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Press Release

 Israeli Violations Escalate:

Man assassinated by combat helicopter in Gaza;

Four Palestinians, including a 14-year-old child, are killed;

Indiscriminate shelling of Khan Yunis wounds dozens Palestinian civilians

 

Ref: 5/2001

Date: February 13, 2001

 Over the last 24 hours, there has been a serious escalation of Israeli violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  They are as follows:

 This morning, the Israeli occupation forces assassinated Maso’ud Hussein A’yyad.  This is the latest in a growing record of assassinations and extra-judicial killings reflecting the policy adopted by the Israeli government in blatant violation of International Humanitarian Law.  At approximately 9:45 local time, an Israeli combat helicopter flew over Gaza City and fired three rockets at a Palestinian civilian car, a white Hyundai.  This car was inside areas under the control of the Palestinian National Authority, traveling on Salah El-Din Street (the main road between the north and south of the Gaza Strip) on the way from Gaza City to Jabalya. 

 The direct hit on the vehicle killed its driver Maso’ud Hussein A’yyad, 50, from Al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City.  A’yyad was a major in Force 17 (the Palestinian President’s guards).  PCHR’s field officer in Gaza City reported that A’yyad’s body was removed from the scorched vehicle and transferred to Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City.  According to Shifa’ hospital, A’yyad was wounded with shrapnel in the head and the body, burns of the head, ruptures in internal organs, and lacerations on the right hand.  PCHR’s field officer added that a passing Palestinian civilian, Samir Yousef Shahin, 41, from Tal El-Za’tar in Jabalya, was also wounded with shrapnel throughout the body.  In addition, a number of passing Palestinian civilian cars were also damaged. 

 In addition, on January 29, 2001, the Israeli occupation forces arrested A’yyad’s son, Nasser Maso’ud A’yyad, 33, when they intercepted a Palestinian civilian car on the coastal road between Gaza City and Deir El-Balah.  (For more information about this arrest, see PCHR’s weekly report on February 2, 2001.)

 At approximately 10:30 local time, Israeli forces shot and killed the child Bilal Tawfiq A’wwad Ramadan, 14, from Al-Boreij refugee camp, with a live bullet in the chest.  PCHR’s field officer reported that Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrating Palestinian children.  The children were located more than 100m south of road connecting Salah El-Din Street with Netzarim settlement (to the south of Gaza City) where the forces were positioned. 

 Yesterday, at approximately 6:00 local time, Israeli occupation soldiers opened fire on a bus of Palestinian laborers traveling from Bethlehem to their places of work in Israel.  Ziad Ali A’ayesh Abu Swai, 22, from Artas village near Bethlehem, was killed with a live bullet in the chest.  Mohammed Abdel-Rahaman El-Barmil, 47, from Al-Douha village near Bethlehem, was seriously wounded with a live bullet in the neck and subsequently evacuated to the intensive care unit at Al-Maqased hospital in Jerusalem.  Haidar Bassem A’ayesh, 18, was wounded in the head with shrapnel from live ammunition. 

 According to eyewitnesses, the bus was traveling on bypass road 60, to the west of Al-Khader village near Bethlehem, when Israeli occupation soldiers at the Housan junction roadblock ordered the driver to stop.  Israeli occupation soldiers positioned approximately 50m away opened fire on the bus without justification.  There were no clashes in the area.

 Yesterday, at approximately 8:30 local time, Israeli occupation soldiers opened fire on Palestinian civilian cars near Rafat junction, connected with a bypass road to the southwest of Ramallah.  According to eyewitnesses, a Ford vehicle suddenly deviated from its course and collided with a sand blockade near an Israeli military post.  Israeli soldiers then opened fire on the above Palestinian civilian car from a distance of 3m, killing its driver A’attef Ahmed El-Nabulsi, 35, with live bullets in the neck and the chest.  The forces prevented a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance from transporting El-Nabulsi’s body to Ramallah and instead took the body to an Israeli military site, known as “Ofar” near Betounia.  Shortly thereafter, the ambulance was released but El-Nabulsi’s body was not released until 18:00 local time.

 Yesterday afternoon, the Israeli occupation forces fired artillery shells, heavy bullets, and medium bullets at several neighborhoods in Khan Yunis.  Consequently, 30 Palestinian residents of Khan Yunis were wounded with live bullets and shrapnel of live ammunition, some inside their homes.  The wounded were evacuated to Nasser hospital, which was also fired upon, and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society hospital.  Three of the wounded, including a 70-year-old man, were transferred to Shifa’ hospital in Gaza City in serious condition.  They are:

 1)                     Mohammed Yousef El-A’qqad, 16, wounded in the head by a live bullet;

2)                     Abdullah Abdel-Halim Joudeh, 70, wounded in the neck a live bullet, and

3)                     Mahmoud Saleh Abu El-A’mrin, wounded in the neck by a live bullet.

 In addition, more than 40 Palestinian civilians suffered from fainting and spasms due to tear gas inhalation.  According to medical sources at Nasser hospital, 16 victims were transferred the intensive care unit due to the seriousness of their condition.  The sources asserted that the unique symptoms raised suspicions that the Israeli occupation forces were using a new and more virulent tear gas.  The hospital lacked the technical means to identify the gas used.  PCHR’s field officer in Khan Yunis added that fear and panic swept Khan Yunis as Palestinian civilians were forced to flee their homes in order to escape the shelling and shooting which caused severe damage to dozens of houses.

 The shelling and firing on Khan Yunis came from several military sites.  They are as follows: near Neve Dekalim settlement, located to the southwest of Khan Yunis refugee camp; near Gani Tal settlement, in the northwest of Khan Yunis, and to the west of Al-Amal neighborhood.  PCHR’s field officer in Khan Yunis reported that indiscriminant shelling and shooting continued until approximately 3:00 local time.

 PCHR is also taking action regarding the notices issued by Israel on February 8, 2001 to 22 Palestinian families ordering them to evacuate their homes in the Al-Mawasi (agricultural) area in Khan Yunis, currently under Israeli control.  These notices are a preliminary step toward demolishing the houses and leveling agricultural land in the area of Tal-Reidan, adjacent to the Gush Qatif settlement block.  On February 11, 2001, PCHR’s lawyers sent a communiqué to the legal advisor of the Israeli occupation forces, demanding a stop to the evacuations but has not yet received a response.  PCHR also plans to challenge the notices in the Israeli High Court.

 PCHR expresses its profound concern regarding the recent quantitative and qualitative escalation of Israeli violations against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  This escalation also coincides with the arrival of the UN Human Rights Inquiry Commission that arrived in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to investigate Israeli human rights violations and breaches of international law.  PCHR reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of their obligations under the Convention and calls upon them to undertake measures to provide protection for Palestinian civilians and their properties.                

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