Ref: 35/2006

Date:  11 April 2006

Time: 13:00 GMT 

PCHR Condemns Retaliation Measures against Civilians:

An 8-Year-Old Palestinian Child Killed and 8 Members of Her Family Injured when their Home in the Northern Gaza Strip was Shelled by IOF

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 17:35 on Monday, 10 April 2006, one of the artillery shells fired by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) at the Gaza Strip hit a 170-square-meter house belonging to Rabee’ ‘Abdullah Ghaben, in the densely populated al-Amal neighborhood in the north of Beit Lahia town.  The shell penetrated the roof and exploded inside the house, while Ghaen’s wife and children were inside.  The owner’s daughter, 8-year-old Hadeel, was instantly killed by shrapnel to the head.  The mother and 8 other children, aged 18 months to 17 years, were injured.  In addition, 3 neighbors, including two children, were also injured.  The injured civilians were identified as:

1.      Safiya Mohammed Ghaben (the mother), 35;

2.      Rawan Mohammed Rebee’ Ghaben, 18 months;

3.      Rana  Mohammed Rebee’ Ghaben, 3;

4.      Muneer Mohammed Rebee’ Ghaben, 4;

5.      Aamena Mohammed Rebee’ Ghaben, 9;

6.      Ghassan Mohammed Rebee’ Ghaben, 11;

7.      Bassam Mohammed Rebee’ Ghaben, 15;

8.      Tahreer Mohammed Rebee’ Ghaben, 17;

9.      Miriam Maher al-‘Aassi, 15;

10.  Jacqueline Mo’in Zo’rob, 11; and

11.  Talal Joma’a Zo’rob, 52. 

Earlier the same morning, Saleem Ahmed Haidar, 25, from Beit Hanoun, was injured by shrapnel to the left arm as a result of the Israeli shelling.  Haidar had been walking near the American School, to the west of Beit Lahia, when IOF shelled the area at 08:30. 

IOF tanks positioned on the eastern and northern borders of the Gaza Strip have continued to shell the northern Gaza Strip for the past several days.  Hundreds of shells have hit Palestinian houses and civilian and security facilities in the north, east and west of Beit Lahia, as well as in the east and south of Beit Hanoun and Jabalya towns.  A Palestinian civilian was killed and dozens of others, including children, were injured in these attacks.  A number of houses and facilities have also been damaged.  On 9 April 2006, Yasser Hassan Abu Jarad, 29, from Beit Hanoun, was killed and 6 other Palestinians, inclkuding 3 members of the Palestinian National Security Forces, were injured when an artillery shell fired by IOF hit a site of the Palestinian National Security Forces.  The shelling took place as 4 members of the Palestinian National Security Forces had just got out of the taxi drivern by Abu Jarad.  In another incident, at approximately 00:20 on Sunday, 9 April 2006, IOF fired dozens of artillery shells at Beit Lahia.  A number of shells fell near a house belonging to Ibrahim Abu Rabee’.  His wife and children were injured by shrapnel wounds to the body.  Ambulances faced extreme difficulties while trying to reach them. 

Israel claims that artillery shelling comes in response to the launching of locally made rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel.  In this regard, PCHR reiterates its call for Palestinian resistance groups and their military wings to abstain from launching rockets at Israeli civilian targets and reminds these groups that such acts constitute a grave breach of international humanitarian law.  However, investigations conducted by PCHR conclude that IOF’s response to rocket launching:

1)      Is disproportionate to the nature of the threats posed and constitutes an excessive use of force.

2)      Demonstrates disregard for the lives and safety of Palestinian civilians, especially children.

3)      As IOF have highly accurate weaponry, the repeated shelling of houses and civilian targets can be interpreted only as retaliatory acts against Palestinian civilians, which constitute a war crime under international humanitarian law. 

4)      Constitutes a form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians, who are intimidated and terrorized by explosions caused by shelling, in a similar manner to which sonic booms were used by IOF in the Gaza Strip a few months previously. 

PCHR is increasingly concerned over the continued killing of Palestinian civilians, especially children, by IOF.  Since the beginning of 2006, IOF have killed 13 Palestinian children (7 in the West Bank and 6 in the Gaza Strip).  According to PCHR’s documentation, 5 of these children were killed as a result of extra-judicial executions committed by IOF against Palestinian activists.  Three other children were killed during IOF incursions into Palestinian towns, villages and refugee camps.  The remaining 5 children were killed during times of complete quiet.  Thus, the number of Palestinian children killed by IOF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip since the beginning of the current Intifada on 28 September 2006 has increased to 664.

In light of the above:

1)      PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop such crimes and reiterates its calls for the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to meet their obligations to ensure protection for Palestinian civilians in the OPT.

2)      PCHR calls upon Palestinian resistance groups to abstain from launching any military attacks from inside or near civilian areas or that target civilians.  

 

 

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