Date: 2 January 2006
Time: 11:00 GMT
Unknown Armed Persons Blow up UNRWA Beach Club in Gaza and Others Kidnap and Italian Citizen in Khan Yunis
On Sunday morning, 1 January 2006, unknown armed persons blew up UNRWA Beach Club in Gaza City. The club and a nearby site of the Palestinian Civil Defense were severely damaged. A few hours later, another armed group kidnapped a member of a European Parliament delegation visiting Khan Yunis. PCHR is concerned that the ultimate goal of such crimes is to convulse the internal security and security to cancel or interrupt the upcoming elections or hold them under unfair conditions.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 02:00 on Sunday, 1 January 2006, unknown armed persons got out of a civilian car that has no registration plate and attacked and handcuffed the guard of UNRWA Beach Club. Then, they broke into the club, planted two explosive devices and blew them up by remote control. The roof was destroyed, and offices, meeting halls, the kitchen, the video library, the gymnasium hall, the cafeteria and the bar were severely damaged. The wall separating between the club and a neighboring site of the Palestinian Civil Defense was also destroyed and the hydraulic stairs used for extinguishing fire and a water pump were damaged. Perpetrators and reasons of the attack are still unknown.
It is worth noting that the Beach Club, which was established in the 1950s, serves UNRWA international and local staff. However, the international staff members no longer go to it at night due to the current security situation in the Gaza Strip. UNRWA has increased the level of danger up to little below the maximum level and has instructed its international staff members whose work does not require their presence in the Gaza Strip to leave it towards Jerusalem and carry out their duties from there. This decision has been taken in light of the kidnappings of a number of workers of international humanitarian and relief organizations and journalists in the past few months.
At approximately 11:30 on the same day, 3 armed members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades kidnapped Alissandro Bero, 26, under gunfire in Khan Yunis. Bero was among an 18-member delegation of the European Parliament visiting the office of the election campaign of the Third Way List headed by the former Minister of Finance, Salam Fayad. At approximately 16:30, a unit of the Palestinian Preventive Security was able to free the hostage from al-Mawasi area without being hurt.
These latest attacks have come in the context of the ever deteriorating internal security in the Gaza Strip, including killings, attacks on public and private property and the kidnappings of internationals by Palestinians armed groups, which alarmingly escalated in the second half of 2005. Before the kidnapping of Bero, 17 internationals had been kidnapped in 9 separate incidents. Even though all hostages were released without being hurt, such crimes reflect the state of security chaos and attacks on the rule of law in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) controlled areas. The kidnappers in all these incidents have not been prosecuted even though their identities are known. PCHR has even evidence that the PNA even succumbed to the kidnappers’ demands in a number of these cases.
These crimes damage the just cause of the Palestinian people and have contributed to the evacuation from the Gaza Strip of people who provide great services to the Palestinian people and support their struggle, including staff of the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies, journalists and human rights workers. Such crimes serve the Israeli efforts to limit the presence of internationals in the Gaza Strip in order not to be witnesses for crimes committed by Israeli Occupation Forces against Palestinian civilians.
PCHR strongly condemns these latest attacks:
1. PCHR expresses its utmost concerns that this continuous escalation is planned and seek to cancel the upcoming parliamentary elections or hold them under unfair conditions.
2. PCHR holds the PNA responsible for the escalation in such attacks at it has failed to search for the perpetrators of these crimes and bring them to justice.
3. PCHR calls upon the PNA to take effective measures, in accordance with the law and human rights standards, to put an end to this phenomenon and other forms of security chaos.