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Gaza: Israel Invasion Escalates

Israeli Occupation Forces Escalate Their Offensive on the Northern Gaza Strip Causing More Casualties among Palestinian Civilians and Destroying More Civilian Properties

Israeli occupying troops have escalated their attacks on Palestinian civilians in the northern Gaza Strip in the context of a wide scale military operation called "Harvest of Flowers", which began on Tuesday evening, 28 September 2004. Since the publication of PCHR's press release 143/2004 on Thursday, 30 September 2004, 24 Palestinians, 14 of whom are civilians, including 11 children, have been killed by Israeli troops.

The bodies of ten of the victims, including 8 children, were distorted, as they were hit by an Israeli tank shell. Thus, the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli troops since the beginning of this latest offensive on the northern Gaza Strip has increased to 39, including 19 civilians, 14 of whom are children.

In addition, at least 210 Palestinians have been injured. PCHR attributes this high number of casualties to the excessive and disproportionate use of force by Israeli troops against the Palestinian civilian population in the northern Gaza Strip. On the other hand, Israeli troops have destroyed at least 25 Palestinian houses and fences of a number of UNRWA schools.

Dozens of houses have been also severely damaged by Israeli troops. In addition, large areas in the northern Gaza Strip have been isolated, while Israeli troops have seized a number of buildings, transforming their roofs into military sites. In the meantime, electricity has been cut from these areas for the 4th consecutive day.

According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 16:20 on Thursday, 30 September 2004, an Israeli tank fired a shell for no apparent reason at a number of Palestinian children near an UNRWA school in Jabalya refugee camp. Ten Palestinian civilians, including 8 children, were killed:

In addition, 25 civilians were injured by shrapnel from the shell.

At approximately 21:35 on the same day, a mysterious explosion occurred near al-Ribat mosque in Beit Lahia, which left dead 3 members of the Palestinian resistance.

As a result of the Israeli indiscriminate shelling, which continued from 14:00 to 17:00 on Thursday, 3 Palestinian children and 3 members of the Palestinian resistance were killed.

At approximately 10:00 on Friday, 1 October 2004, an Israeli tank fired a shell at a number of members of the Palestinian resistance near al-Bashir mosque in the east of Tal al-Za'tar area. Two members of the resistance were killed and 3 others were seriously injured.

At noon, an Israeli tank fired a shell at a number of members of the Palestinian resistance near al-Sikka Street in Jabalya refugee camp. Two members of the resistance were killed and a third one was seriously injured.

PCHR remains gravely concerned for the latest escalation of Israeli military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, especially in the Gaza Strip, and warns of retaliatory acts against Palestinian civilians and their properties, in violation of international law and humanitarian law. These Israeli military operations violate the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949 (Fourth Geneva Convention).

Particularly article 33 which prohibits collective punishment, and article 147, which classifies extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly as a grave breach of the Convention, an act which is considered a war crime under article 85(5) of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions, an Relative to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts.

PCHR reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of their legal obligations to ensure respect for the Convention and take concrete steps to stop grave breaches of the Convention perpetrated by Israeli occupying troops in the OPTs.

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