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Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Punish Palestinian Civilians in the Gaza Strip
Press Release, PCHR, 28 June 2006
PCHR strongly condemns IOF retaliatory measures targeting Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, including the destruction of properties that are not classified as a legitimate military targets. The Centre calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to force IOF to respect the convention, which prohibits reprisals against protected persons, as stipulated in article 33. In addition, the convention prohibits the destruction of private properties belonging to individuals, groups, organizations or official bodies. The Centre calls upon the High Contracting Parties to enforce article 3 regarding adherence to the convention and respect of its stipulations, and to take appropriate sanctions against the serious violations currently being perpetrated.
PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 01:45 on Tuesday, 27 June 2006, IOF conducted a number of air raids using fighter jets and helicopter gunships on civilian installations in the Gaza Strip. The raids completely destroyed two bridges on the Gaza Valley, one on Salah El-Deen Road and the other on the coastal road. These two bridges connect the northern part of the Strip with the center and south. A secondary bridge was also destroyed. Transportation to and from the north of the Strip has been completely cut off as a result, threatening people's lives and security by depriving them access to health and educational institutions. The aerial bombardment also destroyed the main water pipe feeding Nuseirat and El-Bureij refugee camps. Furthermore, panic was caused among civilians, especially children and medical patients by bombardment, mock air raids and sonic booms over the Strip.
Friends and family in Gaza have told me they are bracing themselves for the worst, while praying for the best. In Rafah, the refugee camp that has not been spared the wrath of the Israeli Army on so many occasions in the past, where 16, 000 Palestinians lost their homes to armoured bulldozers, families have holed themselves indoors, fearing for their lives.
Israel has taken control of the border area, including Rafah Crossing, and the Airport. Colleague, friend, and activist Fida Qishta with whom I toured the northeast US is on her way to Egypt, where she will have to remain until she will be allowed to enter her home in Gaza in Rafah by Israeli forces, who have sealed off the Gaza Strip in its entirety. I was worried about her safety, since she is from Rafah, but I received a frantic telephone call from her in London airport where her flight was delayed, and where is making plans to remain exiled in Egypt. Meanwhile, journalist colleagues have told me that CNN and BBC crews from Jerusalem were also not allowed through the Erez Crossing into Gaza yesterday.
UPDATE: Israeli F-16s bombed Gaza's main bridge, right next to my father's farm, between northern and southern Gaza. They have also destroyed Gaza's ONLY power plant, and electricity in most of Gaza has been cut off as a result. I've just spoken to my grandmother in Khan Yunis, who confirmed the entire Strip has plunged into darkness, with people stocking up on food and supplies. The electricity of course has also been cut off in hospitals and clincs, though I'm not sure how long the generators can last.
Friends in Gaza City also tell us that terrorizing sonic boom attacks have resumed, stronger than before, full force, by low-flying jets breaking the sound barrier throughout the night over the civlian population-illegal in Israel, the united States, and most all of the world.
Freelance journalist and blogger Laila El-Haddad lives in Gaza City. Laila's blog, Raising Yousuf, is named after her two-year-old son.