dead a 16-year-old child in Saida village near Tulkarm. On 4 October 2004, an elderly woman from Hares village in Nablus died from an injury she had sustained 2 months ago. In addition, Israeli troops launched a series of attacks against Palestinian civilians and their properties. They moved into various areas throughout the West Bank, injured a number of Palestinian civilians, mostly children, and arrested dozens of others.
Israeli troops have continued to construct the annexation wall inside the West Bank territory. This week, this construction took place mainly in East Jerusalem and Hebron. Israeli troops have continued to construct a section of the wall in the middle of Ramallah – Jerusalem Street. This section of the wall will isolate al-Ram village. It will also annex Atarot industrial zone to the Israeli territories.
Israeli troops have continued to impose a tightened siege on the OPTs and have imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including Jerusalem. They have divided the Gaza Strip into 3 separate zones by closing the coastal road between Gaza City and the central Gaza Strip, and isolated several parts of the northern Gaza Strip. They have also continued to close most border crossings of the Gaza Strip. The closure of internal roads in the Gaza Strip has obstructed activities of international humanitarian agencies, especially UNRWA. In the West Bank, Israeli troops have continued to impose a strict siege on Palestinian communities. They have continued to impose a tightened siege on Hebron for the 5th consecutive week. They have also imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians and arrested some of them while crossing military checkpoints. Israeli troops also imposed curfews on a number of Palestinian communities.
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