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IOF Occupy & Isolate Beit Hanoun, and Destroy the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
3 Killed and 11 Injured, including 2 Journalists & 2 Paramedics; Forced Exodus of Families in Rafah & Beit Hanoun; and the Gaza Strip is Isolated from the Outside World
Dr. Fawwaz Abu Sitta, Economics Professor at Al-Azhar University, who lives near the Palestinian Ministry for Foreign Affairs: "The recurrence of this terrible deed without any effort from anyone to stop it makes one feel bitter and hopeless. In addition, one feels the inability to act and avoid the bombardment, despite fully expecting it before hand. Repeating the bombardment of a target that has no military or material value makes this bombardment a form of sadistic collective punishment; because bombing a second time is only for spreading fear among civilians in the homes around the building; and their homes were damaged by the bombardment. This act has transgressed the boundary of standard collective punishment and has become sadistic collective punishment as it entails punishing civilians in their homes. This is what one feels directly after the bombardment when hearing the screams of children and women, and the state of shock and anxiety. It is very scary, and cannot be compared to a state of shock in any other calamity. It is a state of shock unique for this kind of calamity."
Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continued the aggression on the Gaza Strip for the 4th consecutive week, inflicting additional casualties among Palestinian civilians and destruction of civilian property. IOF continue to systematically target infrastructure and governmental institutions, to undermine the Palestinian political system. Further, IOF continue to hold nearly 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip hostages after closing all its borders, and prevent food and supplies from entering the Strip freely. The situation is the worst in years, and could escalate into a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe. As this press release is published, IOF continue to advance into the town of Beit Hanoun, and to isolate it from its surroundings. Most of the town is under direct IOF occupation. Many families were forced to flee their houses due to indiscriminate IOF shelling. IOF troops have taken over residential structures and converted them into military outposts, while detaining hundreds of civilians, including journalists, inside. IOF use these detained civilians as human shields during bulldozing and detention operations. IOF have prevented the Red Cross and some relief organizations from accessing the area. PCHR calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, to work towards preventing a humanitarian catastrophe in Beit Hanoun and its surroundings. The Centre calls upon these parties to work towards ensuring that international humanitarian organizations and medical teams are allowed to fulfill their missions and provide food and medication to the civilian population.
The most notable IOF crimes during the past 24 hours are:
# At approximately 14:00 on Sunday, 16 July 2006, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a Palestinian car in El-Na'ayma Street in Beit Hanoun. The rocket hit the car after its occupants fled; and it was completely burned.
# At approximately 16:00 on the same day, 5 civilians were injured by indiscriminate shelling on Beit Hanoun. Among the victims are 2 journalists, Kyoto Saki from Japan and Majdi Abdel Dayem Abdeen from Palestine, and 2 paramedics, Zeyad Abdel Dayem and Yosri El-Masri. The paramedics were injured when their ambulance was hit. And shortly afterwards, another 5 civilians were injured by shelling.
# At approximately 17:20, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a group of resistance activists in Dumra Street in Beit Hanoun. Two of them were killed: Abdel Latif Othman Obeid (20) and Ali maher Atallah (20). Both are from Jabalia refugee camp.
# At approximately 00:20 on Monday, 17 July 2006, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a group of resistance activists in Beit Hanoun. Two were injured.
# At approximately 00:50 on Monday, IOF helicopters fired 3 rockets at the Interior Ministry Executive Force compound in El-Ajarma Street in Jabalia. One rocket hit the compound, causing damages. The second rocket hit the roof of the house belonging to Husseini Abu Salem, near Abu Rashid pond. It did not explode. The third rocket fell in an empty area.
# At approximately 01:15, an IOF plane dropped a bomb at the building of the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Government Buildings Complex in the Southern Rimal Quarter in Gaza City. The building was completely destroyed; and extensive damage was inflicted on a large number of nearby houses and civilian vehicles. Twelve civilians were injured by glass shrapnel, including 6 children and 2 women. It is noted that this is the second bombing raid against the building this week. And it has become clear that the aim of the bombardment is to terrorize the civilian population living in the area.
# At approximately 06:30, IOF troops deployed on the roofs of Palestinian houses in Beit Hanoun fired indiscriminately, killing Mohammad Mahmoud El-Kafarna (21) with a bullet to the chest. He was standing in front of his house at the time. In addition, IOF continued to move into the town, clamping its control over the center of the town, where the lone hospital, police station, and schools are located. IOF occupied more houses and transformed them into military outposts. As a result, the 30,000 residents of Beit Hanoun are under direct IOF occupation. IOF continue to bulldoze houses, and residents are forcibly fleeing their houses due to indiscriminate shelling. It is noted that all border areas in the Gaza Strip are under unprecedented, indiscriminate shelling. Families from El-Shoka community, east of Rafah, are forcibly fleeing their houses, and seeking refuge in temporary shelters provided by UNRWA.
PCHR reiterates its condemnation of IOF willful killing of Palestinian civilians. The Centre considers these crimes as a form of reprisal and collective punishment against Palestinians, which is a violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. PCHR points to the fact that IOF do not respect the principles of necessity and proportionality when using its war machine against Palestinian resistance activists when they are in non-combat situations in civilian areas, which leads to casualties from among the civilian population and to damage of civilian property.
In the Center’s view, the complacency of the international community and the High Contracting Parties of the 4th Geneva Convention and their failure tot take effective steps to stop Israeli war crimes has been a supporting and encouraging element for Israel to continue perpetrating additional war crimes against Palestinian civilians. The legal cover provided to Israel by the US, which purposely hinders International Humanitarian Law, and the conspiracy of silence by Europe encourage Israeli to continue to perpetrate war crimes unchecked, placing it above international law.
The Centre reminds the High Contracting Parties of:
# Their obligations under article 1 of the convention to ensure respect of the convention under all circumstances;
# Their obligations in article 146 of the convention to pursue suspects of committing serious violations of the convention, noting that these violations are war crimes according to article 147, as specified in the first protocol additional to the convention
The Centre calls upon the Swiss Government to:
# to take a leading role in highlighting and acting to stop the grave breaches of international law that are currently taking place in the Gaza Strip, as is its obligation as the depository of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
# to make efforts to mobilise the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to intervene in this situation and meet their obligations to protect the rights of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip under International Humanitarian Law.
# to call on the Security Council to send an international protection force for the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
The Centre calls upon the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to:
# to issue a statement strongly condemning Israel’s grave breaches of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
# to make a visit to the OPT in order to see for yourself the long term damage that has already been and is currently being inflicted on the civilian population – a population who should be enjoying protection under International Humanitarian Law.
# to call a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to ensure that these states fulfil their obligation under international law to protect the civilian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is an independent legal body based in Gaza City dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and is an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists, the Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH), and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network. PCHR is a recipient of the 1996 French Republic Award for Human Rights.