PCHR and Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights call for an investigation into the explosion that destroyed a house in El-Bureij refugee camp, resulting in the death of 8 people, including 5 children, and injury of dozens. The Centre calls for publicizing the results of the investigation.

At approximately 20:50 on Friday, 15 February, a huge explosion rocked El-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The explosion occurred in the house of Ayman Atallah Ahmad Fayed (41), an activist in Al-Quds Battalions, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. The explosion destroyed the ground-floor concrete house completely, killing the activist, his wife Marwa Azzam Fayed (39), and three of his children: Basma (12), Ali (17), and Ayyoub (5). A fourth son, Adam (15) was seriously injured. In addition, three of Fayed’s neighbors were killed: Zakaria Nabil El-Kefafi (17) who was in Fayed’s house at the time, Talal Salah Sa’id Abu El-Oun (16), and Atallah Samir Mohammad Ismail (24). Approximately 60 people were injured, including 23 women and 20 children. Among the injured are 14 people suffering serious injuries. The explosion destroyed 6 nearby houses completely, and caused extensive destruction in 10 other houses. Dozens of  houses suffered damages.

Over the past three days, PCHR and Al-Mezan have conducted a preliminary investigation in this tragedy. The Center’s fieldworkers and lawyer gathered field information and eyewitness testimonies from the scene of the tragedy. The preliminary findings point to the following:

         There is no evidence to confirm that the explosion was caused by rocket or aerial bombardment by Israeli occupation forces (IOF), as mentioned in some media outlets. It is more likely that it was an internal explosion the circumstances of which are unclear as of yet. Eyewitnesses confirmed seeing smoke and fire issue from Fayed’s house seconds before the explosion. According to similar incidents in the past, this indicates that it may have been an internal explosion.

         The cause of the explosion is not clear. It is unknown if it was triggered by a mistake if the preparation and/or storage of a large explosive device; or if IOF are involving through planting a booby-trapped explosive device inside the house.

         PCHR holds documentation of previous incidents in both directions:

o       IOF have been involved in several assassinations of Palestinian activists using booby-trapped explosive devices that caused casualties and destruction on a large scale. Furthermore, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated recently that his forces are engaged in secret operations in the Gaza Strip without specifying the nature of these operations.

o       Internal explosions have occurred in residential houses in heavily-populated houses due to errors in the manufacture or storage of explosives, which killed a large number of civilians and destroyed several houses.

In light of these developments, PCHR and Al-Mezan:

         Reiterate the call for a thorough investigation into the explosion, and for publishing the results of this investigation.

         Affirm that the biggest losers in this tragedy are the Palestinian civilians who were killed, injured, terrorized, and suffered the destruction of their property.

         Regardless of the cause of this explosion, both organizations point to the danger of storage of explosives in residential areas by Palestinian resistance groups, which threatens the lives of Palestinian civilians in violation of human rights and International Humanitarian Law. This erroneous practice must stop! And its threat becomes more serious in of the continuous IOF threats.

 

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights                                   Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights