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EDITOR'S PICKS

On civil disobedience
Neve Gordon, The Palestine Chronicle


Gaza families demand answers
Ma'an News


Goldstone and the 'peace process'
George Giacaman, Bitterlemons.org


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Home > Documents & Reports > Human Rights
Human rights groups on the attack on Gaza
As a result of the capture of an Israeli soldier and Israel's invasion of Gaza, human rights groups have released numerous statements regarding the actions of both the Israelis and Palestinians. Below, the IMEU offers a compilation of these statements, arranged by date. Click on the links to read the full text.

To view reports after July 20 please visit ReliefWeb's page on the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


July 20
B'Tselem: Israeli soldiers use civilians as human shields in Beit Hanun
International Committee of the Red Cross: Call for Israeli army to immediately leave Palestine Red Crescent premises in Nablus

July 19
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: 6 Palestinians killed and 69 injured as a result of escalating IOF offensive in the Gaza Strip
Palestine Red Crescent Society: Attacks on health organizations and PRCS staff
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF attack El-Maghazi Refugee Camp in Gaza and Nablus in the West Bank
Reporters Without Borders: Israeli army fires on Al-Jazeera crew in West Bank
UN Human Rights Council: UN health rights expert calls for independent enquiry into alleged war crime in Gaza
UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: High Commissioner for Human Rights calls for protection of civilians and accountability in latest Mideast crisis

July 18
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: Al Mezan condemns excessive destruction by IOF in Beit Hanoun
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: Gaza Strip situation report (PDF format)

July 17
Amnesty International: GAERC: Commit to review EU agreement with Israel in light of human rights
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF occupy & isolate Beit Hanoun, and destroy the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

July 16
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: Al Mezan condemns the escalating IOF offensive against Palestinian civilians and their property
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli war crimes continue in the Gaza Strip

July 15
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF offensive continues in the Gaza Strip

July 14
Amnesty International: Civilian population at risk in Gaza

July 13
International Committee of the Red Cross: Gravely concerned about humanitarian situation in Gaza

July 12
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: A new massacre is committed as Halutz conducts "Al Darraj" - style attacks
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF bomb a house, killing a Palestinian, his wife, and 7 children; 34 civilians were injured
Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions: Call for accountability for killings in Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: Gaza Strip situation report (PDF Format)

July 11
Six Israeli human rights groups: To the Israeli High Court: Stop the harm to the civilian population in Gaza
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF continue to target civilians in the Gaza Strip
Reporters Without Borders: Call for probes into shootings of two Palestinian photographers by Israeli troops

July 10
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: Israeli High Court gives IOF 48 hours to implement a 'humanitarian' solution for Palestinians trapped at Egypt border
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: 57 Palestinians killed, 121 injured, tens of houses destroyed and agricultural lands leveled

July 9
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: Escalating IOF offensive against Palestinians and the continued closure imposed on the Gaza Strip
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Palestinian family members killed and injured in the latest Israeli military escalation in the Gaza Strip

July 8
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF offensive continues in the Gaza Strip
United Nations agencies: Statement by the United Nations Agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territory

July 7
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Four human rights organizations petition the Israeli High Court to allow Palestinian patients to return home
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Bloody day of violence

July 6
Al Haq and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: Israeli attacks on educational institutions in the Gaza Strip violate international law
Human Rights Watch: Human Rights Council Special Session on the Occupied Palestinian Territories
Human Rights Watch: U.N.: New rights council must widen focus
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: Gaza Strip situation report (PDF Format)

July 5
Amnesty International: First special session of the UN Human Rights Council: Situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces destroy the Ministry of Interior building and a school in further aerial attacks on the Gaza Strip

July 4
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) bombard the Islamic University of Gaza for the second time in one week
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Dozens of medical patients and hundreds of residents suffering due to Rafah crossing closure
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: Gaza Strip situation report (PDF Format)

July 3
B'Tselem: Sonic booms constitute collective punishment
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel: Stop collective punishment in Gaza

July 2
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: PCHR warns of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) intensify aggression in the Gaza Strip

July 1
Al Haq: Appeal to Palestinian political parties and armed factions
Al Haq: Israel revokes residency rights of four Palestinian government officials

June 30
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: Israeli siege threatens the lives of thousands of civilians
Al Mezan, Al Haq, Al Dameer: Condemnation of detention of government officials and Israel's Gaza offensive
Amnesty International: Deliberate attacks a war crime
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF escalate policies of retaliation against civilians
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: Concerns over deteriorating humanitarian crisis (PDF Format)

June 29
Al Haq: Israeli forces carry out sweeping arrests of Palestinian officials
Amnesty International: Growing concern for safety of civilian population
Human Rights Watch: Gaza: Israeli Offensive Must Limit Harm to Civilians
International Commission of Jurists: Collective punishments, destruction of property and taking of hostages are war crimes under international law
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) carry out reprisals against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank

June 28
Al Haq: Israeli incursion into Gaza threatens civilian lives and infrastructure
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: International community must intervene to halt Israeli war crimes
Amnesty International: Hostage-taking and wanton destruction must cease
B'Tselem: Don't damage indispensable civilian facilities in Gaza
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) punish Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip

June 27
Eight human rights groups: Safeguard the life and health of the abducted soldier
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: IOF are continuing their psychological war on Palestinian civilians
Amnesty International: Palestinian armed groups must release abducted Israeli soldier
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Paralyze Lives of Civilians in the Gaza Strip



B'Tselem: Israeli soldiers use civilians as human shields in Beit Hanun

B'Tselem's initial investigation indicates that, during an incursion by Israeli forces into Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip, on 17 July 2006, soldiers seized control of two buildings in the town and used residents as human shield.

After seizing control of the buildings, the soldiers held six residents, two of them minors, on the staircases of the two buildings, at the entrance to rooms in which the soldiers positioned themselves, for some twelve hours. During this time, there were intense exchanges of gunfire between the soldiers and armed Palestinians. The soldiers also demanded that one of the occupants walk in front of them during a search of all the apartments in one of the buildings, after which they released her.

International humanitarian law forbids using civilians as human shields by placing them next to soldiers or next to military facilities, with the intention of gaining immunity from attack, or by forcing the civilians to carry out dangerous military assignments.

B'Tselem has demanded that the Judge Advocate General immediately order a Military Police investigation into the matter and prosecute the soldiers responsible for the action.

Chronology of the Events

In the IDF's Operation Summer Rains in the Gaza Strip following the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, engineer, artillery, and infantry forces made an incursion into Beit Hanun, a town of some 32,000 people in the northern Gaza Strip, early in the morning on 17 July. According to the IDF Spokesperson, during the incursion, "IDF struck approximately twenty armed terrorists." The announcement added that, "Forces also carried out engineering work to harm terror organizations' infrastructure and hamper their activity, and arrested a number of wanted men… During searches, forces discovered three Kalashnikov rifles, a carbine, a pistol, and ammunition."

Around 6:00 A.M., troops in armored personnel carriers and bulldozers drove up to two adjacent four-story buildings in the middle of the town, near the a-Nasser mosque. The bulldozers destroyed the concrete wall around each building and then destroyed one of the external walls on the ground floor of each of the buildings. The extended Kafarneh family lives on the bottom three floors of one of the buildings. On the fourth floor are the offices of the Ramatan Palestinian News Agency. The 'Ali family lives in the other building.

Part of the force, twelve soldiers in the estimate of one of the witnesses, burst into the Kafarneh building through the area where the wall was destroyed, firing stun grenades as they entered. At the time, there were 25 people in the building, including 11 children. Some of those present were from the 'Ali family who left the adjacent building when the military entered Beit Hanun. The soldiers called all the residents to gather in the living room on the ground floor, and then searched them. Threatening the occupants with his weapon, one of the soldiers ordered 'Aza Kafarneh, a 43-year old woman, to accompany him to search each of the floors in the building and to open the doors of each of the rooms. At the end of the search, the soldiers ordered all the occupants, except for three, to leave the building. As they left, there was a heavy exchange of gunfire between IDF soldiers and Palestinians. In her testimony to B'Tselem, 'Aza Kafarneh related that, in light of the situation, she requested the soldier to let them remain in the building, but the soldiers refused. "We had to lay flat on the ground and crawl to the neighbor's house..."

The three who were kept in the building were two of her sons, Hazem, 14, and Qusay, 16, and her nephew, Khaled, 23. The three were taken to the staircase, at the entrance to the third-floor apartment, where the soldiers were located. The three sat there until around 8:00 P.M, about 45 minutes before the soldiers left the building. During this time, soldiers inside and outside the building were engaged in exchanges of gunfire with armed Palestinians. The staircase was not in the direct line of gunfire. Just before the end of the incident, the soldiers ordered the three to go downstairs, in front of them, to the entrance of the building.

At the same time (around 6:00 AM), other members of the military force had seized control of the building in which the 'Ali family lives. The only people in the building were the mother, 'Ayesha, 60, and her three sons, Hazem, 29, Tareq, 25, and 'Emad, 41. 'Ayesha 'Ali was taken into an interior room on the ground floor, where she stayed with her hands tied until the end of the events.

The soldiers ordered her three sons to undress and then searched them. The soldiers then cuffed their hands behind their back and blindfolded them. According to the testimony of Hazem, the soldiers tightened the cuffs intentionally so as to hurt them. One of the soldiers kicked him in the chest after he complained about the pain. However, when his hands began to swell and bleed from the cuffs, another soldier put a new pair of cuffs on his hands.

'Emad, who serves in the Palestinian police force, handed over his personal weapon at the beginning of the events, in response to the soldiers' demand. Another member of the family who also serves in a Palestinian police unit was not present at the time. Soldiers searched for his weapon, but they did not find it. During the search, the soldiers broke a lot of the family's furniture and caused great destruction in some of the apartments.

Following the search, one of the soldiers took Hazem's cell phone and called four persons whose numbers were in the phone's memory. The soldier told each of them: "If you want Hazem, Tareq, and 'Emad released, bring your weapons." According to Hazem's testimony, the four persons work with him at Ramatan and were selected at random; none of them have any weapons.

Around 8:00 A.M., the three men were taken to the staircase next to the third-floor apartment, where the soldiers were gathered. The three remained on the stairs, their hands cuffed behind their back and their eyes covered, until 8:45 P.M., when the soldiers left the building. At a certain point, one of the brothers, Tareq, moved a bit, and a soldier hit him in the chest and threatened to kill him. While they sat there, an intense exchange of gunfire took place between soldiers in the building and armed Palestinians outside. In contrast to the situation in the other building, many bullets entered the staircase area via the window and struck the wall, above the heads of the three occupants. One of the brothers, 'Emad, was taken by the soldiers at the end of the incident and remains in Israeli detention.

During the events, 'Aza Kafarneh was in contact with B'Tselem and asked the organization to help attain the release of her family members who were being held by the soldiers. A B'Tselem staff member, Najib Abu Rokaya, called the IDF's District Coordination Office in the Gaza Strip and warned them about the incident. The soldier on the other end of the phone referred Abu Rokaya to the DCO's legal advisor, Captain Haim Sharbit. After Abu Rokaya spoke with him, Sharbit said that he could do nothing about the matter because "we are not familiar with the incident."

Legal Background

The testimonies taken by B'Tselem indicate that the Israeli soldiers who took over the buildings used the occupants as human shields. They placed civilians on the staircase, next to the rooms where the soldiers were located, with the intention of deterring the armed Palestinians from attacking the building and/or so that the civilians would be located between the soldiers and the armed Palestinians, should the latter manage to penetrate the building and try to shoot them. The soldiers used one of the occupants to open the doors of the apartments, apparently out of fear that other persons were hiding there and would open fire when the door was opened.

International humanitarian law, which states the rules applying in armed conflicts, requires the sides to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and to protect the lives and dignity of civilians. The Fourth Geneva Convention, in Article 27, states that civilians who find themselves in the hands of one of the parties are "entitled, in all circumstances, to respect… They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof…"

Article 28 of the Convention expressly prohibits the use of civilians as human shields by placing them alongside soldiers or military facilities, with the hope of attaining immunity from attack. The official commentary of the Convention refers to this practice, which was common in the Second World War as "cruel and barbaric." The Convention, in Articles 31 and 51, also prohibits the use of physical or moral coercion on civilians or forcing them to carry out military tasks.

Despite these prohibitions, for a long period of time following the outbreak of the second intifada, particularly during Operation Defensive Shield, in April 2002, the IDF systematically used Palestinian civilians as human shields, forcing them to carry out military actions which threatened their lives. It was not until a High Court petition was filed by Israeli human rights organizations opposing such action, in May 2002, that the IDF issued a general order prohibiting the use of Palestinians as "a means of 'human shield' against gunfire or attacks by the Palestinian side.'" Following this order, the use of this practice declined sharply. However, according to IDF interpretation, assistance by Palestinians, with their consent, in warning a wanted person hiding in a certain location is not deemed use of a human shield. However, this practice was also outlawed following the ruling of the Israeli High Court of Justice that this practice is inconsistent with the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Clearly, then, the IDF's treatment of the Palestinian occupants in the two Beit Hanun buildings flagrantly breached fundamental rules of international humanitarian law, as well as IDF regulations. B'Tselem wrote to the military's Judge Advocate General and demanded that he immediately order a Military Police investigation regarding this incident, and that he prosecute all those responsible for these illegal acts.

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International Committee of the Red Cross: Call for Israeli army to immediately leave Palestine Red Crescent premises in Nablus

Geneva / Tel Aviv (ICRC) - During a military operation in Nablus that began on the night of 18 July, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) occupied the premises of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), blocking the entrance and hindering the movement of ambulances, patients and staff.

This action shows grave disregard by the IDF for its obligation to respect and protect medical units. Since 19 July, the ICRC has repeatedly raised this issue with the Israeli authorities and called on the IDF to immediately leave the premises of the PRCS.

The PRCS runs emergency medical services and a rehabilitation centre for disabled children on its premises in Nablus, which are used for strictly humanitarian and medical purposes and which must therefore be kept safe from any form of military action or presence.

The PRCS is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Its medical units, which are clearly identified by the red crescent emblem, are entitled to full protection under international humanitarian law.

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Palestine Red Crescent Society: Attacks on health organizations and PRCS staff

Al-Bireh, July 19th 2006 - PRCS condemns the Israeli targeting of the health organizations and medical staff as well as the series of Israelis attacks at medical staff and particularly at PRCS staff.

PRCS confirmed that Israeli Army attacked the medical center in Al-Maghazi camp in Gaza and wounded a PRCS Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Mr. Anwar Juma Abu Huli. In addition, a PRCS ambulance was shot in Bet Lehya receiving two bullets causing damage to the vehicle.

PRCS EMT Anwar Juma Abu Huli, 40 years old, was wounded today by the Israeli Army while he was on duty. Anwar Juma Abu Huli was transported to PRCS Al-Quds hospital in Gaza for medical treatment. Mr. Abu Huli lost his right leg as well as his right hand fingers. His left leg was also burned. It is worth noting that since the beginning of the Intifada, on September 29th 2000, 12 of the PRCS staff were killed and 206 were wounded by the Israeli Army.

The Israeli Army surrounded the PRCS Branch in Nablus and kidnapped three bodies from PRCS ambulances. PRCS confirms that 9 Palestinians were killed today by the Israeli Army, 6 of them are in Al-Maghazi camp (Gaza) and 3 in the city of Nablus (West Bank).

The President of PRCS, Mr. Younis Al-Khatib, confirmed that at 6:00 AM, on July 19th 2006, the Israeli forces occupied PRCS Branch premises in Nablus. The Israeli Army is delaying and restricting the movement of PRCS ambulances and staff. Three military jeeps and one mechanical shove are on the premises and the zone is being used as a shooting base.

Mr. Al-Khatib stated that the invasion of the Ministry of Health Hospital in Nablus and the use of the facilities as a military site and detention place is a clear violation of the International Humanitarian Law and of the Geneva Conventions which prohibits the invasion of hospitals.

Mr. Al-Khatib said that the Israeli forces are still violating the International Humanitarian Law and Geneva Conventions by targeting medical centers. Under International Humanitarian law and the Additional protocols, the medical centers are protected from any military aggression and activities.

Al-Khatib added that the Geneva Conventions are not taken seriously by the Israeli Army. He is asking the International Community for immediate condemnation of the Israel violations of International Humanitarian Law and Geneva Conventions.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF attack El-Maghazi Refugee Camp in Gaza and Nablus in the West Bank: 9 killed, including 2 children, and 81 injured; government compound in Nablus besieged; IOF take over many governmental buildings in Nablus; tens are stripped and detained

From the predawn hours till the publication of this press release, IOF have killed 9 Palestinians and injured 81 others, including 14 children and a paramedic. Six of the dead, including 2 children, fell in El-Maghazi refugee camp; and the others fell in Nablus. IOF had attacked Nablus and besieged governmental buildings claiming that there are wanted people inside them. IOF continue to detain the bodies of the fallen in Nablus after abducting them from an ambulance. PCHR is concerned over the continued Israeli aggression in El-Maghazi and Nablus, which could lead to additional casualties among Palestinians and to additional destruction of their property.

PCHR's preliminary investigation on the attack on El-Maghazi refugee camp indicates that at approximately 01:30 on Wednesday, 19 July 2006, an undercover IOF unit infiltrated to the east of the refugee camp. Resistance activists discovered them; and clashed with them. A resistance activist was killed during the exchange by several bullets throughout the body. The fallen activist is Sa'ed Sami Qandil (21).

Half an hour later, IOF reinforcements arrived. These consisted of heavy armored vehicles and bulldozers supported by helicopters and unmanned drones.

At approximately 06:00, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a group of Palestinians that included resistance activists in an agricultural field. Two resistance activists were killed: Mohammad Fuad Abu Osheiba (20) and Mohammad Omar El-Bashiti (25). The paramedic Anwar Abdel Rahman Abu Holi (43) was injured by shrapnel and his right leg was cut off as he was tending one of the wounded.

IOF took up positions in the Abu Sa'id area, east of El-Maghazi, nearly 1.5 kilometers inside the Gaza Strip. They took over houses and stationed troops on rooftops. Snipers on rooftops fired at civilians and resistance activists. As a result, the resistance activist Omar Farhan Abu Moheisin (32) was killed by a bullet to the abdomen. He is the fourth member of his family killed by IOF during the current Intifada.

At approximately 08:20, an IOF tank fired a shell at a group of civilians, mostly children, gathered to witness the actions of IOF. Two children were killed and 15 were injured, 2 of them seriously injured. The dead children are Ali Kamel El-Najjar (16) and Ahmad Ali El-Na'ami (16).

The indiscriminate shelling since the start of the attack on El-Maghazi caused the injury of another 49 Palestinians, raising the number of injured to 65, including 12 children. Four of the injured sustained serious injuries. PCHR's fieldworker reported that IOF continue to indiscriminate shelling and bulldozing operations.

PCHR's preliminary investigation into the attack on Nablus indicates that at approximately 03:00, nearly 40 armored vehicles and 5 bulldozers moved into Nablus. IOF moved into the city from 3 directions: El-Tuor area (southeast), Al-Quds Street (east), and Maslakh Street (northeast). IOF surrounded the Nablus Governorate building, the Government Compound (mostly destroyed during the 2002 attack), Special Police Forces headquarters, Preventive Security Apparatus headquarters, and the Central Prison. IOF raided a number of buildings surrounding these besieged institutions, and transformed them into military outposts. IOF called upon Palestinians in the besieged buildings to surrender to their troops. Then, IOF took over the Ministry of Health Compound in the vicinity and transformed it into an interrogation center to question the Palestinians surrendering to IOF.

IOF bulldozers started to close the streets around the Governmental Complex with earth barriers. At approximately 04:30, Palestinian medical crews indicated that there was an injured person inside the Palestinian Special Police Force headquarters. IOF did not allow medical teams and ambulances to enter the headquarters to evacuate the wounded. At approximately 07:00, IOF threatened to demolish the besieged structures with the besieged people inside if the armed people inside did not surrender. IOF bulldozers started to demolish the wall between the Preventive Security headquarters and the Passport department in the Government Complex. In addition, parts of the Preventive Security headquarters were destroyed. A medical team from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported that 3 bodies of dead Palestinians were found on Mount Jarzim, behind the southern end of the Government Complex. A Red Crescent Society ambulance took the bodies and tried to evacuate them out of the area. However, IOF troops stopped the ambulance and took the bodies to the occupied Ministry of Health Compound.

PCHR's fieldworker reported that 10 Palestinians were injured and taken to hospitals. Among the injured are one child and a journalist (Wa'el Tannous, 27, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera Satellite Station, who was injured by a rubber-coated bullet in the foot). He added that IOF are currently detaining the security personnel from the besieged buildings after stripping them of their outer clothing. The operation was still ongoing at the time of publication.

PCHR reiterates its concern over the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The Centre warns against the ongoing Israeli aggression, which are a violation of International Law and International Humanitarian Law. This aggression will result in additional casualties among Palestinian civilians. In addition, the Centre condemns the acts of willful killing and destruction perpetrated by IOF. These crimes as a form of reprisal and collective punishment against Palestinians, which is a violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. PCHR points to the fact that IOF do not respect the principles of necessity and proportionality when using its war machine against Palestinian resistance activists when they are in non-combat situations in civilian areas, which leads to casualties from among the civilian population and to damage of civilian property.

In the Center's view, the complacency of the international community and the High Contracting Parties of the 4th Geneva Convention and their failure tot take effective steps to stop Israeli war crimes has been a supporting and encouraging element for Israel to continue perpetrating additional war crimes against Palestinian civilians. The legal cover provided to Israel by the US, which purposely hinders International Humanitarian Law, and the conspiracy of silence by Europe encourage Israeli to continue to perpetrate war crimes unchecked, placing it above international law.

The Centre reminds the High Contracting Parties of:

- Their obligations under article 1 of the convention to ensure respect of the convention under all circumstances;

- Their obligations in article 146 of the convention to pursue suspects of committing serious violations of the convention, noting that these violations are war crimes according to article 147, as specified in the first protocol additional to the convention

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Reporters Without Borders: Israeli army fires on Al-Jazeera crew in West Bank

Reporters Without Borders voiced strong condemnation of an Israeli army attack today on Al-Jazeera TV reporter Jevara Al-Budeiri and her crew in the West Bank town of Nablus, in which one of the crew's technicians, Wael Tantous, was hit in the foot by rubber bullets. The crew was broadcasting live at the time.

"We are very concerned about repeated, deliberate acts of violence against the staff of the satellite TV news station Al-Jazeera," the organisation said. "We call on the Israeli authorities to give clears orders to stop these acts of intimidation and harassment. The army has no right to prevent this station's journalists from covering the current clashes."

Al-Jazeera said in a statement: "Since the start of the current war on Lebanon, Al-Jazeera crews have consistently been targeted by the Israeli authorities, resulting in a constant hindrance and obstruction of their work. Today they tried to attack our reporter, Jevara Al-Budeiri, and fired at technician Wael Tantous."

Al-Budeiri said: "Our colleague was hit by Israeli shots, on screen live. You can clearly see that the shots came from Israeli jeeps and tanks."

The Al-Jazeera management told Reporters Without Borders that Tantous was out of danger and had left the hospital to which he was taken after the shooting. Al-Jazeera was covering the current fighting in an objective manner, the station stressed.

The Al-Jazeera crew had been giving live coverage of an Israeli army incursion into Nablus when an Israeli jeep suddenly approached Al-Budeiri at speed. Then shots were fired and Tantous was hit.

Al-Jazeera's bureau chief in Israel, Walid Al-Omari, was arrested twice in the past two days while covering the clashes on the border with Lebanon. The members of another TV crew were briefly detained by the Israeli police in Haifa on 17 July.

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UN Human Rights Council: UN health rights expert calls for independent enquiry into alleged war crime in Gaza

The United Nations Human Rights Council's Special Rapporteur on the right to the highest attainable standard of health issued the following statement today:

As the world's attention is drawn to the widening conflict in Lebanon, it is extremely important that the deepening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip is closely monitored and urgently addressed.

The depth of this crisis cannot be understood without grasping the acute dependency and vulnerability of the population of Gaza. Amongst the most densely populated place in the world, Gaza has been occupied by Israel for almost 40 years. Its population of 1.4 million, most of whom are refugees, remains very heavily dependent on Israel, as well as the donor community.

For a variety of reasons, the humanitarian situation in Gaza deteriorated significantly between March and June 2006. In mid-June, WHO called the health situation in Gaza "very dangerous".

Following the events of 25 June, including the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit, Israel has carried out numerous military interventions in the Gaza Strip. According to UN sources, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed, including 18 children. Almost 400 Palestinians have been injured, including 108 children. With limited exceptions, Israel has sealed Gaza's borders. Some patients returning home to Gaza after medical treatment abroad, and some patients seeking treatment abroad, have been unable to pass through the Rafah crossing: while waiting, nine Palestinians have died. On the night of 27-28 June, Gaza's only electricity power station was attacked and incapacitated.

In short, since WHO's assessment in mid-June, the precarious humanitarian situation in Gaza has dramatically worsened. Poverty rates, for example, have now risen to 75%.

Here, I confine myself to some brief, preliminary remarks about the impact of the destruction of Gaza's electricity power station, as well as the relevant international law.

Following the attack, the lack of power for pumps is causing a serious water shortage, and affecting sewage disposal, for tens of thousands of households throughout the Gaza Strip. There are reports of sewage leakage, as well as a reduction in municipal waste collection and disposal. Reported cases of diarrhoea have increased by 163% compared to the same period last year. It is possible that communicable diseases, like cholera and poliomyelitis, will re-emerge. Reduced hospital services are dependent upon generators that are unsuitable for constant, long-term use.

The right to the highest attainable standard of health includes access to medical services and also access to adequate sanitation and safe drinking water. The destruction of Gaza's electricity power station is profoundly inconsistent with the health and safety of all civilians living in Gaza, especially the young, sick, infirm and elderly, as well as their right to the highest attainable standard of health, enshrined in the International Bill of Rights and other international human rights instruments.

Moreover, the destruction of Gaza's electricity power station may be a violation of international humanitarian law (sometimes known as the 'laws of war').

The basic rule of international humanitarian law is that parties to a conflict must always distinguish between combatants and civilians. Attacks can only be directed against combatants and military objectives.

Under international humanitarian law, a target may be attacked if it is both making an effective contribution to the enemy's military action and its destruction provides a definite military advantage to the attacker. Whether or not both conditions applied in the case of Gaza's electricity power station is an issue that demands careful, independent investigation.

In addition, an attack must be proportionate. A target may not be attacked if the attack is likely to cause a disproportionate amount of collateral civilian damage. Whether or not the Israeli attack on Gaza's electricity power station was proportionate is another issue that demands careful, independent investigation.

When undertaking this enquiry, it is imperative that, in addition to military matters, other relevant issues are also taken into account, including the acute dependency and vulnerability of the people of Gaza. When the power station was attacked, what was the foreseeable incidental impact on the civilian population of Gaza?

If the attack on the electricity power station was not in conformity with international humanitarian law it amounts to a war crime. For example, if the attack were disproportionate, it was a war crime.

In these circumstances, I strongly recommend that, as a matter of urgency, an independent enquiry be made to determine whether or not the recent attack on Gaza's electricity power station was a war crime.

Under the mandate given to me by the Human Rights Council, I am required to report "on the status, throughout the world, of the realization of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health". I am also required to report on the domestic and international "obstacles" impeding the implementation of this human right. If a war crime bearing upon the health of the population of Gaza has been committed, it constitutes a very significant "obstacle" to the implementation of the right to the highest attainable standard of health. It is for this reason that I urge the swift establishment of a careful, independent enquiry into the attack on Gaza's electricity power station, in the light of international humanitarian law. The assessment should also take account of all relevant international human rights law.

Finally, I urge the captors of Corporal Gilad Shalit to release him unharmed immediately. Pending his release, he must receive appropriate medical assistance and care, and he must be treated humanely. Also, I remind all parties that the prohibition against targeting a civilian population applies to civilians within both Israel and the Gaza Strip. All such targeting should cease immediately.

In May, I wrote to the Government of Israel seeking an invitation to visit the OPT. I look forward to receiving a positive reply as a matter of urgency, enabling me to assess the health situation, through the lens of the right to the highest attainable standard of health, at first hand.

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to help States and others promote and protect the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

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UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: High Commissioner for Human Rights calls for protection of civilians and accountability in latest Mideast crisis

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today expressed grave concern over the continued killing and maiming of civilians in Lebanon, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory and called for accountability for any breaches of international law.

The High Commissioner recalled that parties to a conflict have the obligation to exercise precaution and respect the principle of proportionality in all military operations so as to prevent unnecessary suffering among the civilian population. "Indiscriminate shelling of cities constitutes a foreseeable and unacceptable targeting of civilians", she said. "Similarly, the bombardment of sites with alleged military significance, but resulting invariably in the killing of innocent civilians, is unjustifiable".

"International humanitarian law is clear on the supreme obligation to protect civilians during hostilities", the High Commissioner said. "This obligation is also expressed in international criminal law, which defines war crimes and crimes against humanity".

"International law demands accountability. The scale of the killings in the region, and their predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of those involved, particularly those in a position of command and control".

The High Commissioner also warned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation, in particular in southern Lebanon, where the population is reported to be increasingly deprived of access to basic services due to the violence.

"The situation in the south of Lebanon is alarming", she said. "A large and steadily increasing number of persons have been forcibly displaced. The most basic human rights of the population are at risk or are being violated, including their rights to life, health and food". The unrestricted and secure passage of all humanitarian assistance, including rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian workers should be ensured as a matter of priority, she said.

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Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: Al Mezan condemns excessive destruction by IOF in Beit Hanoun

The IOF have withdrawn from Beit Hanoun, leaving tens of houses, civilian property, and infrastructure destroyed, and a high number of civilians killed and injured.

According to Al Mezan's preliminary field investigations, on July 18 at approximately 1:00am, the IOF withdrew from Beit Hanoun town leaving 60 houses, 4 healthcare establishments, including an UNRWA clinic, 17 institutions including 4 UNRWA schools and a governmental school partially destroyed. In addition, a mosque and Beit Hanoun cemetery were destroyed.

In addition, the IOF destroyed big parts of the town's main streets, particularly Damra and Abu Ouda streets as well as the road leading to Beit Hanoun cemetery. Further, they destroyed all electricity, phone, and sewage water networks and 8 vehicles. They also leveled 50 dunums of agricultural land including 10 greenhouses. Furthermore, the IOF killed 7 Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun:

1. Mo'az Hamza Odwan,
2. Abd Al Karim Yousif Hamad,
3. Shehada Zoheir Al Kafarna,
4. Abd Al Latif Othman Obeid,
5. Ali Maher Atallah,
6. Mohammed Mahmoud Al Kafarna,
7. Mohanna Sa'ed Mesleh.

130 injured were reported, including 5 children. According to medical reports, 5 of the injured sustained critical injuries.

Moreover, the IOF arrested 4 Palestinians in Beit Hanoun; Imad Qasem Al Kafarna, Ahmed Rateb Shabat, Saddam Jaber Ashour, and Mansour Ahmed Al Kafarna.

The IOF continue to prevent Palestinians from their right to movement as they maintain closed Rafah crossing, the only outlet for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip through which to access the outside world. However, the crossing is open today for only incoming passengers who have been stranded at the Egyptian side of the terminal since June 25.

Al Mezan gravely condemns the outrageous Israeli Offensive against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, and emphasizes that the scale of violations perpetrated by the IOF in Beit Hanoun reveals Israel's deliberate targeting of Palestinian civilians and their property. Al Mezan confirms that the targeting of civilians and property, and the destruction of infrastructure and public institutions, namely educational and health facilities, constitute war crimes and grave breaches of international humanitarian law particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Al Mezan strongly condemns the silence of the international community in light of the drastic impacts of the IOF violations on the humanitarian situation in the OPT, particularly with relation to the continued closure of the Gaza Strip, and the financial boycott of the PNA. Employment rates have now reached 75% as a result of the deteriorating economic situation in the OPT. Al Mezan calls upon the international community, notably the high contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their legal and moral obligations under the Convention and provide protection to Palestinian civilians in the OPT.

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Amnesty International: GAERC: Commit to review EU agreement with Israel in light of human rights

(Brussels, 17 July 2006) To further pressure Israel to stop attacks on civilians, the EU's foreign ministers meeting today in Brussels should also agree to review relations with Israel in light of the current Association Agreement.

Amnesty International asks for an urgent review that takes into account the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the West Bank and Gaza.

"This review is necessary not just because Israel is systematically and deliberately breaching international law by targeting civilians. It should also address the impact of Israel's overall policies towards the Palestinian territories, which have left the population in an increasingly precarious situation," said Dick Oosting, Director of Amnesty International's EU Office.

In a review of the Association Agreement, Amnesty International urges the EU to address all the actions that are being taken by Israel, including those that do not involve military means but carry grave humanitarian consequences.

Amnesty International at the same time reiterates its call on the Lebanese government and Hizbullah to take immediate steps to end attacks against civilians and civilian targets.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF occupy & isolate Beit Hanoun, and destroy the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: 3 killed and 11 injured, incl. 2 journalists & 2 paramedics; forced exodus of families in Rafah & Beit Hanoun; and the Gaza Strip is isolated from the outside world

Dr. Fawwaz Abu Sitta, Economics Professor at Al-Azhar University, who lives near the Palestinian Ministry for Foreign Affairs: "The recurrence of this terrible deed without any effort from anyone to stop it makes one feel bitter and hopeless. In addition, one feels the inability to act and avoid the bombardment, despite fully expecting it before hand. Repeating the bombardment of a target that has no military or material value makes this bombardment a form of sadistic collective punishment; because bombing a second time is only for spreading fear among civilians in the homes around the building; and their homes were damaged by the bombardment. This act has transgressed the boundary of standard collective punishment and has become sadistic collective punishment as it entails punishing civilians in their homes. This is what one feels directly after the bombardment when hearing the screams of children and women, and the state of shock and anxiety. It is very scary, and cannot be compared to a state of shock in any other calamity. It is a state of shock unique for this kind of calamity."

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) continued the aggression on the Gaza Strip for the 4th consecutive week, inflicting additional casualties among Palestinian civilians and destruction of civilian property. IOF continue to systematically target infrastructure and governmental institutions, to undermine the Palestinian political system. Further, IOF continue to hold nearly 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip hostages after closing all its borders, and prevent food and supplies from entering the Strip freely. The situation is the worst in years, and could escalate into a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe. As this press release is published, IOF continue to advance into the town of Beit Hanoun, and to isolate it from its surroundings. Most of the town is under direct IOF occupation. Many families were forced to flee their houses due to indiscriminate IOF shelling. IOF troops have taken over residential structures and converted them into military outposts, while detaining hundreds of civilians, including journalists, inside. IOF use these detained civilians as human shields during bulldozing and detention operations. IOF have prevented the Red Cross and some relief organizations from accessing the area. PCHR calls upon the international community, including the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, to work towards preventing a humanitarian catastrophe in Beit Hanoun and its surroundings. The Centre calls upon these parties to work towards ensuring that international humanitarian organizations and medical teams are allowed to fulfill their missions and provide food and medication to the civilian population.

The most notable IOF crimes during the past 24 hours are:

- At approximately 14:00 on Sunday, 16 July 2006, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a Palestinian car in El-Na'ayma Street in Beit Hanoun. The rocket hit the car after its occupants fled; and it was completely burned.

- At approximately 16:00 on the same day, 5 civilians were injured by indiscriminate shelling on Beit Hanoun. Among the victims are 2 journalists, Kyoto Saki from Japan and Majdi Abdel Dayem Abdeen from Palestine, and 2 paramedics, Zeyad Abdel Dayem and Yosri El-Masri. The paramedics were injured when their ambulance was hit. And shortly afterwards, another 5 civilians were injured by shelling.

- At approximately 17:20, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a group of resistance activists in Dumra Street in Beit Hanoun. Two of them were killed: Abdel Latif Othman Obeid (20) and Ali maher Atallah (20). Both are from Jabalia refugee camp.

- At approximately 00:20 on Monday, 17 July 2006, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a group of resistance activists in Beit Hanoun. Two were injured.

- At approximately 00:50 on Monday, IOF helicopters fired 3 rockets at the Interior Ministry Executive Force compound in El-Ajarma Street in Jabalia. One rocket hit the compound, causing damages. The second rocket hit the roof of the house belonging to Husseini Abu Salem, near Abu Rashid pond. It did not explode. The third rocket fell in an empty area.

- At approximately 01:15, an IOF plane dropped a bomb at the building of the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Government Buildings Complex in the Southern Rimal Quarter in Gaza City. The building was completely destroyed; and extensive damage was inflicted on a large number of nearby houses and civilian vehicles. Twelve civilians were injured by glass shrapnel, including 6 children and 2 women. It is noted that this is the second bombing raid against the building this week. And it has become clear that the aim of the bombardment is to terrorize the civilian population living in the area.

- At approximately 06:30, IOF troops deployed on the roofs of Palestinian houses in Beit Hanoun fired indiscriminately, killing Mohammad Mahmoud El-Kafarna (21) with a bullet to the chest. He was standing in front of his house at the time. In addition, IOF continued to move into the town, clamping its control over the center of the town, where the lone hospital, police station, and schools are located. IOF occupied more houses and transformed them into military outposts. As a result, the 30,000 residents of Beit Hanoun are under direct IOF occupation. IOF continue to bulldoze houses, and residents are forcibly fleeing their houses due to indiscriminate shelling. It is noted that all border areas in the Gaza Strip are under unprecedented, indiscriminate shelling. Families from El-Shoka community, east of Rafah, are forcibly fleeing their houses, and seeking refuge in temporary shelters provided by UNRWA.

PCHR reiterates its condemnation of IOF willful killing of Palestinian civilians. The Centre considers these crimes as a form of reprisal and collective punishment against Palestinians, which is a violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. PCHR points to the fact that IOF do not respect the principles of necessity and proportionality when using its war machine against Palestinian resistance activists when they are in non-combat situations in civilian areas, which leads to casualties from among the civilian population and to damage of civilian property.

In the Center's view, the complacency of the international community and the High Contracting Parties of the 4th Geneva Convention and their failure tot take effective steps to stop Israeli war crimes has been a supporting and encouraging element for Israel to continue perpetrating additional war crimes against Palestinian civilians. The legal cover provided to Israel by the US, which purposely hinders International Humanitarian Law, and the conspiracy of silence by Europe encourage Israeli to continue to perpetrate war crimes unchecked, placing it above international law.

The Centre reminds the High Contracting Parties of:

- Their obligations under article 1 of the convention to ensure respect of the convention under all circumstances;

- Their obligations in article 146 of the convention to pursue suspects of committing serious violations of the convention, noting that these violations are war crimes according to article 147, as specified in the first protocol additional to the convention

The Centre calls upon the Swiss Government to:

- to take a leading role in highlighting and acting to stop the grave breaches of international law that are currently taking place in the Gaza Strip, as is its obligation as the depository of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

- to make efforts to mobilise the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to intervene in this situation and meet their obligations to protect the rights of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip under International Humanitarian Law.

- to call on the Security Council to send an international protection force for the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

The Centre calls upon the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to:

- to issue a statement strongly condemning Israel's grave breaches of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

- to make a visit to the OPT in order to see for yourself the long term damage that has already been and is currently being inflicted on the civilian population - a population who should be enjoying protection under International Humanitarian Law.

- to call a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to ensure that these states fulfil their obligation under international law to protect the civilian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

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Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: Al Mezan condemns the escalating IOF offensive against Palestinian civilians and their property: 98 Palestinians killed, 300 injured since the June 2006 IOF incursion of the Gaza Strip

The IOF have continued their aggressive offensive on the Gaza Strip, targeting Palestinian civilians, houses, civil establishments, public facilities, and governmental institutions. The IOF have destroyed the buildings of the Palestinian Ministries of National Economy, Foreign Affairs, Interior, Planning, and the Office of the Prime Minister.

The total number of deaths since this latest IOF incursion has reached 98, and the number of injured 300. In addition, tens of houses have been destroyed and dunums of agricultural lands have been razed.

According to the Center's field investigations, on July 15th at approximately 11:30pm, more IOF troops were deployed in Beit Hanoun town, and penetrated eastern areas of the town. At approximately 12:00pm, 20 military vehicles penetrated 500 meters into the Farata area in eastern Beit Hanoun. 18 military vehicles moved forward the Shorrab agricultural land and stationed there.

On July 16th, at approximately 1:00am the IOF vehicles stationed in the Shorrab's land, moved forward to the area north of the Faculty of Agriculture in northern Beit Hanoun. They deployed in Al Masriyeen, and Al Boura Streets, Beit Hanoun clinic, and the areas surrounding the Faculty of Agriculture and the Hayel Abd Al Hamid Secondary School.

Further, they occupied both the Faculty of Agriculture and the Ghassan Kanafani Institution for Development, as well as the homes of Salah Shabat, Hani Al Kafarna, Rafiq Al Kafarna, and Mansour Al Kafarna, using them as military surveillance points. They then began firing randomly at civilians in the area.

At the same day, at approximately 4:00am, an Israeli jet fired a rocket close to the Faculty of Agriculture, injuring 4 Palestinians including one child. The same jet fired another rocket on the area as ambulances rushed to the scene to help the wounded, creating trenches in the area which prevented medical personnel from reaching the wounded.

At approximately 4:20am, an Israeli jet fired a rocket which landed on an open area and destroyed the main cables of the electricity network which has caused total suspension of electricity throughout most of the northern parts of the Gaza Strip.

At approximately 5:30am an Israeli jet fired a rocket at a group of people gathering in the centre of Beit Hanoun, killing Mo'az Hamza Odwan, 23, Abd Al Karim Yousif Hamad, 25, and Shehada Zohein Al Kafarna, 24, and injuring 4 others. Further, the IOF continued firing randomly from machine guns towards civilian houses, injuring 8 Palestinians.

On the same day at approximately 8:30am, the IOF fired a tank missile which landed close to the house of Eid Fadel Jadallah, located northeast of Gaza International Airport in Rafah. Fatma Fadel Jadallah, 59, was killed as a result.

Earlier on July 15th, at approximately 10:05am, an Israeli jet fired a rocket at a two- story home located in Bour Said Street, destroying it totally and killing Omar Mahmoud Younis, 30, and injuring 8 others, one of whom was 7-month old Talal Morad, who sustained serious injuries.

Moreover, the IOF continued firing tank missiles along the borderline in the north and east of the Gaza Strip, targeting Palestinian civilians and property.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns these ongoing IOF violations against civilians in the OPT, and the Gaza Strip in particular; it confirms that crimes such as targeting of civilians and properties constitute serious violations of international law, most notably the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and the Hague Regulations.

Further, Al Mezan considers the IOF crimes against civilians and properties a clear disregard of obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law. Al Mezan affirms that the silence of the international community encourages Israel to commit further crimes by the IOF.

Thus, Al Mezan Center calls upon the international community, most notably the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to immediately intervene to halt IOF war crimes against Palestinians in the OPT, and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli war crimes continue in the Gaza Strip: 4 Palestinians killed, including a woman, and 10 injured in Beit Hanoun and Rafah

Today, 16, July 2006, IOF carried out a pre-dawn raid on the town of Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip. The raid comes after IOF had conducted an incursion into the northern Gaza Strip, and then redeployed its forces outside the targeted areas. During last week's incursion, IOF committed war crimes in contravention of International Law and customs. Today's raid has thus far resulted in the death of 3 Palestinian resistance activists by aerial bombardment. In addition, 10 civilians were injured. The raid on Beit Hanoun is part of a campaign against Palestinians that was announced by IOF two weeks ago.

In addition, IOF killed a Palestinian woman in El-Shoka community, east of Rafah, as a result of shelling residential structures in the area. PCHR's field worker reported that IOF intensified shelling in the north and south of the Gaza Strip in a way that increased threat to the lives of civilians and to their properties.

It is noted that IOF have killed 89 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since 25 June 2006. There are 44 civilians among the dead, including 19 children, 3 women, and 3 handicapped. In addition, nearly 300 Palestinians have been injured, more than half of them unarmed civilians.

PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 00:00 on Sunday, 16 July 2006, IOF moved 2 kilometers into the town of Beit Hanoun from the eastern and northern areas of the town. The raiding troops fired heavily, and started to occupy residential houses in Al-Amal Quarter in the town, near UNRWA schools. The occupied houses were transformed into military outposts after their residents were detained inside the houses. And at approximately 05:30, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a group of resistance activists in Abu Odeh Street, to the north of Al-Amal Quarter. Three were killed instantly, and 10 civilians from the area were injured, including a pregnant woman. The dead are: Mo'ath Hamza Odwan (23), Abdel Karim Yousef Hamed (25), and Shehada Zuheir El-Kafarna (24). Furthermore, PCHR's fieldworker reported that 8 families were evacuated from the UNRWA schools in the area. These families were forced out of their homes due to IOF shelling near their houses, and took refuge in the schools.

At approximately 07:30, IOF troops deployed on the outskirts of El-Shoka community, east of Rafah, fired several artillery shells at houses. The shelling killed Fatima Fadel Jadallah (59), who was at the door of her house. IOF had moved into El-Shoka and occupied Gaza International Airport 10 days ago. IOF redeployed out of the area after displacing its residents, leaving behind extensive damages in civilian property and infrastructure.

PCHR reiterates its condemnation of IOF willful killing of Palestinian civilians. The Centre considers these crimes as a form of reprisal and collective punishment against Palestinians, which is a violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. PCHR points to the fact that IOF do not respect the principles of necessity and proportionality when using its war machine against Palestinian resistance activists when they are in non-combat situations in civilian areas, which leads to casualties from among the civilian population and to damage of civilian property.

PCHR believes that the failure of the international community and the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to take effective steps to stop Israeli war crimes has served to encourage Israel to commit more war crimes against Palestinian civilians. Not only do the legal cover provided to Israel by the US, which purposely hinders international humanitarian law, and the conspiracy of silence by Europe place Israel above the international law, but also encourage IOF to commit more war crimes.

PCHR reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of:

1) Their obligations under article 1 of the Convention to respect and ensure respect for the convention under all circumstances.

2) Their obligations under article 146 of the Convention to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, grave breaches, and bring such persons before their own courts, noting that such grave breaches constitute war crimes under article 147, as specified in the First Protocol Additional to the Convention

PCHR calls upon the Swiss Government:

1) To take a leading role in highlighting and acting to stop the grave breaches of international law that are currently taking place in the Gaza Strip, as is its obligation as the depository of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

2) To make efforts to mobilise the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to intervene in this situation and meet their obligations to protect the rights of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip under International Humanitarian Law.

3) To call on the Security Council to send an international protection force for the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

PCHR calls upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights:

1) To issue a statement strongly condemning Israel's grave breaches of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

2) To make a visit to the OPT in order to see for yourself the long term damage that has already been and is currently being inflicted on the civilian population - a population who should be enjoying protection under International Humanitarian Law.

3) To call a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to ensure that these states fulfil their obligation under international law to protect the civilian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF offensive continues in the Gaza Strip: 3 Palestinians killed and 10 others wounded in 3 separate attacks and governmental buildings and civilian infrastructure attacked

PCHR strongly condemns the continued killing of Palestinian civilians and destruction of civilian facilities in the Gaza Strip by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), which have been exercising disproportionate and lethal force. In the past 48 hours, 3 Palestinians have been killed and 10 others, including a woman and a baby, have been wounded in 3 separate attacks by IOF in Gaza City and the central Gaza Strip. IOF have also launched 3 air strikes on a building of the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy in Gaza City and on two bridges in the central Gaza Strip. Additionally, IOF artilleries have continued to shell neighbourhoods and agricultural land in the north, centre and south of the Gaza Strip, in which IOF have been redeployed.

The latest of such attacks took place at approximately 10:30 on Saturday, 15 July 2006, when IOF warplanes fired two missiles at a 3-storey building belonging to Sa'ad al-Yazji, a professor at the Islamic University, in al-Daraj neighbourhood in the centre of Gaza City. The first floor of the building is occupied by a sewing workshop, while the other two floors are empty. The building was totally destroyed, and 'Omar Mahmoud Younis, 30, a worker who was in the building, was instantly killed. In addition, 9 civilians living in neighbouring houses, including a woman and two children, were wounded. One of these children is only 7 months old, and he was moderately wounded. The other child, 11-year-old Ahmed al-Jadba, was seriously wounded. IOF claimed that the building was used by Palestinian militants as a workshop to manufacture weapons.

Chronology of Developments in the Gaza Strip in the past 48 hours:

· At approximately 00:00 on Friday, 14 July 2006, IOF positioned at Kissufim intersection on Salah al-Din Street, southeast of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, fired a shell at a civilian car, in which two persons were travelling, on Salah al-Din Street. As a result, one of the passengers, Ra'ed Hussein Nasser, 25, from Gaza City, was killed. He apparently bled to death. His brother-in-law, 'Aadel Hussein al-Bayouk, 20, who was travelling with him, was moderately wounded as he was able to jump out of the car before it totally burnt.

· At approximately 02:00 on Friday, 14 July 2006, IOF fighter jets fired a missile at a bridge that links Nusseirat refugee camp with al-Mughraqa and al-Zahraa' areas in the central Gaza Strip. The bridge was completely destroyed.

· At approximately 01:30 on Saturday, 15 July 2006, IOF warplanes fired a missile at the building of the Palestinian Ministry of National Economy in Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in Gaza City. The building, including the Minister's office, was severely damaged. This attack has been the fourth of its kind against Palestinian governmental buildings since the beginning of the current IOF offensive on the Gaza Strip on 25 June 2006.

· At the same time, IOF fighter jets fired a missile at a bridge that links al-Boreij refugee camp with Juhor al-Dik area in the central Gaza Strip. The bridge was completely destroyed. Thus, the number of bridges recently destroyed by IOF has increased to 6.

· At approximately 05:00 on Saturday, 15 July 2006, IOF helicopter gunships opened fire at Khalil Ibrahim Abu Mughassib, 18, from Wadi al-Salqa village, when he was near "Kissufim" crossing, southeast of Deir al-Balah. He was instantly killed. The victim was not armed, and he was apparently monitoring IOF military posts.

PCHR is deeply concerned over the IOF crimes against Palestinian civilians. PCHR stresses that an arbitrary attack that endangers the lives of civilians and their property, especially if prior knowledge indicates that civilians could be killed or wounded, or property be damaged, is a war crime as prescribed by the First Protocol Additional to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

PCHR believes that the failure of the international community and the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to take effective steps to stop Israeli war crimes has served to encourage Israel to commit more war crimes against Palestinian civilians. Not only do the legal cover provided to Israel by the US, which purposely hinders international humanitarian law, and the conspiracy of silence by Europe place Israel above the international law, but also encourage IOF to commit more war crimes.

PCHR reminds the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of:

1) Their obligations under article 1 of the Convention to respect and ensure respect for the convention under all circumstances.

2) Their obligations under article 146 of the Convention to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, grave breaches, and bring such persons before their own courts, noting that such grave breaches constitute war crimes under article 147, as specified in the First Protocol Additional to the Convention

PCHR calls upon the Swiss Government:

1) To take a leading role in highlighting and acting to stop the grave breaches of international law that are currently taking place in the Gaza Strip, as is its obligation as the depository of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

2) To make efforts to mobilise the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to intervene in this situation and meet their obligations to protect the rights of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip under International Humanitarian Law.

3) To call on the Security Council to send an international protection force for the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

PCHR calls upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights:

1) To issue a statement strongly condemning Israel's grave breaches of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

2) To make a visit to the OPT in order to see for yourself the long term damage that has already been and is currently being inflicted on the civilian population - a population who should be enjoying protection under International Humanitarian Law.

3) To call a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to ensure that these states fulfil their obligation under international law to protect the civilian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

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Amnesty International: Civilian population at risk in Gaza

Amnesty International today urged the Israeli government to immediately cease attacks against Palestinian civilians and civilian property and infrastructure, and to take action to address the growing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The organization condemned attacks such as those carried out by Israeli forces on the night of 11-12 July 2006, when an entire family -- Nabil and Salwa Abu Salmiya and their seven children aged between seven and 17 -- were killed when the Israeli Air Force targeted their home in a densely populated residential district in Jabaliya, north of Gaza City. More than 30 other residents were injured in the attack.

Israeli officials stated that the air strike had targeted Muhammad Deif, a leader of Hamas's armed wing, who was reported to have been in the building at the time and to have been injured in the attack. However, the Israeli government and military officials who ordered and carried out the air attack on the house at about 02:30 am must have known that Nabil Abu Salmiya, a university lecturer and a Hamas member, and his wife and children, would be present at their home and that they and residents of neighbouring houses would be killed and injured.

Such attacks against civilians are prohibited by international law and Amnesty International called for them to cease immediately.

In recent weeks dozens of Palestinians women, children and other bystanders have been killed and hundreds have been injured by Israeli forces in air strikes and artillery shelling -- including in their homes.

In addition to the nine members of the Abu Salmiya family, some 15 other Palestinians were killed in the past two days, bringing the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces this year to some 240. The figure includes scores of members of Palestinian armed groups killed in armed clashes with Israeli troops as well as many uninvolved bystanders, including dozens of children. In the same period, some 20 Israelis, most of them civilians, have been killed by Palestinian armed groups.

Amidst the growing tension following the abduction of an Israeli soldier by armed Palestinians two weeks ago, a deepening humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the Gaza Strip, with increasingly serious consequences for the 1.5 million Palestinians who live there.

The continued closure of the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt prevents any travel for the entire population of Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinians who were abroad when the border was closed have been stranded on the Egyptian side of the border for days, unable to return home to Gaza.

Medicine, food and fuel shortages are worsening as a result of repeated and prolonged closures by Israel of the Karni checkpoint, through which goods must pass to enter the Gaza Strip. Since the destruction of Gaza's power station and water mains by Israeli forces two weeks ago, most Palestinian inhabitants remain without electricity and water most of the time and the situation is made worse by the shortage of fuel needed to power back-up generators and water pumps.

The consequences are particularly serious for the health and sanitation sectors -- especially at this hottest time of the year, when electricity and water supplies are crucial for refrigerating and preserving food and medicines.

Amnesty International said that Israel should promptly lift the closures and the arbitrary restrictions imposed on both the Rafah and Karni crossings, and allow the passage of persons and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip. It should also repair the electricity power station, water mains, bridges and other infrastructure destroyed by its forces.

Palestinian armed groups for their part must put an end to the launching "qassam" rockets or other projectiles into Israel.

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International Committee of the Red Cross: Gravely concerned about humanitarian situation in Gaza

Geneva (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is alarmed about the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip.

The continuing escalation of violence, with military operations taking place in highly populated areas, has serious consequences for the civilian population.

Over the past two weeks, Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip have led to the deaths of dozens of people and the wounding of many more, among them a large number of civilians. In one single incident on 12 July, nine family members - including children - were killed in their home by an air strike in Gaza City. In some cases, people living near operations have been unable to leave their homes for several days.

The ICRC has urged and continues to urge Israel to respect the rules of international humanitarian law. In particular, in the conduct of hostilities, Israel must take all precautions to spare civilian life and property. It must also ensure that the wounded have access to medical facilities.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is continuing to deteriorate. The strike on Gaza's only power plant on 28 June reduced the power supply in the Strip by half, with direct and indirect effects on the population. Hospitals and a large part of the water and wastewater systems now depend on generators that consume considerable amounts of fuel, which is also in short supply owing to recurrent closures of the Strip. Furthermore, the strict controls imposed on the passage of basic items into the Strip have exacerbated the difficulties faced by residents, who were already living in precarious conditions. Under international humanitarian law, Israel is responsible for meeting the basic needs of the population, which include food, medical supplies and means of shelter.

As a further consequence of the ongoing situation in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians have been stranded on the Egyptian side of the Rafah terminal, two of whom have reportedly died. The material and psychological conditions in which these people live are deteriorating day by day and no solution to their plight has been found by the parties concerned. The ICRC has already offered its services to facilitate their passage into the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, together with the Egyptian Red Crescent, it is providing the affected people with assistance.

The ICRC is seriously concerned about the consequences of the repeated launching of rockets from the Gaza Strip against the civilian population in Israel. These attacks, which have wounded several people, are indiscriminate and thus prohibited by international humanitarian law.

Finally, the ICRC urges those detaining IDF corporal Gilad Shalit to treat him humanely and allow him to contact his family. It has informed all the parties that it stands ready to provide its services.

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Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: A new massacre is committed as Halutz conducts "Al Darraj" - style attacks, resulting in 9 Palestinians Killed, 37 Injured and 11 houses destroyed.

The IOF committed a flagrant massacre this morning, targeting a two story home in a highly densely populated area. 9 Palestinian civilians were killed and 37 injured, 3 of whom sustained critical injuries; 10 houses were partially destroyed.

According to preliminary investigations by Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, on July 12 2006 at approximately 2:45am, Israeli fighter jets fired two rockets at the house of Dr. Nabil Abd Al Latif Abu Sleima, totally destroying the house and killing Dr. Abu Sleima and 8 members of his family. 37 other civilians were reported injured.

The Center's fieldworkers reported that the identification of victims was difficult as their bodies were blown into pieces and body parts were strewn around the scene of the attack. One survivor, Awad Nabil Abd Al Latif Abu Sleima, 19, reported that the persons inside the house at the time of the attack included:

1. Nabil Abd Al Latif Abu Sleima, 46
2. Salwa Abu Sleima, 42
3. Basma Nabil Abu Sleima, 16
4. Somaia Nabil Abu Sleima, 14
5. Huda Nabil Abu Sleima, 12,
6. Iman Nabil Abu Sleima Abu Sleima, 11
7. Yehia Nabil Abu Sleima, 9
8. Aya NAbil Abu Sleima, 7
9. Nasrallah Nabil Abu Sleima, 4

Most of the injured were buried under the rubble and others were wounded with bone shrapnel flying from the bodies of the victims of the attack. 3-year-old Isra'a Mohammed Abd Al Ghaffar Abbas was injured by bone shrapnel in the head. Further, Husam Mohammed Hammad, 7, survived but barely escaped death when he was removed from the debris.

The IOF claim that the attack was targeting Hamas members. Al Mezan emphasizes that no one was killed in the targeted house except members of the Abu Sleima family. The Center denounces the justifications made by the IOF, for the shelling of a civilian house in a densely populated area, of killing wanted Hamas members. Al Mezan asserts that this attack constitutes a grave breach of international humanitarian law. It also emphasizes that extrajudicial assassinations, and the targeting of Palestinian civilians and civilian establishments are war crimes.

The Center points out that Palestinian civilians have become a target for the IOF. On June 9, the IOF fired missiles at the Ghalia family who were at the beach, and killed 7 family members. Further, on June 21, they shelled the house of the Ahmed family, killing 3, and on July 8 they shelled the house of the Hajjaj family, killing a mother and her two children.

This massacre is reminiscent of the 2002 Al Darraj massacre perpetrated by the war criminal Dan Halutz, when he was the commander of the Israeli air forces. On 22 July 2002, he gave orders to shell a residential area in the densely populated Al Darraj neighbourhood with a 1- ton missile. Tens of people were killed and tens of houses were destroyed. Halutz is now IOF Chief of Staff, and has repeated once again the same crime.

Al Mezan gravely condemns the outrageous escalation of the IOF offensive which is targeting Palestinian civilians. The Center emphasizes that Israel's policy of extrajudicial assassinations is a war crime according to international humanitarian law, particularly the 4th Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and the Hague regulations.

Al Mezan reaffirms that the silence of the international community encourages Israel to commit further crimes, making Israel a state above the law. Thus, Al Mezan calls upon the international community particularly the high contracting parties of the 4th Geneva Conventions to urgently intervene and provide international protection to the Palestinian civilians in the OPT, halt the Israeli violations against Palestinians and bring the perpetrator of these crime before justice.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: In the latest example of state terrorism: IOF bomb a house in the Sheikh Radwan Quarter, killing a Palestinian, his wife, and 7 children; 34 civilians were injured

"My name is Jihad Mohammad El-Saloul. I'm 49 years old, and work as a teachers. I'm a neighbor of Dr. Nabil Abu Salmeya.

Tonight at approximately 2:45 in the morning, I heard a small explosion. My wife, our children, and I woke up. I thought it was a sound bomb. My children were standing near the window. After about 10 minutes I heard a second explosion. The glass fell over our heads. I got out of the house to see what happened. One of our neighbors is Ahmad Bahar "Abu Akram," a political leader in Hamas. I thought the explosion was in his home. As I walked, I was surprised that the explosion was in Dr. Nabil Abu Salmeya's house. I went towards the bombed house. Smoke and thick dust was issuing from the house. I saw an injured, bearded man among the rubble (El-Ja'bari). We put him in a blue Fiat with 3 young men from among the neighbors. After that, I went to help save others.

We found Abu Salmeya's son Ahmad, who studies engineering at university. He was injured in the face. He was in pain, and was standing on the balcony of the bombed house. He was calling us. We took him to an ambulance.

After that I saw a girl, Abu Salmeya's daughter, who was about 17. She was handicapped. Her body was thrown on the ground, between the trees in the garden.

Then we found the body of his son, Yehya, who is in fourth grade. It was a headless body. We found the head in the hallway of a neighbor's house, from Abass family. I knew Yehya and the girl well.

Then I found another son. He was dead and on the ground.

Then we found the body of the mother. He leg was torn off.

Then we found two arms of a man among the trees.

As to the house next to Abu Salmeya's house, it belongs to my neighbor Rajih Abbas. Most of the household was injured by glass and brick shrapnel. We took out an elderly woman (65) who is Rajih's mother. She injured in the leg, which was broken. We took out a child from the same room, from under the rubble and dust. The child was still breathing. I couldn't believe that the child was still alive.

The Civil Defense Corps started to search the rubble immediately after the bombardment. At approximately 7:00 in the morning, they found Awad Nabil Abu Salmeya (19), who studies engineering. He was suffering from moderate injuries. He survived by a miracle.

Dr. Abu Salmeya's family consisted of 11 members: himself, his wife, 5 girls, and 4 boys.

We only saw his sons Mohammad and Awad. Till now, we don't know anything about 3 of his girls, who are still under the debris.

This is a residential area. Even if there were one or two wanted (activists), how can a whole neighborhood be targeted and bombed by planes, causing all this death and destruction to us, them and neighbors who are civilians. They do not want to kill the wanted, but to destroy civilians, kill them, and terrorize them.

The house is built on an area of 200 square meters. It is two parts. The southern part is old, and consists of a ground floor and a second floor. The second part is an open area with two rooms and a salon for the children.

The southern part was targeted. The deaths were there.

This are is called "Shanti neighborhood, Amer Project, Sheikh Radwan Quarter.

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have committed a new war crime against Palestinian civilians, flagrantly breaching the Fourth Geneva Convention. IOF fighter jets dropped 2 bombs at a 2-story house in a crowded neighborhood in the town of Jabalia. The house belonged to a Hamas leader. The house owner was killed, and so were his wife and 7 of their children. The house was completely destroyed. In addition, 34 civilians were injured, including 5 children and 6 women. Extensive damage was inflicted on 15 houses surrounding the targeted house.

After committing the crime, IOF declared that the bombardment targeted Mohammad El-Deif, the commander of the Hamas military wing, and others with him, claiming that they were in the house. For their part, Hamas confirmed that El-Deif is safe.

This crime is a reminder of the war crime perpetrated on 23 July 2003 to assassinate Salah Shehada, a Hamas leader. In that incident, IOF targeted a residential building in the densely-populated El-Daraj neighborhood. More than 20 people were killed, including women and children, and dozens were injured.

The latest war crime comes within Israel's policy of extra-judicial assassinations against Palestinian activists. This policy is criticized by the international community as it leads to casualties among innocent civilians.

With this crime, the number of Palestinians killed since the start of Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip rises to 68, including 33 innocent civilians. Two women and 14 children are among the dead.

PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 2:45 on Wednesday, 12 July 2006, an IOF fighter jet dropped 2 bombs at the house belonging to Nabil Abdel Latif Abu Salmeya (46), a leader in Hamas who works as a lecturer in the Islamic University. The 2 bombs hit the 2-story house built on 200 square meters in the Shanti lands are in the town of Jabalia. The house was destroyed on top of the occupants. The owner was killed, and so were his wife Salwa Ismail Abu Salmeya (42) and 7 of their children: Basma (16), Somaya (17, handicapped), Aya (9), Yehya (10), Nasr (7), Huda (13), and Eman (12). The son Awad (19) was rescued, and is suffering from serious injuries. Eyewitnesses indicate that the bodies of the dead were torn and scattered. Work continues to clear the rubble and search for bodies and survivors.

PCHR is greatly concerned over the IOF crimes against Palestinian civilians that have become a trend. The Centre stresses that an arbitrary attack that endangers the lives of civilians and their properties, especially if prior knowledge indicates that civilians could be killed, injured, or have property damaged, is a war crime in the first protocol additional to the Fourth Geneva Convention.

In the Center's view, the complacency of the international community and the High Contracting Parties of the 4th Geneva Convention and their failure tot take effective steps to stop Israeli war crimes has been a supporting and encouraging element for Israel to continue perpetrating additional war crimes against Palestinian civilians. The legal cover provided to Israel by the US, which purposely hinders International Humanitarian Law, and the conspiracy of silence by Europe encourage Israeli to continue to perpetrate war crimes unchecked, placing it above international law.

The Centre reminds the High Contracting Parties of:

- Their obligations under article 1 of the convention to ensure respect of the convention under all circumstances;

- Their obligations in article 146 of the convention to pursue suspects of committing serious violations of the convention, noting that these violations are war crimes according to article 147, as specified in the first protocol additional to the convention

The Centre calls upon the Swiss Government to:

- to take a leading role in highlighting and acting to stop the grave breaches of international law that are currently taking place in the Gaza Strip, as is its obligation as the depository of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

- to make efforts to mobilise the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to intervene in this situation and meet their obligations to protect the rights of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip under International Humanitarian Law.

- to call on the Security Council to send an international protection force for the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

The Centre calls upon the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to:

- to issue a statement strongly condemning Israel's grave breaches of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

- to make a visit to the OPT in order to see for yourself the long term damage that has already been and is currently being inflicted on the civilian population - a population who should be enjoying protection under International Humanitarian Law.

- to call a meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to ensure that these states fulfil their obligation under international law to protect the civilian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

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Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions: Call for accountability for killings in Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of the United Nations Human Rights Council issued the following statement today:

Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, today emphasized the "importance of ensuring accountability in relation to the killings that have taken place in recent weeks in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and in Israel". "Even in the midst of crisis, indeed especially in times of crisis, it is essential to ensure that the applicable rules of international human rights and humanitarian law are respected", Mr. Alston said.

Regarding the implications of the latest developments in relation to Lebanon, the Special Rapporteur said the need for accountability has become "ever more pressing in light of these alarming developments".

An important component of such accountability is cooperation with the relevant international procedures set up by the Human Rights Council, he added. The Special Rapporteur recalled that he had sought an invitation to visit both Israel and the OPT from the respective authorities in the middle of June. The Palestinian Authority had responded favourably, he said, and he was awaiting an official reply from the Government of Israel.

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Six Israeli human rights groups: To the Israeli High Court: Stop the harm to the civilian population in Gaza

Today, July 11, 2006, six human rights groups petitioned the Israeli High Court demanding that the crossings in Gaza be opened to allow for the steady and regular supply of fuel, food, medicine, and equipment, including spare parts needed to operate generators.

The groups - the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Hamoked: Center for Defence of the Individual, B'tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Gisha - Center for the Legal Protection of Freedom of Movement also asked for an urgent hearing in order to prevent serious harm to the health of the civilian population, especially patients in hospital, and to prevent the breakdown of the water and sewage system in Gaza.

During the current military operation in the Gaza Strip the Israeli military has interrupted the supply of fuel to Gaza and kept Gaza's crossings mostly closed to supply of food and other humanitarian goods. The uninterrupted supply of fuel and equipment is necessary for the functioning of Gaza's health and sanitation systems, and Gaza requires a steady supply of food and medicine.

Since Gaza's power station was destroyed on June 28, there is an increased need for fuel to power the generators in Gaza and for spare parts to keep the generators running at such a high capacity. The closure of Karni Crossing has led to shortages in food at a time when, given the difficulty of obtaining electricity to prepare and refrigerate foodstuffs, Gaza requires increased shipments of dairy products, meat, flour, and other goods.

Without a steady supply of fuel and parts, hospitals cannot perform life-saving surgery and treatment plants cannot pump and treat sewage in Gaza. Gaza hospitals have reduced their activities to life-saving procedures. Since the bombing of the power plant, Gaza's water utility has been dumping 60,000 cubic meters of raw sewage into the sea each day, for lack of power and equipment to run the treatment plants, and there is concern that untreated sewage will pollute the aquifer or spill into the streets.

Because of the electricity shortages, stores in Gaza have stopped selling meat and dairy products. Trucks laden with food and medicine have been stuck at Karni Crossing, which has been closed since July 6, including 230 containers from international aid organizations.

Withholding fuel, food, and equipment from Gaza residents constitutes collective punishment, in violation of international law. The petition argues that Israel is not fulfilling its legal obligations to provide for the needs of the civilian population and to distinguish between military and civilian targets.

According to Faysal Shawa, a businessman and Gaza resident: "We have been thrown back to the way people lived 100 years ago ... We don't have water, we don't have milk for our kids."

According to Maher Najer, Deputy Director of Gaza's Water Company: "We face severe shortages in the electricity, fuel, and spare parts needed to operate Gaza's water and sewage systems. These shortages threaten to create a public health catastrophe."

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF continue to target civilians in the Gaza Strip: 3 children killed and another seriously injured in an air raid on Beit Hanoun

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed 3 Palestinian children and seriously injured a fourth one yesterday evening (10 July 2006) in Beit Hanoun, when an IOF plane fired a rocket at them. This crime comes within the context of the open war against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip since the capture of the Israeli soldier on 25 June 2006. It is part of the chain of collective punishment, targeting civilians, and destroying civilian property and infrastructure. With the death of these children, the number of Palestinian casualties in the Gaza Strip since the start of the Israeli military operation rises to 51 dead, including 26 civilians, and 140 injured. There are 7 children and a woman among the dead; and the majority of the injured are civilians.

PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 19:15 on Monday, 10 July 2006, and IOF plane fired a rocket at 4 children who were near Hayel Abdel Hamid Secondary School in northern part of Beit Hanoun. They were in an area previously used as soccer field near their homes. The rocket fell amidst the children. Three were killed instantly; and their bodies were torn by the blast. The fourth child suffered serious injures. The dead children are: Mahfouth Farid Nuseir (16), Ahmad Ghalib Abu Amsha (16), and Ahmad Fathi Shabat (16). The injured child is Raji Omar Deifallah (16).

PCHR condemns the killing of Palestinian civilians by IOF, endangering their lives, and destroying their property through disproportionate use of lethal force. These actions are considered reprisals and forms of collective punishment under article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Centre calls upon the High Contracting Parties of the convention to act immediately to ensure protection for the lives of civilians, and to ensure IOF respect for the convention. The Centre calls upon the High Contracting Parties to enforce article 1 on the convention regarding the respect of the convention under all circumstances, and to take the necessary punitive steps against the perpetrators of serious violations.

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Reporters Without Borders: Call for probes into shootings of two Palestinian photographers by Israeli troops

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the action of the Israeli troops who shot and wounded Palestinian news photographers Hamid Al Khur and Mohammad Al Zaanoun on 7 and 8 July while they were covering clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

"Khur and Zaanoun were both wearing yellow vests that clearly identified them as journalists, so there was no way they could have been mistaken for combatants," Reporters Without Borders said, calling on the Israeli authorities to carry out investigations to establish how they came to be shot.

Khur, a photographer with the Turkish news agency Ihlas, was shot twice by Israeli soldiers on 7 July while covering clashes between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army in Beit Lahiya, in the north of the Gaza Strip. Khur, who was wearing a bullet-proof vest at the time, was hit first in the chest and then in the right arm. He was initially taken to Kamal Adwan hospital, and from there to a hospital in Jerusalem the next day.

Zaanoun, a photographer with the Palestinian online news agency Ma'an, was working in the district of al-Zaitoun, south of Gaza City, when Israeli tanks arrived on the morning of 8 July. He was wounded while photographing the bodies of two Palestinian militants who had been killed in the course of the Israeli incursion. He continued to take photographs until shot in the leg and stomach by an Israeli sniper. He was taken to an Israeli hospital where he was said to be in a critical condition.

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Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: Israeli High Court gives IOF 48 hours to implement a 'humanitarian' solution for Palestinians trapped at Egypt border

On Monday 10 July 2006, the Israeli High Court held a hearing for a petition by four human rights organisations concerning the IOF closure of the Rafah Crossing since 25 June 2005. It ruled that Israel's Occupation Forces (IOF) have 48 hours to find an 'urgent humanitarian solution' for the Palestinians who have been trapped at the border, especially those who are ill.

The petitioners' attorney provided that IOF had closed the Crossing many times in the past, that its closure comes in accordance with an intentional military order and that the army is fully aware of the humanitarian implications of such a closure. She demanded that the Crossing be re-opened for civilian movement immediately.

The petitioner organisations repudiated the attempts to politicise the issue of the Crossing or linking it with any Palestinian/Israeli political differences. They stressed that the IOF had the full authority to open or close the Crossing, and that by virtue of possession of this power they must be requested to re-open the closed Crossing with immediate effect to end the humanitarian crisis suffered by thousands of Palestinian civilians trapped into it.

The petitioner organisations, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Gaza Community mental health program, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights - Gaza and the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights - Gaza, placed their petition on Friday 7 July 2006, however the Court did not accept it as an urgent petition. They asked the Court to order opening of the Crossing before thousands of Palestinians who were returning to their homes in Gaza. They provided that the closure threatened the life and wellbeing of numerous people who were returning from medical treatment in Egypt and abroad and need hospital care. Some of those had been operated upon abroad. The Crossing, which is the only passage for Palestinians in and out of Gaza, is a land port in the desert and lacks any facilities necessary for human shelter or medical care.

Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights reiterates its call for immediate opening of the Crossing, and not only allowing entry of those who have been trapped into it. It should be mentioned here that thousands of Palestinians have been denied access to proper health care in Egypt and have been made to stay in Gaza with serious health conditions owing to the closure. This has been aggravated by that the health system in the Gaza Strip has almost become paralysed due to the destruction of power plants and blockade of fuel by Israel. IOF have frequently used the Rafah Crossing as a tool of collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza for years.

Al Mezan calls the international intervention to ensure that Israel, as an Occupying Power, upholds its responsibilities relevant to civilians' and humanitarian supplies movement and access, and refrains from using such humanitarian needs to punish the population under occupation.

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Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: 57 Palestinians killed, 121 injured, tens of houses destroyed and agricultural lands leveled as a result to IOF continued offensive on the Gaza Strip.

The IOF have continued their excessive offensive against Palestinian civilians and property in the Gaza Strip. The total number of deaths since the beginning of the IOF incursion into the Strip has reached 57, while the number of injuries stands at 121, including 31 children. Further, 103 houses have been damaged, 14 of which were totally destroyed. 265 dunums of agricultural lands have been leveled. In addition, 33 patients who underwent medical treatment in Egypt are struck inside the building of Refah Terminal. 5 patients were sent back to Egyptian hospitals due to the deterioration of their health conditions, while an elderly man, Fahmi Dawood, 70, and a 16-year-old child, Mohammed Shorrab died due to the closure of the terminal. Further, 939 evacuated Palestinians are now staying in two UNRWA schools which are being used as shelters while 190 families have approached these schools to receive food supplies, since the IOF have maintained the tight siege on Al Shouka area, in eastern Rafah, cutting all humanitarian supplies from the area.

On July 10 and 9, the IOF opened Nahal Aouz crossing for short times, and allowed the entry of limited amounts of fuel and food. Al Mezan sees that by this action the current crisis will not end but is expected to continue for a long time.

The IOF have continued targeting electricity networks and transformers which have caused people living in multistory buildings to evacuate their homes as there is no electricity to operate elevators and water pumps. Further, electricity in Rafah has been cut for 3 consecutive days now as the IOF have prohibited personnel of the electricity company from repairing the main electricity transformer, located near Gaza International Airport, which is being occupied as a military surveillance point by the IOF.

The IOF have used excessive and disproportionate force against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. On July 10, at approximately 1:20pm, an Israeli jet fired a rocket at group of youth in eastern Al Faraheen area in Abasan Al Kabeera, eastern Khan Younis. Ra'ed Mosa Abu Salah, 24, and Mohammed khalifa were killed as a result. Further, at approximately 3:10am, an Israeli helicopter fired a rocket on a car passing Al Tawfiq mosque in Al Shijayia neighborhood, killing Mitwali Al Arqan, 27 and injuring two others. At approximately 10:00am, an Israeli scouting jet fired a rocket towards a group of civilians in Al Shijayia neighborhood. Two persons were reported injured.

On July 9 at approximately 3:40 pm, an Israeli scouting jet fired a rocket at a car in Rafah killing Bilal Rabba, 18, and injuring two others who were in the car. 8 passersby were also injured:

1. Mohammed Fo'ad Abu Harb, 28, shrapnel wounds in different parts of the body.
2. Mohammed Suheil Badawi, 28, shrapnel wounds in the leg.
3. Rami Sulaiman Rabba', 22, shrapnel wounds in the left leg.
4. Abdullah Sulaiman Rabba', 15, shrapnel wounds in the left leg.
5. Halil Abd Al Fattah Abu Sneima, 24, shrapnel wounds in the chest and abdomen.
6. Adeeb Ouda Irmilat, 26, shrapnel wounds in the right leg.
7. Saleh Omar Al Eid, 30, shrapnel wounds in the right leg.
8. Mohammed Issam Abu Taha, 14, shrapnel wounds in the right leg.

According to medical reports, three of the injured sustained critical injuries.

Al Mezan condemns the war crimes perpetrated by the IOF, and their policies of collective punishment. Al Mezan emphasizes that the deliberate killing of civilians, shelling of civilians premises, the leveling of agricultural land, the destruction of vital establishments, and the tight closure imposed on the Gaza Strip constitute a grave breach of International Humanitarian law, particularly the 4th Geneva Convention Relative to the protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, an the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Al Mezan calls upon the international community, particularly the high contracting parties of the 4th Geneva Conventions to fulfill their moral and legal obligations under international humanitarian law, provide protection to the Palestinians and lift the siege imposed on the Gaza strip. The Center affirms that the continuation of the silence of the international community encourages the continuation of the IOF aggressive measures.

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Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: Escalating IOF offensive against Palestinians and the continued closure imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Al Mezan condemns the escalating IOF offensive against Palestinians and the continued closure imposed on the Gaza Strip.

The IOF have escalated their offensive against Palestinians in the OPT using excessive and disproportionate force. They have also tightened the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, causing severe shortages of food, fuel and medical supplies.

According to the Center's field sources, on July 8th 2006, 13 Palestinians were killed, three belonging to the same family, and 21 others were injured. In just one day on July 6th, 23 Palestinians were killed. The total number of deaths now stands at 44 and the number of injuries has reached 112.

Further, the IOF have destroyed parts of the only electricity station in the Gaza Strip, which has caused total suspension of electricity throughout the Gaza Strip. Consequently, water pumps are unable to operate. The lives of patients in hospitals are threatened as there is no electricity to operate medical equipment.

On July 7th, Gaza's petrol stations ran out of fuel supplies. Indicators show that the Palestinians are facing an imminent humanitarian crisis that will be the first of its kind since the Israeli occupation of the OPT in June 1967.

According to Gaza City Municipality, the five water wells supplying the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood have stopped working due to the fuel depletion.

The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is rapidly deteriorating due to the tight closure of the Gaza Strip, which has led to severe shortages of food and basic goods. This adds to the negative effects of the financial boycott of the PNA which has prohibited around 160,000 Palestinians from receiving their salaries.

Furthermore, the IOF have continued the use of disproportionate force against Palestinians, targeting vital establishments. According to the Center's field investigations, on July 8th at approximately 7:55am IOF tanks, stationed in eastern Gaza City, fired a missile which landed on the house of Farid Hajjaj, located in east Shijaiya neighborhood. As a result, his wife, Amna Hajjaj, 45, his 6-year-old daughter, Rawan, and his son aged 21 were killed, while 5 others from the same family were injured. Al Mezan's fieldworker was at the site when it happened, with an UNRWA operations officer; both barely managed to escape the explosion.

At approximately 3:45 am, the IOF fired a missile at Al Mansoura Street in Al Shaja'ia neighborhood, resulting in the injuring of 3 Palestinian civilians. Further, an Israeli scouting jet fired a missile at a group of youth in eastern Al Shaja'ia, killing Ahmed Sarsak, 23, and Hani abu Al Qombuz, 22. Two other civilians, Nimir Shalleh, 23 and Saleh Al Jemasi, 19, were killed on the same day from shrapnel wounds inflicted by a helicopter missile.

Furthermore, IOF helicopters fired a missile which landed close to Al Shiqaqi Mosque in eastern Al Shijaiya, reportedly killing 5 Palestinians.

On July 9th at approximately 00:30 am, IOF airplanes resumed shelling of Al Shijaiya, injuring 3 Palestinian civilians. At approximately 2:30am an Israeli scouting jet fired a missile that landed on Al Haja Hamda area in Al Shijaiya. One Palestinian was reported injured.

In the context of the escalating IOF offensive, on July 8th at approximately 11:50 the IOF destroyed Beit Hanoun Bridge, and continued targeting electricity networks and transformers leading to a total power cut throughout Northern Gaza.

Moreover, Rafah Terminal has been closed since June 25th 2006, leaving around 4700 passengers stranded at the Egyptian side of the terminal. 700 of the passengers, including 30 patients who underwent medical treatment in Egypt, are stuck inside the terminal building.

The IOF maintained the tight siege on Al Sjawka area in eastern Rafah, cutting all humanitarian supplies from the area. Consequently, UNRWA had to use one of its schools in Al Shawka area into a shelter to accommodate around 1000 evacuated Palestinians.

Al Mezan condemns the IOF policy of collective punishment, and warns about the continuation of the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip. Al Mezan emphasizes that the deliberate killing of Palestinian civilians, the shelling of houses, the destruction of civilian premises, and the tight siege constitute a grave breach of international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Al Mezan calls upon the international community, namely the high contracting parties to the Fourth Geneva Conventions, to urgently intervene and provide protection to Palestinian civilians in the OPT. The center emphasizes that the continuation of the silence of the international community encourages Israel to continue committing further crimes.

The Center affirms that the international community has a legal and moral obligation under the 4th Geneva Convention to intervene, particularly at this time when indicators demonstrate Israel's intention to escalate its aggression in the Gaza Strip.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Palestinian family members killed and injured in the latest Israeli military escalation in the Gaza Strip

On the evening of Saturday, 8 July 2006, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) killed a Palestinian woman and two of her children, and injured another five members of the same family, when an IOF plane dropped a bomb close to their house located to the east of the Sheja'iya area of Gaza City. This crime is a continuation of a series of war crimes that have been perpetrated by IOF in the Gaza Strip over the past two weeks. Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip are paying the price of the war launched by IOF, which has led to the killing and injury of a large number of civilians. The total number of Palestinians killed by IOF in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) since 25 June 2006 is now at fifty-two. In addition, more than a hundred and forty have been injured, many of them seriously.

PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 19:50 on Saturday, 8 July 2006, an IOF plane fired one bomb that fell near the house belonging to Farid Hajjaj, located near Obeid Petrol Station at the end of Mansour Street, east of Sheja'iya in the eastern part of Gaza City. The house is located 800 meters from the border with Israel. The bomb shrapnel spread to the area and inside the house. As a result, Farid's wife and two of his children were killed. Five other family members were injured. The family was sitting in the garden of the house when the bomb hit. Medical sources indicated that the three dead family members had been hit by shrapnel at very close range. The conditions of the injured are described as moderate to serious. The dead family members are:

- Ammouna Yousef Hajjaj (42);

- Rawan Farid Hajjaj (6); and

- Mohammad Farid Hajjaj (20)

After the incident, an IOF spokesman confirmed that IOF planes had dropped one bomb near Al-Muntar (Karni) crossing (near the house) in an attempted targeting of a Palestinian militant. It is noted that IOF have been conducting an incursion in the area since the early morning hours of Saturday (8 July 2006), and are conducting a wide military operation in the area.

In other incidents, IOF killed Emad Mohammad El-Athamna (26), when an artillery shell was fired at him while he was in the industrial zone in the north of the Gaza Strip. In addition, Jaber El-Shantaf, a 26-year-old resident of Beit Lahya, died of wounds he sustained earlier. He is a member of the Palestinian resistance.

In the early morning hours of Sunday, 9 July 2006, an IOF fighter jet dropped a bomb at the Beit Hanoun bridge, on the southern entrance of the town. The bridge was destroyed, cutting off the town from its surroundings. In addition, the electricity was cut off from the northern part of the Gaza Strip, as a result of the bombardment. In a further air raid, an IOF aircraft dropped a bomb on a training area used by the "Ahmad Abu El-Riesh Battalions", an armed wing of Fatah, in Khan Yunis. No injuries were reported in the training area.

PCHR condemns the killing of Palestinian civilians by IOF, the endangering of Palestinian civilian lives, and the destruction of civilian property through disproportionate use of lethal force. These actions are considered forms of reprisals and collective punishment under article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Centre calls upon the High Contracting Parties of the convention to act immediately to ensure protection for the lives of civilians and to ensure IOF respect for the convention. The Centre calls upon the High Contracting Parties to enforce article 1 of the convention regarding the respect of the convention under all circumstances, and to take the necessary punitive steps against the perpetrators of serious violations.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF offensive continues in the Gaza Strip: Eleven more Palestinians killed; civilian property destroyed; medical and media crews attacked

PCHR strongly condemns the continued killing of Palestinian civilians and destruction of civilian facilities in the Gaza Strip by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), which have been exercising disproportionate and lethal force. PCHR also reiterates its calls for the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War to immediately intervene to protect the Palestinian civilian population and force the occupying power to comply with the Convention. PCHR further calls upon the High Contracting Parties to implement article 1, which calls for respecting and ensuring respect for the Convention in all circumstances.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, on Friday, 7 July 2006, IOF continued their wide scale incursion into the northern Gaza Strip for the second consecutive day. They moved into the north east of Beit Hanoun and razed large areas of Palestinian agricultural land. They also moved into the north of Beit Lahia, occupying the al-Salateen, al-'Atatra and al-Israa' neighborhoods. Moreover, IOF continued to shell civilian populated areas and seized control of dozens of houses, forcing hundreds of Palestinian civilians to leave their homes. PCHR's field worker in the northern Gaza Strip reported that IOF detained at least 5000 people and endangered their lives by using them as human shields.

On Saturday morning, 8 July 2006, IOF redeployed to the edges of less densely populated Palestinian areas. They also moved to the edges of al-Zaytoun and al-Shojaeya neighborhoods in the east of Gaza City. IOF are apparently using an attack-and-withdraw tactic and they may move again into the areas in the north, around which they have currently redeployed. Israeli military sources declared that IOF is using a policy of moving from one area to another in order to cause maximum damage and exhaust Palestinian civilians. Over the past 24 hours, IOF have escalated their attacks on the Gaza Strip. They have killed ten Palestinians, including two children, one of whom is deaf. The body of one of the victims was found after IOF had redeployed outside the al-Israa' area. The victim was mentally disabled. This brings the number of Palestinians killed since the capture of the Israeli soldier on 25 June 2006 to forty, in addition to at least one hundred and thirty injured.

In a further serious development, IOF have attacked media crews. PCHR believes that attacks on media crews aim to prevent them from carrying out their jobs in reporting on crimes committed by IOF.

In addition, this escalation is accompanied by a strict siege imposed on the Gaza Strip since 25 June 2006, which is having serious economic and humanitarian impacts. IOF have continued to close all border crossings of the Gaza Strip. As a result, thousands of Palestinian civilians have been stranded at the Egyptian side of Rafah International Crossing Point, and the flow of foodstuffs, medical supplies and fuels through commercial crossings has been stopped, which may lead to a serious humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Chronology of Developments in the Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours:

· At approximately 12:40 on Friday, 7 July 2006, IOF opened fired at Palestinian civilians in the al-'Atatra area. As a result, Mo'taz Mohammed 'Abdul Qader al-Fairi, from Beit Lahia, was killed by a live bullet to the abdomen. In addition, a number of other civilians were wounded by live bullets and shrapnel from artillery shells fired by IOF. Among these civilians was Hamdi al-Khour, 29, a cameraman from the Turkish Ikhlas news agency, who was seriously wounded by a live bullet to the right forearm, while he was photographing incidents in the al-Salateen area of Beit Lahia. IOF also fired at medical crews several times, which obstructed provision of medical aid to the wounded.

· At approximately 13:50, IOF shot dead Shadi Yousef 'Omar, 16, from the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City, who is deaf. He was hit by a bullet to the chest, while he was walking near the al-Twam intersection, which leads to al-Israa' neighborhood.

· At approximately 15:30, an IOF drone fired a missile at a number of members of the Palestinian resistance, killing two of them and wounding a number of others, one of whom died later. The three resistance men, who were killed, were identified as:

1. 'Abdul Nasser 'Eissa Abu Hwaidi, 42, from Gaza City;

2. 'Abdul Jabbar Muneer al-Husari, 20, from al-Shati refugee camp; and

3. Khalil Ibrahim al-Hajjar, 22.

· At approximately 17:00, IOF positioned in a house continued to fire at Palestinian civilians. As a result, Tha'er Te'ma al-Tanani, 22, was killed by a live bullet to the chest, when he was near a mosque in the al-Israa' neighborhood. A number of other civilians were also wounded.

· At approximately 17:50, IOF fired artillery shells at Palestinian civilians in the al-'Atatra area. As a result, Musbah Fayez al-'Attar, 25, was killed, and a number of other civilians were wounded. IOF did not allow medical crews to evacuate the victim's body for more than one hour. They fired at ambulances and forced them to travel back.

· At approximately 18:30, IOF forced dozens of Palestinian civilians out of their homes and used them as human shields. They also continued to occupy a number of houses, holding their residents in one room.

· At approximately 21:00, medical sources at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City declared that Anwar Isma'il 'Abdul Ghani 'Atallah, 12, from Beit Hanouan, had died from his wounds. The child was hit by a live bullet to the head fired by IOF near Erez industrial zone on Wednesday, 5 July 2006.

· On Saturday morning, 8 July 2006, as IOF redeployed outside the al-Salateen neighborhood, residents of the neighborhood found the body of Jaber Raihan, 42, who was mentally disabled, on agricultural land in the al-'Israa' neighborhood in the west of Beit Lahia. The victim had been hit by a live bullet to the abdomen and apparently bled to death. IOF caused major destruction to civilian property in the area. They partially destroyed at least hundred houses, razed at least 50 dunums of agricultural land, destroyed the fence of a cemetery and damaged many civilian vehicles. They also arrested four Palestinian civilians, including three brothers from the al-'Attar family.

· While IOF were redeploying in Beit Lahia, IOF troops, reinforced by helicopters, moved into areas on the edges of al-Shojaeya and al-Zaytoun neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip. They opened fire indiscriminately. As a result, two members of the Palestinian resistance were killed:

1. Ahmed Isma'il al-Sarsak, 35, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood; and

2. Hani Mohammed Abu al-Qumboz, 25, a member of the Palestinian National Security Forces, from al-Shojaeya neighborhood.

In addition, ten others were wounded, including Mohammed al-Za'noun, 22, a photographer from Ma'an news agency, who was seriously wounded by a live bullet to the abdomen and shrapnel to the face.

· As a result of continued IOF shelling in recent nights, particularly last night, near Sofa crossing and al-Shouka areas, northeast and east of Rafah respectively, UNRWA has provided shelter for thirty nine Palestinian families (365 people) at Rafah Elementary School "F" for Refugees, as a temporary shelter for them, since staying in their homes had become impossible.

PCHR strongly condemns the killing of Palestinian civilians by IOF, which constitutes a form of reprisal and collective punishment, in violation of article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. PCHR further calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to protect the Palestinian civilian population, in accordance with international humanitarian law and human rights law, before the situation deteriorates even further.

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United Nations agencies: Statement by the United Nations Agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territory

The United Nations Humanitarian Agencies working in the occupied Palestinian territory, are alarmed by developments on the ground, which have seen innocent civilians, including children, killed, brought increased misery to hundreds of thousands of people and which will wreak far-reaching harm on Palestinian society. An already alarming situation in Gaza, with poverty rates at nearly eighty per cent and unemployment at nearly forty per cent, is likely to deteriorate rapidly, unless immediate and urgent action is taken.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which works with 980,000 refugees, believes that Gaza is on the brink of a public health disaster. Since the strike on Gaza's only power plant on June 28th, the entire strip is without electricity for between 12 and 18 hours every day. The Coastal Municipality Water Utility is now relying on its own backup generators to operate its 130 water wells and 33 sewage pumping plants. As it only has 5,000 liters of the 18,000 liters of fuel needed, the Water Utility's daily operation has been cut by two thirds, resulting in water shortages and a critical situation at the sewage plants. With restrictions on the humanitarian supply lines there is now a backlog of over 230 containers of food awaiting delivery through the Karni Crossing and the bill for surcharges arising from these delays has reached as staggering half a million dollars.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the public health system is facing an unprecedented crisis. WHO estimates that though hospitals and 50 per cent of Primary Health Care Centres have generators, the current stock of fuel will last for a maximum of two weeks. Those generators which are being used were intended for backup purposes and the malfunctioning of these generators will have grave consequences. According to WHO in the last week, there has been a 160 per cent increase in cases of diarrhea compared with the same period last year. Compounding these problems, WHO estimates that 23 per cent of the essential drug list will be out of stock within one month. WHO is also alarmed by the tightening of restrictions on patients needing to leave Gaza for treatment. Only a handful of extremely critical cases have crossed through Erez since June 25th even though prior to current developments, an average of 25 cancer patients left through Erez every week. According to WHO, the monthly referral rate of emergency patients stands now at between 500 and 700 people.

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that in June 70 % of the Gaza population were already unable to cover their daily food needs without assistance. The escalation of hostilities has made food an increasingly critical issue. Wheat flour mills, food factories and bakeries, reliant on electricity are being forced to reduce their production due to power shortages; furthermore the loss of capacity to preserve perishable food in the Gaza heat is resulting in high food losses in the home. Supplies of sugar, dairy products and milk are running extremely low due to limited commercial supplies from Israel; as a result food prices have increased by 10% in the past 3 weeks. WFP is assisting 160,000 of the most food insecure non refugees in Gaza and is standing by to respond to additional needs as they emerge as part of a coordinated interagency response. WFP believes it is essential that a humanitarian corridor for relief items and personnel remains open to avert a further deterioration in the food security situation at this critical time.

According to the United Nations Childrens' Fund, (UNICEF) children in Gaza are living in an environment of extraordinary violence, insecurity and fear. Electricity and fuel shortages are leading to a reduction in the quantity and quality of health care and water accessible to children. The ongoing fighting is hurting children psychologically. Caregivers say children are showing signs of distress and exhaustion, including a 15%-20% increase in bedwetting, due to shelling and sonic booms. UNICEF-supported counseling teams also report a large increase in the number of requests for assistance. UNICEF says steady supplies of fuel and electricity are needed to store safely and transport vaccine and drugs, and for operating primary health care facilities. UNICEF stressed that children are always most vulnerable to outbreaks of communicable disease brought on by lack of water and sanitation.

The use of force by Israel during its military operations into the Gaza Strip has resulted in an increasing number of deaths and other casualties amongst the Palestinian civilian population, and significant damage to civilian property and infrastructure, says the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Whilst Israel has legitimate security concerns, international humanitarian law requires that the principles of proportionality and distinction between civilians and combatants be respected at all times. The prohibition on targeting civilians is also being violated by Palestinian armed groups, launching missiles from the Gaza Strip into Israel, and must therefore end. The deterioration in the current human rights situation requires that measures are promptly taken to put an end to these actions and to ensure the protection of civilians.

The Office of the Co-Ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is calling for the continuous and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance and fuel supplies. Nahal Oz and Karni must remain open twenty-four hours a day, if humanitarian need is to be adequately met. In addition, OCHA is calling for the opening of the Rafah Crossing, to allow in 250 passengers stranded in Egypt and to allow the passage of emergency health cases that cannot be treated in Gaza. UN operations to deliver assistance are already being hampered by the fighting. But humanitarian assistance is not enough to prevent suffering. With the bombing of the electric plant, the lives of 1.4 million people, almost half of them children, worsened overnight. The Government of Israel should repair the damage done to the power station. Obligations under international humanitarian law, applying to both parties, include preventing harm to civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure and also refraining from collective measures, intimidation and reprisals. Civilians are disproportionately paying the price of this conflict. In the immediate future, OCHA fears that the humanitarian situation could easily deteriorate, with continued Israeli military operations and artillery shelling, which could damage the remaining infrastructure and essential services.

The United Nations humanitarian agencies believe that the facts on the ground speak for themselves and carry their own imperatives to all parties. Unless urgent action is taken, we are facing a humanitarian crisis that will have far reaching consequences for the communities we work in and the institutions we work through.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Four human rights organizations petition the Israeli High Court to allow Palestinian patients to return home

Four Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations submitted a petition to the Israeli High Court on Wednesday, 5 July 2006, to allow the return of Palestinian medical patients, who are stranded at Rafah International Crossing Point to return to their homes. The organizations that submitted the petition are Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights.

The petition was submitted after Israeli authorities prevented 400 Palestinians stuck inside the terminal of Rafah Crossing from returning home to the Gaza Strip, when the crossing was closed on 25 June 2006.

It is noted that nearly 4,000 Palestinians are currently stranded in Egypt, as a result of the closure of the crossing. This number includes 400 who are inside the crossing terminal at the Egyptian side and cannot leave it. This number includes 70 medical patients who were returning from treatment abroad, including those who underwent complicated surgery.

This morning, Friday 7 July 2006, the Israeli court viewed the petition. The presiding judge decided to allocate a session next week, presided by a panel of judges, to review the petition. The judge claimed that the petition was "not urgent". The four organizations submitting the petition filed an appeal against the judge's decision that considered the safe return of 70 medical patients stranded at the border for two weeks as "not urgent". The court will review the appeal today.

In the preliminary reply through the State Attorney, the Court indicated that Israel will allow these patients to return through Kerem Shalom crossing. However, follow up of the issue has refuted this claim, forcing the four human rights organizations to proceed further with the case.

PCHR looks gravely upon the continued closure of the Rafah Crossing and upon the catastrophic consequences of the closure on the Palestinian people, since:

* the crossing is the only point linking the Gaza Strip with the outside world;
* there is no foreseeable reopening date for the crossing in the near future;
* tens of thousands of Palestinians travel in and out of the Strip for holidays during the summer. The number of travelers prevented from returning home will increase significantly over the coming days and weeks; and
* All other crossings linking the Gaza Strip with Israel are closed.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Bloody day of violence: 24 Palestinians killed by Israeli Occupation Forces in the Gaza Strip and 2 killed in the West Bank, 115 others injured

PCHR strongly condemns the continued killing of Palestinians by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) and the disproportionate use of force in the Gaza Strip. The Centre points to the fact that IOF are not respecting the principles of necessity and proportionality, when employing their superior war machine against Palestinian resistance fighters not involved in combat activity in civilian areas. These actions are causing high numbers of civilian casualties, as well as damaging civilian property and infrastructure. PCHR reminds the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, of its previous demands for them to act immediately in order to protect the lives of civilians and ensure IOF compliance with the convention. The Centre calls upon the High Contracting Parties to enact article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which ensures the respect of the convention under all circumstances. The Centre confirms its call to these parties to take the necessary punitive steps and impose sanctions on these committing serious violations of the convention.

PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that the past day has witnessed an IOF escalation unprecedented since the implementation of the disengagement plan nearly ten months ago. A total of twenty-six Palestinians were killed over a period of twenty-six hours: twenty-four in the Gaza Strip and two in the West Bank. This brings the number of Palestinians killed to thirty-six, since the capturing of the Israeli soldier on 25 June 2006. In addition, one hundred and fifteen Palestinians have been injured, most of them civilians. Ninety-seven were injured in the Gaza Strip and eighteen in the West Bank. There were thirty-four serious injuries, including five who are now in intensive care units. Thirty-seven women and children were among the injured. IOF are using the imprisonment of the soldier as a pretext for their attack on the Gaza Strip, destroying its infrastructure and reoccupying parts of its land.

Below is a chronology of the most notable events in the Gaza Strip:

- At approximately 03:30 on Thursday, 6 July 2006, IOF helicopters hit members of a group from the Izzedeen El-Qassam Battalions, the armed wing of Hamas, near the Khozondar Gas Station, west of Jabalia. One member of the group was killed: Abdallah Mohammad Mohammad Zommar (Salha), a 24-year-old resident of the El-Karama area in Gaza City.

- At approximately 04:00, IOF supported by dozens of tanks, bulldozers, and F16s moved into the Gaza Strip towards the area northwest of Beit Lahya. The advancing forces fired machine guns, artillery shells and tank shells. At approximately 11:00 IOF hit Mohammad Ahmad El-Attar (20) with a bullet to the chest, killing him instantly. A number of Palestinians were injured by shrapnel and heavy machine gun fire. Eyewitnesses indicated that El-Attar was killed in front of his house.

- At approximately 10:50, IOF supported by doens of tanks, bulldozers, and F16s moved 700 meters into the El-Farahin area of Greater Abasan, east of Khan Yunis. They fired weapons heavily and indiscriminately, and started to raze agricultural land and greenhouses. Palestinian fighters arrived and attempted to resist the incursion. At approximately 13:00, an IOF helicopter fired a rocket at the resistance fighters in an agricultural field in the area. Two were killed and five were injured, one seriously. The two that were killed were: Mohammad Sabri Shehda Abu Tir (20) and Mohammad Suliman Ali El-Najjar (24).

- At approximately 15:30, IOF fired a tank shell and a rocket from a plane at a group of resistance fighters in the Isra' area of Beit Lahya. Eight were killed. troops fired at another group and killed three others and injured thirty-two, seven of them seriously. On the morning of Friday, 7 July 2006, medical sources announced that two of the injured had died. The Palestinians killed were: Mohammad Anwar Tafish (23), Ahmad Abdallah El-Khaldi (20), Sa'ed Ferwana (24), Mohammad Yousef Faza' (27), Fadi Jihad El-Obeid (21), Ismail Sa'id Abu Matar (18), Abdel Rahman Hani El-najjar (22), Ibrahim Mohammad Salama Abu Rashid (18), Mohammad Maher Rabah Shaheen (19), Mohammad Jamal El-Dreimli (20), Mohammad Sarhan El-Dreimli (20), Na'el Jaber Halawa (25), and Rif'at Jamal Naser (23).

- At approximately 21:10, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a group of resistance fighters near El-Salatin Square in Beit Lahya. Three were killed instantly; and seven others were seriously injured. The dead men were: Adham El-Deiri (28), Adel Mohammad El-Atla (25), and Shadi Hamed El-Sakani (30). On the morning of Friday, 7 July 2006, medical sources announced that one of the injured had died: Ahmad Fuad Abu Askar (19).

- At approximately 22:40, an IOF plane fired at a group of resistance fighters near Bier El-Na'ja area, east of the El-Salatin area. One of the men was killed instantly: Basem Awni Riehan (22) from Jabalia. Two others were seriously injured.

- Shortly after the last incident, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a resistance fighter in the El-Salatin area, killing him instantly. The dead man was Khaled Farah Naser (22).

- At approximately 06:00 on Friday, 7 July 2006, an IOF plane fired a rocket at a Palestinian car in the El-Salatin area of Beit Lahya. Five members of the Izzedeen El-Qassam Battalions were in the car, which was hit directly by the rocket. Wa'el Hisham Naser, a 19-year-old resident of Jabalia El-Nazla, was killed and the other four men were seriously injured.

In the West Bank, IOF killed a child and injured eighteen others in the city of Jenin. Three of the injured are in a serious condition. The casualties were caused during a failed extra-judicial execution attempt. On Friday, 7 July 2006, another Palestinian was killed in Askar refugee camp, east of Nablus.

PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 20:30 on Thursday, 6 July 2006, an undercover IOF unit infiltrated Jenin refugee camp in two cars with Palestinian license plates. The cars stopped in front of the Popular Service Committee in the camp, near Dr. Khalil Suliman Hospital. A house of mourning for Fida' Qandil had been set up in the committee's premises. The undercover unit got out of the car and opened fire indiscriminately at the house of mourning. Zakaria El-Zubeidi, a leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (an armed wing of Fatah), and Mahmoud El-Sa'adi, an activist in the Al-Quds Battalions (the armed wing of Islamic Jihad) were in the house of mourning. Both managed to get away. Eighteen Palestinians were injured, three of them seriously. Immediately afterwards, nearly thirty IOF vehicles supported by a helicopter moved into Jenin and the refugee camp to ensure the withdrawal of the undercover unit. IOF detained five of the injured. At approximately 22:20, Israeli media outlets announced that one of the kidnapped Palestinians had died. 40 minutes later, the body was handed to a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance. The dead Palestinian was identified as Ahmad Eid Ibrahim Naghnagheya (16).

At approximately 06:00 on Friday, 7 July 2006, an IOF troop contingent moved into the old Askar refugee camp, east of Nablus. A number of Palestinian resistance fighters confronted the advancing forces. One of them was hit by bullets to the upper body that killed him instantly. The dead Palestinian was Tamer Fathi Abdel Fattah Qandil (21).

PCHR condemns the killings perpetrated by IOF against Palestinian civilians and the disregard of necessity and proportionality in the use of force against Palestinian resistance fighters. These actions are considered reprisals and are a form of collective punishment under article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. PCHR calls upon the international community to ensure protection for Palestinian civilians in accordance with International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.

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Al Haq and Al Mezan: Israeli attacks on educational institutions in the Gaza Strip violate international law

At around 1.00 am on Tuesday, 4 July 2006, an Israeli Apache helicopter fired one missile at the Islamic University in Gaza City. As a result of the attack, the target, a student council office, caught fire and was completely destroyed. At approximately 1:50 am on Wednesday, 5 July 2006, an Israeli aircraft dropped a bomb on the Dar al-Arqam School in al-Tuffah neighbourhood of Gaza City, destroying a number of classrooms. These attacks came less than a week after the IAF fired a missile at the Islamic University, hitting a football field.

Article 56 of the Hague Regulations, which reflect customary international law, states that institutions dedicated to education, "even when State property, shall be treated as private property" and that, "All seizure of, destruction or wilful damage done to institutions of this character is forbidden." Both the Islamic University and the Dar al-Arqam School are institutions dedicated to education. Therefore, the wilful damage done to them was in clear violation of international humanitarian law.

Furthermore, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, customary international law establishes that,

"The parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives. Attacks may only be directed against military objectives. Attacks must not be directed against civilian objects."

Educational establishments are civilian objects, and can only be military objectives for the period when they provide an effective contribution to military action. In case of doubt, they shall be presumed to be civilian objects. Tuesday's attack on the university was justified by an Israeli military spokesperson by saying it was a "compound used by terror groups for instructing and directing terrorists." Wednesday's attack was similarly justified by saying the school was used in "planning terror attacks against Israel." However, Al Mezan field information indicates that there were no people in the buildings during the attacks, let alone anyone engaged in military activities. As the buildings were not providing an effective contribution to military action at the time of the attacks, they were civilian objects and targeting them was illegal.

These attacks were therefore manifestly illegal under international humanitarian law and may amount to grave breaches under the Fourth Geneva Convention which, in Article 147, prohibits the "extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly."

The recent attacks on educational institutions in the Gaza Strip are a worrying development in the trend of Israeli attacks targeting civilian infrastructure. Roni Bar-On, Israeli Interior Minister, has been reported as stating, "We will strike and will continue to strike at (Hamas') institutions." Any such future attacks on civilian objects would be illegal under international humanitarian law. Al-Haq and Al Mezan therefore call upon the international community to condemn this, and all other, illegal targeting of civilian infrastructure; and to take active measures to ensure that Israeli authorities respect and comply with their obligations under international law.

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Human Rights Watch: Human Rights Council Special Session on the Occupied Palestinian Territories

(Geneva, July 6, 2006) - This first special session of the Human Rights Council provides an important opportunity to address the current humanitarian and security crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), especially in Gaza, where Israeli military actions have led to the killing of Palestinian civilians, as well as periodic shortages of food, fuel, electricity, water and medicine, and Palestinian armed groups have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law. The council should address abuses by both sides to the conflict. In addition, Human Rights Watch hopes that this will be the first of many special sessions of the council, and that the council will demonstrate its political objectivity by providing an equally timely response to the many other serious and deteriorating human rights situations around the world.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in May and June 2006, 87 Palestinians were killed in Gaza and almost 300 injured, mostly from Israeli fire but also due to clashes between Palestinian armed groups and individuals. Many of those killed in June were Palestinian civilians who died during Israeli air force "targeted killings," which either missed their targets entirely or caused significant civilian casualties. During this period, Palestinian groups have indiscriminately fired numerous Qassam rockets at Israeli towns.

Gaza's population of 1.5 million is currently facing significant hardships due to the Israeli blockade on Gaza's few crossing points, Israel's destruction of Gaza's only electric plant and Israel's withholding of Palestinian tax revenues, coupled with international donor aid cuts after the swearing-in of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority in March 2006. As a result, for the fifth month in a row, the Palestinian Authority has been unable to pay most salaries to its approximately 160,000 civil servants.

Even though Israel unilaterally withdrew its troops and settlements from Gaza in 2005, it continues to have obligations as an occupying power in Gaza under the Fourth Geneva Convention because of its almost complete control over Gaza's borders, sea and air space, tax revenue, utilities, population registry, and the internal economy of Gaza. At a minimum, Israel continues to be responsible for the basic welfare of the Palestinian population in Gaza.

Since June 25, Palestinian armed groups have abducted and killed an Israeli settler in the West Bank and are currently holding Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit hostage, whom they have offered to release in exchange for some of the Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. A hostage is a person held in the power of an adversary in order to obtain specific actions, such as the release of prisoners, from the other party to the conflict. Holding persons as hostages and the summary execution of anyone held captive are war crimes.

Since the capture of Corporal Shalit, the Israeli army has re-entered parts of the Gaza Strip. The air force has destroyed government buildings, bridges and the only domestic electricity plant in Gaza, which is essential to power the water system, sewage treatment and medical services in Gaza; the laws of war prohibit attacks on "objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population." Israeli forces have also detained elected members of the Palestinian government and legislature, a step which has undermined the ability of the Palestinian Authority to function.

As well as actual bombing raids, Israeli military airplanes have conducted nightly sonic booming raids over Gaza, apparently with the aim of making the civilian population fearful that actual bombing is under way. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits "measures of intimidation" against the civilian population.

Since late 2005, Palestinian armed groups have indiscriminately fired hundreds of Qassam rockets into Israel, in violation of the laws of war, seriously injuring several Israeli civilians, damaging civilian infrastructure and causing fear among the civilian population living near the Gaza border. On July 4, a Qassam rocket damaged a high school, empty at the time, in Ashkelon in southern Israel. Many of these rockets were launched near civilian areas, placing Palestinian civilians at risk in the event of an Israeli response. Parties to the conflict must, to the extent feasible, avoid locating military objects within or near densely populated areas.

In a stated bid to stop the Qassams, Israel has fired more than 8,000 artillery shells into northern Gaza since late 2005, including around 5,000 in a one-week period. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, this shelling has killed 47 Palestinians, both members of armed groups and civilians, including 11 children and five women, and has injured 192 others. The shelling has also displaced residents of northern Gaza and severely interrupted their daily lives. Under the laws of war, attacks are indiscriminate if they are not directed at a specific military objective and attacks against military targets must not cause harm to the civilian population that is disproportionate to the expected military gain. All feasible precautions must be taken to avoid harm to civilians or civilian loss of life. According to a preliminary Human Rights Watch field investigation, the pattern of Israeli artillery fire into northern Gaza is indiscriminate because, given the type of weapon and location of the attacks, Israel has failed to distinguish between combatant and civilian.

Human Rights Watch calls for an immediate, effective and independent investigation, which may comprise a number of the relevant U.N. Special Rapporteurs, as well as additional international humanitarian law, military, ballistic and forensic experts, to carry out an on-site investigation into Israel's military actions in Gaza, as well as Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. All parties should allow the investigative team full access to all necessary locations, evidence and individuals.

Human Rights Watch also calls on Israeli security forces and Palestinian armed groups to respect international humanitarian law and human rights principles. As an occupying power in Gaza, Israel remains responsible for the basic welfare of the Palestinian population in Gaza, in particular the health, educational and humanitarian needs of the population, to the extent these are affected by Israeli restrictions. Israel must ensure that it does not fire indiscriminately in civilian areas, that attacks on military objects do not cause disproportionate civilian harm, and that it does not target objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. In addition, Israel should cease using aircraft intending to cause fear among the population by creating sonic booms over the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Palestinian armed groups should ensure Corporal Shalit's well being and stop making demands as a condition for his release, avoid locating military objects in densely populated areas, and should stop firing inherently indiscriminate Qassam rockets into Israel.

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Human Rights Watch: U.N.: New rights council must widen focus

An urgent meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council shed much needed light on the current crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), but the council could have contributed more if it had addressed the roles of all parties to the conflict, Human Rights Watch said today. The special session on the Occupied Palestinian Territories concluded today.

"The council was right to bring attention to the desperate situation in Gaza, and to call on Israel to take immediate steps to end the crisis," said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. "But it failed to address acts of violence by Palestinian armed groups or to recognize that Palestinian authorities can help to resolve the situation."

The special session was requested by Tunisia, chair of the Arab group, on behalf of 21 HRC members. One advantage the new council has over its predecessor is that such a session can be requested by one-third of its 47 members, making the council more able to respond quickly to urgent human rights violations.

"The Human Rights Council should hold additional special sessions on other pressing situations, such as Darfur," Hicks said. "The council should bring the same vigor to its consideration of other urgent human rights situations as it has to the Gaza crisis."

The special session concluded with the adoption of a resolution on the Occupied Palestinian Territories by a vote of 29 in favor and 11 against, with five abstentions.

The resolution appropriately draws attention to the impact of the current crisis on Palestinians, and to human rights abuses and humanitarian law violations relating to Israeli military operations. Since June 25, the Israeli air force has destroyed government buildings, bridges and the only domestic electricity plant in Gaza. Israeli aircraft have caused sonic booms over Gaza on a nearly nightly basis, a practice which contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention's prohibition on "measures of intimidation" against the civilian population. Following an amendment to broaden the draft resolution, the final text also urges all parties to respect international humanitarian law by refraining from violence against civilians and to treat detained combatants and civilians in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

The resolution fails, however, to condemn recent actions by Palestinian armed groups, which include the indiscriminate firing of Qassam rockets into Israel, the murder of an Israeli settler in the West Bank, and the holding of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit as a hostage. This omission is significant regardless of the relative weight of the violations by the parties, especially where attacks by one side are used to justify violations by the other. The new Human Rights Council's credibility and thus its effectiveness will depend on its ability to address complex human rights situations objectively and even-handedly.

The resolution does request that the human rights expert appointed by the council's predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, undertake an urgent fact-finding mission to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

"An independent investigation of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is an important step," said Hicks. "The investigation should examine the conduct of all parties and focus on whether force has been used without proper care to avoid harming civilians."

Human Rights Watch also called upon Israeli and Palestinian authorities to cooperate fully with this investigation.

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Amnesty International: First special session of the UN Human Rights Council: Situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

(Geneva) -- As the UN Human Rights Council (the Council) convenes in its first ever Special Session to consider the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Amnesty International today reiterated its call on the UN to assemble and deploy a team of authoritative international experts to Israel and the Occupied Territories, with a mandate to carry out an independent and thorough investigation into the deteriorating human rights situation in the Gaza Strip (see http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE150542006). Such experts should investigate the growing number of killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces and the deliberate and disproportionate attacks by Israeli forces against civilian property and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, as well as the launching of 'qassam' rockets by Palestinian armed groups from the Gaza Strip into nearby areas in Israel.

Such an investigation should be adequately resourced. It should be conducted by impartial investigators with the necessary expertise in conducting criminal and forensic investigations. It should include individuals who are expert in the fields of forensics, ballistics, international human rights and humanitarian law. All parties -- Israeli and Palestinian -- should agree to cooperate fully and grant the experts unimpeded access to people, places and documents.

Amnesty International believes that the gravity of the current situation requires a comprehensive approach whereby all aspects of the current crisis, including the factors contributing to it, are investigated. The aims should be to establish the respective responsibilities of all concerned parties and to identify concrete steps that should be taken by each party in order to ensure the protection of the civilian population and to provide effective and accessible remedies for the abuses the parties have committed.

After a year that saw a marked reduction in the level of killings by both sides, the situation has sharply deteriorated in recent months. Since the beginning of this year Israeli forces have killed some 150 Palestinians -- many of them unarmed -- including more than 25 children. To date none of these cases have been adequately investigated.

In recent months the Israeli army has launched thousands of artillery shells and scores of air strikes against densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip, killing dozens of Palestinians, including several women and children, and injuring many others.

In the same period Palestinian armed groups have launched indiscriminately hundreds of 'qassam' rockets at Israel, injuring several civilians.

Most recently, following the abduction by Palestinian armed groups of an Israeli soldier who continues to be held hostage, Israeli forces have launched repeated and deliberate air strikes against electricity and water supply systems, roads and other civilian infrastructure, educational and other public institutions and private property in the Gaza Strip. The destruction is having serious humanitarian consequences for the Palestinian population, whose situation had already worsened due to the impact of the sanctions imposed after Hamas won a majority in January's Palestinian elections.

Both sides claim that their respective attacks are in response to attacks by the other side, disregarding the prohibition under international law of reprisals, the deliberate targeting of civilians, and disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks that endanger civilian lives.

As the tension between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and armed groups continues to mount, there is growing concern for the safety of the civilian population. Amnesty International urges the Council to address the situation in a comprehensive and constructive manner. The Council should formulate concrete proposals to ensure effective protection of the human rights of all -- Palestinians and Israelis -- caught up in the current crisis.

Under General Assembly resolution 60/251, the Human Rights Council has a clear and unambiguous mandate to address individual human rights situations, including gross and systematic violations, and to respond promptly to human rights emergencies. The situation now before the Council clearly fits these criteria.

Amnesty International calls on all members of the Council to rise to the challenge by taking concrete action so as to make a real difference to those people caught in the current crisis. The Council should avoid perpetuating the situation that prevailed year after year in the Commission on Human Rights, where the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was among the most talked about but least acted on. Amnesty International considers that the deployment of international experts to investigate the deteriorating human rights situation in the Gaza strip would be an important concrete step.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces destroy the Ministry of Interior building and a school in further aerial attacks on the Gaza Strip

The international community is required to fulfill its legal and moral obligations to immediately stop Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilian property, and to enforce article 1 of the Fourth Geneva Convention

PCHR strongly condemns the targeting of the Palestinian Interior Ministry building by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for the second time this week. In addition, the Centre condemns the military escalation against civilian property and installations, including educational and governmental institutions that are essential to the daily lives of the civilian population. The Centre warns against the continued targeting of these institutions, which will lead to a complete collapse of basic services in the sectors of health, sewage disposal, transportation, education and social services. The Centre calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to fulfill their duty and ensure the protection of civilians and their property in accordance with articles 33 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibit reprisals against protected persons and their property.

PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 01:45 on Wednesday, 5 July 2006, IOF fighter jets dropped a bomb on the main office building of the Ministry of Interior and National Security in the densely-populated Tal El-Hawa area of Gaza City. The targeted building consisted of five stories. The bomb hit three floors and resulted in a large fire in the whole building. The structure was heavily damaged and may collapse completely as a result. Extensive damage was also caused to surrounding homes. Two civilians were injured in the attack.

It is noted that this is the second air raid against the Ministry over the past few days. IOF planes bombarded the same building on Thursday, 29 June 2006, and hit the office of the Minister of Interior, Said Siam, located in the fifth story of the building. The office was destroyed.

Shortly after targeting the Ministry of Interior, IOF planes dropped another bomb on Dar Al-Arqam School in the densely-populated El-Tuffah area of Gaza City. A number of structures and classrooms were destroyed. No injuries were reported.

It is noted that the school provides free education to thousands of children from the families of those injured and killed during the conflict, as well as the families of prisoners. This raid has been the third of its kind carried out against the school since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. In each raid, large parts of the school were destroyed.

PCHR condemns the targeting of civilian property, including governmental buildings, and views these acts as war crimes as defined by International Law and International Humanitarian Law. These acts are considered part of a policy of collective punishment imposed by IOF on Palestinian civilians and are part of wider plans to bring about the downfall of the Palestinian government. In light of this situation, the Centre reiterates its call to the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva convention to enforce article 1 of the convention relating to ensuring respect of the convention in all circumstances. The Centre calls upon these Parties to take necessary steps to impose sanctions on the perpetrators of serious violations of the convention. PCHR reminds of the Hague Regulations of 1907 that prohibits these actions against civilians and their property.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) bombard the Islamic University of Gaza for the second time in one week

PCHR condemns IOF military operations in the Gaza Strip and the targeting of infrastructure and civilian organizations, most notably educational institutions. The Centre calls upon governments, non-governmental organizations, and UN organizations, especially UNESCO, to work towards the immediate cessation of IOF war crimes against educational institutions in the Gaza Strip.

PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 01:15 on Tuesday, 4 July 2006, an IOF helicopter gunship fired a rocket at a building in the Islamic University campus in Gaza. The rocket targeted a student council office, destroying it completely. IOF had previously targeted the university building with another rocket on 29 June 2006. However, the rocket fell in the university's soccer field without causing injury or damage.

In addition, Atfaluna institution for children with hearing disabilities suffered damage as result of sonic booms, caused by Israeli F-16s flying at low altitude and breaking the sound barrier, over Gaza city last Tuesday and Wednesday. These caused extensive damage to the institution's vocational training workshops. A number of shelves and clay productions were destroyed, as well as training equipment and tools. Two deaf students were injured by glass debris caused by one sonic boom raid.

It is noted that dozens of Palestinian educational institutions, including universities and schools, have suffered extensive damage since the start of Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. On 25 September 2005, IOF fighter jets dropped two bombs on Dar Al-Aqram School. The school is located in the densely-populated El-Tuffah area of Gaza City and more than 1200 pupils study there. The air raid destroyed the three-storey school administration building completely. In addition, a number of study rooms were partially destroyed and some nearby houses and installations were also damaged. The raid also injured twenty-three Palestinians, including seven children.

PCHR calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to intervene immediately to put an end to IOF war crimes against civilian installations and civilians in the Gaza Strip. The Centre calls for:

- An immediate cessation to the targeting of educational institutions, and an end to violations of the right to education, ensuring the protection of educational institutions and prohibiting attacks on them;

- Respecting the rights of vulnerable groups, ensuring protection for rehabilitation organizations for the disabled, and respecting their right to education and rehabilitation; and

- A boycott of the Israeli government by international academic institutions in order to pressure it to stop attacking educational institutions.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Dozens of medical patients and hundreds of residents suffering harsh humanitarian conditions due to the closure of Rafah international crossing point

PCHR calls upon the international community, represented by governments and international governmental and nongovernmental organizations, to immediately intervene and force Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to respect International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law. The Centre requests that these parties pressure IOF to put an end to the plight of more than 3,000 Palestinians (including dozens of medical patients), who are currently stranded on the Egyptian side of Rafah International Crossing. In addition, hundreds of travelers trying to enter Gaza in order to visit relatives have been forced to stay in Egyptian cities due to the IOF closure of Rafah Crossing since Sunday, 25 June 2006. PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to immediately act ensure the safe return of these Palestinians, who had left the Gaza Strip before the closure, to their homes.

According to information gathered by PCHR, the number of Palestinians stuck in Egypt is more than 3,000. Most of them have been forced to stay in different cities including Cairo, El-Arish and the town of Rafah on the Egyptian side of the border. These Palestinians had traveled to Egypt or through Egypt to other destinations for the purposes of medical treatment, education, visiting relatives or work. In addition, scores of expatriate Palestinian families living in the Gulf States, who had traveled to Rafah Crossing to spend the summer in Gaza, were forced to return to the Gulf.

Furthermore, more than 400 Palestinians, mostly medical patients, are stuck in the waiting lounge at the Egyptian side of Rafah Crossing. They are enduring extremely difficult conditions due to the hot weather and lack of adequate services and facilities, especially for medical patients. These patients were returning to Gaza after undergoing medical treatment abroad, including surgery. Some of the patients have undergone heart surgery, ophthalmic surgery or orthopedic surgery. Such patients require special facilities that are not available at the border.

Travelers stuck at the border are also suffering from depleted financial resources and the inability to cope with the expense of being stuck outside longer than expected. They rely on assistance provided by the Egyptian Red Cross. They are deprived of services required to meet their basic needs, especially for women, children and the elderly. Furthermore, they are being forcibly separated from their families in the Gaza Strip.

PCHR calls upon the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to pressure IOF to relieve the humanitarian suffering of these Gaza Strip residents. Action should be taken to ensure that IOF reopen Rafah International Crossing Point in order to facilitate the return of these people to their homes, families, and medical facilities. The complete closure and restriction of movement is a violation of International Humanitarian Law. PCHR calls upon the international community and humanitarian organizations to ensure that the Israeli government fulfills its duties under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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B'Tselem: Sonic booms constitute collective punishment

During its operation in the Gaza Strip following the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, Israeli air force jets have carried out low-altitude sorties over the Gaza Strip in which they intentionally cause powerful sonic booms. The air force has used sonic booms a number of times since the completion of the Gaza disengagement plan. In the present operation, the air force has caused three or four sonic-boom sorties a night.

The sole purpose of these sorties is to prevent the residents from sleeping and to create an ongoing sense of fear and anxiety. Regarding the sonic booms, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that, "thousands of residents in southern Israel live in fear and discomfort, so I gave instructions that nobody will sleep at night in the meantime in Gaza ." The clear intention of the practice is to pressure the Palestinian Authority and the armed Palestinian organizations by harming the entire civilian population.

Children, in particular, suffer from the sonic booms. In the past, the Gaza Community Mental Health Center reported that the supersonic sorties caused fear among many children, which led to a loss of concentration, loss of appetite, bedwetting, and other disorders. The Center also reported that sonic booms caused headaches, stomach aches, shortness of breath, and other physical effects that appeared among both children and adults. Sonic booms also cause property damage, primarily shattered windows.

The use of sonic booms flagrantly breaches a number of provisions of international humanitarian law. The most significant provision is the prohibition on collective punishment. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is intended to protect civilians in time of war, categorically states that "Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited." The article also states that, "Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited." Air force supersonic sorties also breach the principle of distinction, a central pillar of humanitarian law, which forbids the warring sides to direct their attacks against civilians.

In November 2005 , Physicians for Human Rights- Israel and the Gaza Community Mental Health Center appealed to the Israeli H igh C ourt of J ustice against the use of sonic booms. The appeal is still pending. PHR-Israel plans to file an additional appeal on the topic in the coming days.

B'Tselem calls for an immediate halt to the use of the sonic booms.

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Physicians for Human Rights-Israel: Stop collective punishment in Gaza

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel decries the collective punishment that Israel is inflicting on the civilian punishment in the Gaza Strip - this kind of punishment is forbidden by International Law and by all reasonable moral standards.

Over the past week, since the solider Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian organizations, Israel has been attacking the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, using means that are in direct violation of international conventions that call to avoid indiscriminate harm to civilians. Moreover, Israel is committed under international law to actively protecting residents of the Gaza Strip from implications of the war while clearly separating civilians and those involved in the fighting.

In the Gaza Strip there is an intermittent food shortage which is used to exert forbidden pressure on the Palestinian civilian population. The Geneva Conventions clearly state that "…in no event shall actions against these objects be taken which may be expected to leave the civilian population with such inadequate food or water as to cause its starvation or force its movement."(art.54(3)(b)).

Additionally, the power stations in Gaza were harmed by Israeli attacks resulting in an acute shortage in electricity. One of the consequences of this action is that the water pumps, which use electricity, are only partially operational, creating a shortage of drinkable water.

Israel continues to carry out fly-bys with resulting super-sonic booms over the Gaza Strip. These actions lead to psychological torture which causes damage in children whose lives have turned into a continual nightmare consisting of panic attacks, sleep disturbances, bedwetting and other detrimental effects.

Today, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel is filing an appeal with the Israeli High Court for a temporary order to stop the fly-bys over the strip due to the fact that they are in violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Israel is a signatory. The Conventions states "In accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts, States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict" (article 38).

The attacks on the Gaza Strip are redolent of revenge and an instilment of fear in the civilian population, both of which are clearly forbidden.

Section 50 of the Hague Convention forbids collective punishment of a civilian population in response to actions perpetrated by individual members of that population.

"Civilian objects shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals" (Geneva Conventions, Protocol 1, art.52(1)).

Physicians for Human Rights calls on Israel to stop these actions immediately and allowed he return of normal life for the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: PCHR warns of a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Adopt a Policy of Collective Punishment against Palestinian Civilians

The International Community, including the High Contracting Parties of the Geneva Conventions and international, governmental and non-governmental humanitarian organizations, are called on to prevent a further deterioration in the humanitarian conditions for civilians in the Gaza Strip. They are asked to pressure IOF to immediately open border crossings and allow the free flow of food, medicine and fuel to the population before a humanitarian and environmental crisis erupts.

PCHR calls upon all governments and countries in the international community, especially the High Contracting Parties of the Geneva Conventions, United Nations bodies, and all international humanitarian organizations to intervene and take immediate steps to force IOF to allow the flow of basic goods, fuel, food, and medical supplies into the Gaza Strip. The Centre warns the international community of the consequences of the collective punishment imposed by IOF on the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, especially the destruction of the electricity power station, prevention of the import of fuel to run basic services (such as sewage disposal facilities, drinking water supplies, hospitals, clinics, etc.). A food and health crisis now threatens more than 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

PCHR is monitoring the acute deterioration in the economic and social situation, as a result of the complete closure imposed by IOF on the Gaza Strip. The Centre is concerned that there will be further deterioration in the food and health conditions of the civilian population, as more than 200,000 families have now lost their primary source of electricity, following the IOF bombardment of the Gaza power plant on 27 June 2006. The humanitarian situation is complicated further by the depletion of fuel supplies in the Gaza Strip. As a result, dozens of organizations providing basic services may be forced to suspend provision of these services to the population; hundreds of transportation vehicles can no longer be run; and many drinking water sources have stopped functioning. The situation threatens public health, particularly if sewage disposal facilities are forced to stop due to the lack of fuel.

PCHR's information indicates that on 25 June 2006, IOF tightened the aerial, sea and land closure of the Gaza Strip, closing all border crossings. IOF have prevented the free flow of fuel, food and medical supplies since. In addition, IOF prevented civilians from leaving the Gaza Strip, including those in need of medical treatment abroad. Civilians were also prevented from returning to the Strip, including those who were abroad for medical treatment. As a result, they are now stuck on the Egyptian side of the border in Rafah, prevented from passing through Rafah International Crossing Point, the only outlet to and from the outside world. According to the Ministry of Health, more than 100,000 Palestinian medical patients are being deprived of treatment outside the Strip, whether in the West Bank, Israel, or other places. Furthermore, the destruction of the Gaza power plant has increased dependence on fuel to run essential services, especially health and environmental services.

The Gaza Strip was suffering from a lack gas and fuel even before the latest tightening of the closure. The Gaza Strip's needs are estimated at 150-200 tons of gas daily. 12 million tons of kerosene and 5 million tons of benzene are needed annually. In addition, 10 million tons of kerosene were needed to run the Gaza power station, when it was running normally prior to the Israeli air strike. Fuel stations indicate that the Israeli company Dor started to reduce the supply of gas and fuel to the OPT on 5 April 2006 to only 25% of the daily demand, under the pretext of a Palestinian debt owed to the company. On 15 April 2006, fuel and gas stations in the Strip stopped providing fuel after their reserves ran out. At the end of May 2006, the company resumed supplying the Strip with 25% of the demand. On 25 June 2006, the company completely stopped the supply. As a result, most fuel stations in the southern Gaza Strip have now stopped working. Since the stoppage, the fuel reserve has also run out in private fuel stations.

PCHR has learned that local governmental agencies and municipalities are now suffering as a result of the lack of kerosene to run sewage disposal facilities. In addition, hospitals and clinics are suffering from the lack of fuel needed to run ambulances and provide services.

PCHR calls upon the international community and international governmental and non-governmental humanitarian organizations to immediately intervene and pressure IOF to allow the free import of fuel, gas, medicine and food to the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. This comes in line with enforcing International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law in the area. In addition, the Centre reminds the contracting parties to various international law conventions, including Israeli occupation authorities, of their obligations, especially:

- Commitment to respect the Fourth Geneva Convention under all circumstances, as stipulated by article 1 of the Convention;

- Commitment to respect the first protocol additional to the Fourth Geneva Convention, as stipulated in article 1 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1), adopted on 8 June 1977.

- In accordance with article 54 of the Protocol 1, the High Contracting Parties are obliged to ensure the respect of the following obligations:

o Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.

o It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.

- In accordance with article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the High Contracting Parties should guarantee that:

o No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

o Pillage is prohibited.

o Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

- According to article 54 of the 4th Geneva Convention, the High Contracting Parties should

o To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population; it should, in particular, bring in the necessary foodstuffs, medical stores and other articles if the resources of the occupied territory are inadequate.

o The Occupying Power may not requisition foodstuffs, articles or medical supplies available in the occupied territory.

- Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. (Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) intensify aggression in the Gaza Strip and continue reprisals against Palestinian civilians

For the fourth consecutive day, IOF have continued to conduct extensive air raids on different parts of the Gaza Strip. These raids have targeted both civilian and government property and installations, in an apparent attempt to topple the leadership of the Palestinian government. In addition, eight Cabinet Ministers, more than twenty Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members, and a number of Hamas leaders in the West Bank are still being detained, after they were taken from their places of residence last Thursday. The latest attacks targeted the office of Prime Minister Ismail Haniya in Gaza City, in the early hours of this morning, 2 July 2006. The office was destroyed, underlining Israeli threats to target Haniya personally and Israeli statements outlining that nobody in the Palestinian leadership will be immune.

It is noted that IOF aircraft have conducted more than fifty air raids over the past 100 hours. IOF aircraft have also conducted dozens of mock air raids, breaking the sound barrier and causing sonic booms over civilian population centers. In addition to the air raids and artillery bombardment, IOF have conducted a number of large scale incursions into the Strip. IOF have razed farmland, raided houses and arrested people in areas controlled by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). This aggression is being perpetrated under the very tight closure of the Gaza Strip, which isolating it from the outside world. Furthermore, IOF continue to target infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, threatening to cause a humanitarian and economic catastrophe if this aggression persists.

PCHR's investigations indicate that three Palestinians have been killed over the past four days. Two were killed during air raids on the Gaza Strip. The latest victim was Shaban Abdel Mon'im Hannoun (33) from Jabalia town. He was killed when IOF helicopter gunships targeted an installation near the home of a Hamas PLC member in the area. In addition, nearly thirty civilians have been injured so far in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including twelve children. The air raids have also caused extensive damage to civilian installations and houses; training sites for resistance factions; and some governmental buildings. (For additional information regarding some of these crimes, refer to PCHR's press release issued on Friday, 30 June 2006)

On 1 July 2006, IOF conducted two incursions into PNA-controlled areas near Rafah and Khan Yunis. 110 dunums of agricultural land were razed and severe damage was caused to two houses. One Palestinian was detained after he and his family were used as human shields in the town of Greater Abasan, east of Khan Yunis. Another Palestinian from the El-Shouka community was detained. His family was beaten by the special, undercover IOF unit which conducted the operation. A number of personal possessions, including gold jewelry, were also stolen during the operation.

Electricity cuts that have been experienced following the air attack on Gaza's electrical supply plant have had numerous negative effects on the lives of Palestinians. Many commercial and industrial installations have had to ground their operations to a near halt as a result.

PCHR strongly condemns the continued IOF reprisals against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the collective punishment measures currently being taken, including the destruction of civilian property. These are not military targets and their destruction does not further any military objective. In addition, the Centre condemns the targeting of governmental buildings, in an apparent aim to topple the government and eliminate its leadership. In light of this situation, PCHR reiterates its call to the High Contracting Parties of the 4th Geneva Convention to enforce article 1 of the convention, which ensures respect for the convention, and underlines the need to take necessary punitive steps against any party that commits serious violations. PCHR reminds the international community that the Hague Regulations of 1907 prohibit actions against civilian targets, such as the current IOF actions in the Gaza Strip, which constitute a pre-meditated, systematic operation against Palestinian civilians and the Palestinian government.

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Al Haq: Appeal to Palestinian political parties and armed factions

The nature and type of the current concentration of Israeli armed forces along the borders of the Gaza Strip appear to indicate that the Israeli army had made preparations and developed a prior plan to carry out a large-scale military attack on Gaza. The Israeli military operation is not simply a reaction to current events. The Israeli attack will have a grave impact on the life and property of the Palestinian civilian population. Already, the existing blockade of the Gaza Strip has been intensified, leading to increased civilian suffering and more difficult living conditions. The Israeli army has also launched indiscriminate attacks targeting public property, water, electrical, and transport infrastructure, and other vital services.

Affirming once again that Israel is illegally occupying the Palestinian Territories, and emphasizing Palestinians right to resist and confront the occupation as a means of attaining self-determination, in accordance with international resolutions, Al-Haq demands that all members of Palestinian resistance movements act according to the principles of international humanitarian law, which regulate the rights and duties of belligerent parties, in particular:

* Absolutely avoid targeting civilians; military operations must be limited to military targets;
* Respect the right to life of all prisoners, not take reprisals against them, and refrain from torturing or subjecting prisoners to inhuman or degrading treatment;
* Refrain from enlisting children or employing them in military operations;
* Care for the enemys wounded and ill personnel, not take reprisals against them, and respect their right to life;
* Respect medical personnel accompanying enemy forces, refrain from targeting them, and treat them humanely; and
* Refrain from attacking journalists.

Al-Haq also wishes to remind Palestinian resistance movements that they may not resort to reciprocity as a legal justification for violating the rules and provisions of international humanitarian law. In no circumstances is it permissible to use the Israeli occupying forces actions or war crimes against Palestinian civilians as a pretext for Palestinians to likewise violate international law.

The risk of armed confrontation between the Palestinian resistance and Israeli occupying forces throughout the Gaza Strip has prompted Al-Haq to issue this appeal in order to ensure that armed Palestinian activists take into account the rules of international law. In order to rely on international law to give legitimacy to their resistance and struggle for self-determination, the Palestinian resistance movements must respect their obligations under international law, which regulates the conduct of combatants during war.

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Al Haq: Israel revokes residency rights of four Palestinian government officials

Yesterday, 30 June 2006, Israeli Interior Minister Roni Bar-On revoked the East Jerusalem residency permits (IDs) of four Palestinian government officials belonging to the ruling Hamas party. These included three members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Muhammad Abu-Teir, Ahmad 'Attoun and Muhammad Totah, and the Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Khaled Abu-'Arafa. For Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, losing residency rights under Israeli law prevents them from living in the city, benefiting from their property and accessing essential services.

East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In 1967 and again in 1980, Israel implemented legislation that illegally annexed East Jerusalem. These measures met with strong international condemnation, expressed in a series of UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions. In 2004, the International Court of Justice analysed the legal status of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 and held that, "All these territories (including East Jerusalem) remain occupied territories." The protections afforded to Palestinians, as well as Israel's obligations under international law, are no different in East Jerusalem than elsewhere in the OPT.

As provided in Article 45 of the 1907 Hague Regulations, which reflect customary international law, "It is forbidden to compel the inhabitants of occupied territory to swear allegiance to the hostile Power." Yet, Israeli Interior Minister Roni Bar-On, in a letter addressed to PLC member Ahmad 'Attoun, which he received on 28 May 2006 and transmitted to Al-Haq, stated,

"Pursuant to [the Law of Entry into Israel], you are deemed to be a resident in the State of Israel. You are obliged to pay allegiance to the State of Israel. Nonetheless, your actions prove otherwise and indicate that your allegiance is paid to the Palestinian Authority."

This constitutes a clear and unquestionable violation of the rule contained in Article 45 of the Hague Regulations.

Moreover, Al-Haq considers the revocation of residency permits of East Jerusalem residents to amount to a form of forcible transfer prohibited by Article 49(1) of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem whose residency permits are coercively revoked have no other choice than to leave; to remain in the city would lead to arrest and expulsion. Statements by several Israeli cabinet members and official spokespersons have demonstrated intent to remove Hamas officials from East Jerusalem. According to Israeli media outlet Arutz Sheva, Interior Minister Bar-On recently stated, "People who have roles in the legislative council and the Hamas government have no place in the State of Israel."

Coming the day after the sweeping arrests of 64 Hamas officials, the revocation of four Hamas officials' residency permits suggests the existence of a concerted effort to paralyse the democratic institutions through which the Palestinian people are struggling to exercise their right to self-determination. It also appears to be part of a broader effort by Israeli authorities to encourage Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem to leave the city by making their living conditions increasingly difficult. This includes the refusal to issue building permits to Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the construction of Israeli settlements and of the Annexation Wall in and around the city, as well as severe and recently increased movement restrictions between the city and the rest of the West Bank.

In light of these measures, Al-Haq wishes to remind the international community of the policy, implemented in 1995, of refusing residency permits to Palestinian East Jerusalemites who could not meet a series of complex bureaucratic requirements to prove that their "centre of life" was in East Jerusalem. The effects of this policy peaked in 1996-1998 when each year many hundreds of Palestinian East Jerusalemites had their residency permits revoked, forcing them and their families to leave the city. Al-Haq calls on the international community to intervene with Israeli authorities to reverse the Israeli Interior Minister's decision and to remain vigilant regarding future revocations of residency permits of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem.

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Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: Israeli siege threatens the lives of thousands of civilians

Al Mezan condemns the Israeli siege on the OPT which threatens the lives of thousands civilians, particularly patients waiting at Rafah crossing

The IOF has tightened the siege imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and prevented the Gazans from receiving food and medical supplies and fuel after it destroyed parts of the sole generator in the Gaza Strip; the IOF continued shelling the electricity generator yesterday in Beit Hanoun.

The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is rapidly deteriorating due to shortages of important goods and food supplies; these shortages occur in parallel with the siege that is depriving around 160,000 government employees from receiving their salaries, which has thus weakened people's ability to store basic food supplies under the imposed siege.

The severe disruption to electricity has negatively affected the water supply in the Gaza Strip, where water pumps have stopped functioning and fuel is running out. Palestinians are facing a serious risk of starvation and are in need of water. Even hospitals have been badly affected by the situation, where neither water nor medication have been available and power cuts have resulted in the disconnecting of medical equipment.

A significant number of Palestinian travellers coming to Gaza are stuck in Rafah crossing since it was closed on June 26th 2006; around 300 Palestinians are waiting to enter, including women, children and elderly people, among them 21 patients who have undergone treatment outside of Gaza and need to return.

Medhat Hajaj, 60, suffers from heart disease and underwent heart surgery in Cairo; he has been waiting at the crossing since June 25th. He used to work at the Ministry of Labour. Some patients present at Rafah crossing are: Samar Al Hams, 17, who suffers from epilepsy, Tamam Abu Seria, 76, Taham Al Attar, 3, Hadeel Al Attar, 17, who underwent eye surgery, Naema Al Attar, 14, who also underwent eye surgery, Ramadan Al Qolili 57, who underwent eye surgery and treatment for blood pressure, Ahmad Qassab, 14 who underwent bone-joint surgery, Ali Hejazi, 26, who is disabled, Zuhair Al Akhshab, 52, who underwent surgery in the left leg, Hassan Al Sabbaki, 43, Majed Al Batsh, who is disabled, Eyad Haqqat, 21, Aisah Al Attar, 30, who underwent eye surgery, Mahmoud Mdoukh, 25, who sufferes from an ulcer, Medhat Al Hajaj, 60, who has heart disease, Nasser Zeyara, 36, who is disabled, Susan Zayara, 36, who is disabled, Abdul Hamid Shokshok, 23, who underwent eye surgery, Islam Mansour, 20, brotestata, Aya Abu Eida, 11, who underwent eye surgery.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights warns about the continuation of the tight siege on the Gaza Strip under intensified shelling operations and about the destruction of civil and indispensable facilities; it also condemns the closure of all crossings which constitute collective punishment against civilians in the OPT.

Thus, Al Mezan calls upon the international community to undertake its legal and moral obligations and immediately intervene to provide protection to civilians in the OPT, most notably for the Palestinians stuck in Rafah crossing, and to lift the siege which threatens the deaths of thousands of Palestinians, including children and patients.

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Al Mezan, Al Haq, Al Dameer: Condemnation of detention of government officials and Israel's Gaza offensive

Human Rights organizations condemn the detention of ministers and Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members in the West Bank, and demand immediate international intervention to halt Israel's Gaza Strip offensive.

Human Rights organizations condemn the detention of ministers and Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) members in the West Bank, and demand immediate international intervention to halt Israel's Gaza Strip offensive.

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) today intensified crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories by detaining eight ministers from the Hamas-led government and 20 elected members of the Palestinian parliament (PLC). A further 36 people affiliated with the Hamas movement, among them the Mayor of Qalqila (a major West Bank city) were seized by the Israelis in a military operation.

In the Gaza Strip IOF continued their artillery bombardment, shelling a playground in the Islamic University, a house in Khan Younis and different areas of Beit Hanoun. This follows the actions of two days ago when IOF fired on bridges and vital civilian infrastructure facilities in the Gaza Strip, including the area's sole power station.

IOF continue to threaten further invasions of the Gaza provinces and a number of West Bank towns. Their actions have been accompanied by silence from other nations in the Middle East and the wider international community. This lack if international condemnation is likely to encourage further military escalation by Israel.

The undersigned organizations condemn the intensified IOF crimes and confirm that the detention of Cabinet ministers and PLC members would result in the suspension of duties of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and the Cabinet; in effect crippling the normal institutions of elected government.

The undersigned emphasize that deliberate targeting of vital civilian facilities, such as power stations, constitutes a war crime under International Humanitarian Law IHL, notably the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Without power, water pumps across the Gaza Strip will be unable to operate, potentially seriously impeding water supplies to inhabitants.

Deliberately attacking non-military targets is also a flagrant escalation of the collective punishment against Palestinian civilians. It demonstrates a complete failure by Israel to meet its obligations under IHL. In launching deliberate strikes against civilian targets, Israel has shown complete contempt for international laws governing warfare.

Our organizations stress the key role of the International Community, which is obligated to take action under these circumstances. All High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Convention bear a legal and moral responsibility to intervene - without delay - in order to halt war crimes. They are also obliged by their treaty commitments to provide international protection to Palestinian civilians. The international community's continued silence is totally unacceptable and it must raise it's collective voice in support of the rule of law.

The HR organizations stress the importance of the International Community's role to firstly secure an immediate release of detained Cabinet ministers and PLC members, to avert the breakdown of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and, secondly, to intervene and head off the darkening shadow of humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip should the IOF continue its siege and deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Al Dameer Human Rights Organization - Gaza
Al Haq - Ramallah
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights - Gaza


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Amnesty International: Deliberate attacks a war crime

Deliberate attacks by Israeli forces against civilian property and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip violate international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes, Amnesty International said today.

"Israel must now take urgent measures to remedy the long-term damage it has caused and immediately restore the supply -- at its own cost -- of electricity and water to the Palestinian population in the affected areas," urged the organization. "As the occupying power, Israel is bound under international law to protect and safeguard the basic human rights of the Palestinian population."

The deliberate destruction of the Gaza Strip's only electricity power station, water networks, bridges, roads and other infrastructure is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and has major and long-term humanitarian consequences for the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.

Almost half of Gaza's inhabitants are now without electricity and water supplies have also been cut in several areas both by the lack of electricity, necessary to operate the water pumps used to extract and deliver water, and by the destruction of water mains as a result of the bombings of bridges and roads.

The extensive damage caused by Israeli artillery and air strikes against these facilities in recent days is estimated at several millions of US dollars and will require months of work to repair. Unless alternative emergency measures are promptly put in place to restore electricity and water supply the consequences could be dire for the health of the Palestinian population.

In a statement the Israeli army said that it had: "…carried out an aerial attack on an electricity transformer station south of Gaza city…." and that " The IDF will continue to employ all means at its disposal against Palestinian terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip in order to ensure the quick and safe return home of Corporal Gilad Shalit."

The destruction by Israeli forces of bridges and roads is slowing down, but not preventing movement between different areas of the Gaza Strip. It is likely to cause severe restrictions on movement during the rainy season in a few months time. At present, it causes disruption to Palestinians civilians, who have to take long detours to reach their workplace, but it does not prevent the movements of armed groups - Israel's stated objective.

As the tension between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and armed groups continues to mount, there is growing concern for the safety of the civilian population. High numbers of Palestinian bystanders, including women and children, have been killed and injured by Israeli artillery shelling and air strikes in recent weeks and months. This situation looks set to worsen in light of the end of the unilateral cease-fire which the armed wing of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups had been observing since last year.

"The hostage-taking of Corporal Gilad Shalit, and the killing of Eliyahu Asheri, the 18 year old settler, by Palestinian armed groups violate fundamental principles of international law. Corporal Gilad Shalit should be released immediately and unharmed."

"Both sides to this current stand-off should refrain from taking actions which violate international law and should take steps to provide redress for the abuses they have committed. The international community, also has an obligation under the Geneva Conventions, to act," said Amnesty International.

Notes to Editors
According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, "collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited" (article 33) as is the destruction of private or public property, "except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessar by military operations" (Article 53). The Convention requires all states party to it to search for and ensure the prosectution of perpetrators of the war crime of "causing extensive destrucdtion ... not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly". "Intentionally directing attacks against civilian objects" is also a war crime under Article 8 (b) (ii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

For further information please see: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE150582006.
and http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE150602006.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: IOF escalate policies of retaliation against civilians

Two Palestinians Killed and 22 Others Wounded:

IOF Escalate Policies of Retaliation against Palestinian civilian Population in the Gaza Strip

PCHR strongly condemns acts of retaliation and collective punishment by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip, including the destruction of civilian facilities. PCHR also condemns killings committed by IOF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the 1949 Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, to force IOF to comply with the Convention, including the prohibition of reprisals against protected persons and their property (article 33). PCHR calls also upon the High Contracting Parties to apply article 1 of the Convention, which calls for respecting the Convention and ensuring respect the Convention in all circumstances. PCHR further reminds the international community of the Hague Regulations of 1907, which prohibits military actions against civilians and civilian targets.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, IOF have committed a series of crimes in the past 36 hours in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), which have killed two Palestinians and wounded 22 others, mostly civilians, including 9 children. IOF have also shelled a number of civilian facilities, severely damaging them. According to PCHR's documentation, IOF have fired at least 36 air-to-surface missiles and dozens of artillery shells at several targets in the Gaza Strip.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR:

· At approximately 01:20 on Thursday, 29 June 2006, IOF warplanes fired two missiles at 'Oraiba area in the northwest of Rafah, and at al-Nasser village, north of the town. The two missiles hit uninhabited areas and no casualties or damages were reported.

· At approximately 03:30, IOF warplanes fired two missiles at two shops of electrical sets belonging to Majed Ahmed Abu Daqqa, an activist of Fatah movement, in Bani Suhaila village, east of Khan Yunis. Contents of the two shops were destroyed, but no casualties were reported.

· At approximately 06:45, IOF positioned at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, east of Khan Yunis, fired at least 30 artillery shells at Palestinian agricultural areas in Abasan and Khuza'a villages, east of Khan Yunis. A Palestinian farmer, 45-year-old Salem Salama Qudaih, from Khuza'a village, was wounded by shrapnel to the legs.

· At approximately 10:30, IOF warplanes fired at least one missile that fell between two training sites belonging to 'Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, and Ahmed Abu al-Reesh Briagdes, a military wing of Fatah movement, in the west of Khan Yunis. No casualties were reported.

· At approximately 12:00, IOF positioned along the northern and northeastern borders of the Gaza Strip started to fire artillery shells at uninhabited areas in the northern Gaza Strip towns of Beit Lahia and Beit Hanoun. The artillery shelling continued until the evening, and wounded two Palestinian children.

· At approximately 21:00, IOF resumed artillery shelling targeting the northern Gaza Strip. A number of shells hit an electricity transmitter near Erez crossing, and another one located in al-Sudaniya area, west of Beit Lahia. As a result, electricity was cut off from the entire northern Gaza Strip. It is worth noting that the two transmitters are fed with electricity by the Israeli National Electricity Company, and were partially providing Gaza City with electricity following the destruction of the Gaza electricity generation plant by IOF a few days ago.

· At approximately 22:40, IOF fighter jets fired 4 missiles at a space area in the central Gaza Strip. Three missiles fell to the west of Gaza Electricity Generation Company, making craters. The fourth missile hit a training center belonging to Hamas in al-Nusairat refugee camp.

· At approximately 00:00 on Friday, 30 June 2006, IOF fighter jets and helicopter gunships shelled several areas in the northern Gaza Strip. By 04:00, at least 13 missiles hit several areas in the northern Gaza Strip, wounding 7 Palestinian civilians.

· At approximately 01:30, IOF helicopter gunships fired 4 missiles at the central Gaza Strip. Three of these missiles hit the Gaza Valley Bridge on Salah al-Din Street, which links Gaza City with the southern Gaza Strip, destroying the remaining part of it. It is worth noting that the bridge was shelled by IOF warplanes and was largely destroyed. The fourth missile hit a training site belonging to Hamas, damaging it.

· Also at approximately 01:30, an IOF helicopter gunship fired two missiles at the office of the Palestinian Minister of Interior in the Sourthern Remal neighborhood in Gaza City. The office was completely destroyed.

· A few minutes later, an IOF helicopter gunship fired a missile at Martyr Abu Jihad Office, a branch office of Fatah movement, in al-Daraj neighborhood in the east of Gaza City. The office was largely destroyed.

· A few minutes later, an IOF helicopter gunship fired a missile at a training site of the Executive Force of the Palestinian Ministry of Interior in Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in the north of Gaza City. The site was destroyed.

· At the same time, an IOF helicopter gunship fired a missile at a training site of Hamas in the north of al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City. The site was destroyed.

· At approximately 02:00, an IOF helicopter gunship fired a missile at al-Sahawa Cultural Society in Jabalya refugee camp. The center of was severely damaged.

· At approximately 02:10, an IOF helicopter gunship fired a missile at a group of the Palestinian resistance in al-Salam neighborhood in the south of Rafah. The missile exploded and seriously wounded a resistance man, 25-year-old Mohammed Hassan 'Abdul 'Aal. He was evacuated to the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Yunis. At approximately 06:40, he was pronounced dead.

· At approximately 01:20, IOF warplanes fired a missile at 'Oraiba area in the northwest of Rafah. Ten minutes later, the IOF warplanes fired another missile at the same area. The two missiles hit an unihabited area, and no casualties or damages were reported.

In the West Bank, IOF killed a Palestinian and wounded 9 others, including 4 children, in Nablus.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 05:30 on Friday, 30 June 2006, an IOF undercover unit moved into Nablus. Members of the unit besieged the eastern cemetery in Faisal Street. Soon, a number of IOF vehicles, reinforced by a helicopter, moved into the city. IOF soldiers took position atop of a number of houses overlooking the cemetery and opened fire at it. At approximately 08:00, an IOF officer declared that a Palestinian was killed in the cemetery, but did not allow medical crews to enter the cemetery to search for the body. The IOF gunfire continued until 10:15. Half an hour later, IOF permitted a Palestinian medical crew to enter the cemetery, and medical personnel were able to find the body. IOF attempted to took the body, but medical personnel were able to take the body to Rafidya Hospital. The victim was identified as Mahmoud Yousef al-Zakari, 20. According to medical sources, he was hit by a live bullet that entered his right shoulder and exploded in the chest. Later, dozens of Palestinian children and young men gathered and threw stones at IOF vehicles. Immediately, IOF fired at the stone throwers, wounding 12, including 6 children.

PCHR strongly condemns killings and destruction of civilian property, and believes that such attacks constitute acts of retaliation and collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population. These latest attacks have come in a continuation of series of crimes committed by IOF against the Palestinian civilian population, which started with imposing a comprehensive siege. PCHR calls for protecting the lives of Palestinian civilians and their property in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Such actions will not lead to the release of the captured Israeli soldier, rather they constitute a systematic military operation planned in advance against the Palestinian civilian population.

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Al Haq: Israeli forces carry out sweeping arrests of Palestinian officials

Al-Haq is deeply concerned by the arrests carried out by Israeli forces across the occupied West Bank in the early hours of 29 June 2006. According to news reports, 64 parliamentarians, ministers and mayors who are members of the ruling Hamas party were arrested across the West Bank. The Israeli soldiers who carried out the arrests held judicial arrest warrants. It appears that the arrests were planned several weeks ago at the highest levels of the Israeli government and that more arrests will follow, including in Gaza. On 27 June, Israeli Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer declared that Israel had "no problem entering the Gaza Strip and kidnapping half the Palestinian government." According to an official statement released today by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, "Israel intends to continue with the arrest of additional members of Hamas."

The sweeping nature of today's arrests of Hamas officials suggests that they are a form of collective punishment either in response to the involvement of certain persons affiliated with Hamas in military actions against Israeli targets, or as a measure of intimidation to achieve political ends. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention provides, "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited." If the Occupying Power can show that a specific individual has personally carried out a crime, it is entitled to arrest that person, subject to adhering to universally recognized standards of fair procedure. It is not entitled to carry out sweeping arrests based merely on the membership of an organisation.

Furthermore, while a spokesperson for the Israeli army has denied that the Hamas officials were arrested as bargaining chips for the return of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Israeli Army Radio reportedly announced that they may be used for this purpose. If this is indeed a motivation behind the arrests, it would constitute a clear breach of Article 34 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which provides, "The taking of hostages is prohibited." The International Committee of the Red Cross' (ICRC) authoritative commentary on the Convention notes that this prohibition includes "the taking of hostages to guarantee the life of persons themselves detained as hostages by the Adverse Party." The ICRC commentary also notes that the most frequent example of illegal hostage taking is "that of an Occupying Power taking as hostages persons generally selected from among prominent persons in a city or a district in order to prevent disorders or attacks on occupation troops."

Finally, Al-Haq is concerned that the arrests will destroy the functioning of the democratically elected Palestinian National Authority already crippled by international sanctions through which the Palestinians are struggling to exercise their right to self-determination. According to media reports, Yuval Diskin, the head of Shin Bet, warned on 25 June that, "If the [captured] soldier is not returned in 24 hours, Israel will not allow the Palestinian government to survive." Arresting vast numbers of members of the Palestinian government is sure to further impair democratic institutions already increasingly unable to provide basic services such as health, education and security.

Convinced that the current wave of arrests is further accelerating the already severe deterioration of the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Al-Haq demands that:

* Israel refrain from arresting any Palestinians on the basis of collective punishment and/or the taking of hostages;

* Those already arrested be released or be granted access to free, fair and transparent legal process as dictated by international humanitarian and human rights law; and

* Israel cease all actions that seek to deny the Palestinian people their right to self-determination, including through their democratically elected institutions.

* Those detaining the captured Israeli soldier treat him according to the provisions of the Third Geneva Convention, including humane treatment and protection against acts of violence or intimidation.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) carry out reprisals against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank

PCHR strongly condemns the IOF detention of Palestinian Cabinet Ministers and legislative council members from the "Change and Reform" party, affiliated with Hamas. The Centre views these detentions as a form of reprisal against Palestinian civilians and a form of collective punishment prohibited by Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The Centre calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to force IOF to respect the convention, which bars reprisals against protected persons, as stipulated in Article 33. The Centre calls upon the High Contracting Parties to enforce Article 3, regarding adherence to the convention and respecting its stipulations, and to take appropriate actions against the serious violations being perpetrated.

PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that in the early morning hours of Thursday, 29 June 2006, IOF conducted a number of incursions throughout the West Bank, excluding Jericho. IOF surrounded the places of residence of a number of Palestinian Cabinet Ministers and members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) from the Change and Reform Party. These forces detained eight cabinet ministers, twenty-one PLC members and a number of Hamas political leaders.

The detained Cabinet Ministers are:

- Omar Abdel Raziq, Minister of Finance;

- Samir Abu Eisha, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation;

- Khaled Abu Arafa, Minister of Jerusalem Affairs;

- Wasfi Qabha, Minister of Prisoners' Affairs;

- Issa El-Ja'bari, Minister of Local Government;

- Fakhri Torokman, Minister of Social Affairs;

- Nayef El-Rajoub, Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs; and

- Mohammad El-Barghouthi, Minister of Labor.

The detained PLC members are:

- Hebron: Basem Ahmad Moussa Za'arir, Khalil Moussa Khalil Beb'ei, Samir Saleh Ibrahim El-Qadi, Mohammad Ismail Othman El-Tal, Mohammad Motlaq Abdel Mahdi abu J'heisha, and Mohammad Maher Yousef Bader.

- Bethlehem: Anwar Mohammad Abdel Rahman El-Zoboun and Mahmoud Dawood Mahmoud El-Khatib.

- Jerusalem: Wa'el Mohammad Abdel Fattah Abdel Rahman (El-Husseini), Mohammad Mahmoud Abu Tir, and Ahmad Mohammad Ahmad Attoun.

- Nablus: Hosni Mohammad Ahmad Bourini, Reyad Ali Mostafa Amli, and Yser Suliman Dawoud Mansour. IOF raided the house of PLC member Ahmad Ali Ahmad in Ein El-Ma' refugee camp, but did not find him there.

- Jenin: Ibrahim Mohammad Saleh Dahbour, Khalek Suliman Fayez Abu Hasan, and Khaled (Sa'id) Abed Abdallah Yehya.

- Tulkarm: Reyad Mahmoud Sa'id Radad and Fathi Mohammad Ali Qarawi.

- Qalqilya: Imad Mahmoud Rajeh Nofal

- Salfit: Naser Abdallah Odeh Abdel Jawwad.

PCHR condemns these detentions, which came following the Israeli government's threat to assassinate and detain Hamas political leaders, after the military operation against the Israeli military outpost in Kerem Shalom on Sunday, 25 June 2006. PCHR:

- Affirms that these detentions are a form of reprisal and collective punishment;

- Affirms that these detentions are part of a plan to undermine the democratically elected government and PLC;

- Reiterates the position that Israel is intent on implementing unilateral steps to complete the construction of the Annexation Wall and confiscate more than half the area of the West Bank. Targeting the new Palestinian government underlines the intention of Israel to continue to disregard and undermine the Palestinian leadership;

- Reiterates the call to the International Community to take immediate steps to provide protection to the civilian population, in accordance with International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, and to work to prevent further deterioration in the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

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Human Rights Watch: Gaza: Israeli Offensive Must Limit Harm to Civilians

War Crime for Palestinians to Hold Soldier Hostage

(Beirut, June 29, 2006) - Israel's destruction of Gaza's only electrical plant needlessly punishes the civilian population and has created the potential for a serious humanitarian crisis, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch also said that Palestinian militant groups are committing a war crime by using a captured Israeli soldier as a hostage to seek the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

"Militants are using Corporal Gilad Shalit as a hostage to bargain for the release of Palestinians in Israeli custody, and that's a war crime," said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. "But Israel must minimize the harm to Gaza's civilian population during any military operation to rescue the corporal, and that includes not destroying vital power plants."

On Sunday, Palestinian militants attacked an Israeli military post on the border with Gaza, killing two Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and capturing Shalit. Three Palestinian militant groups - the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of the ruling Hamas party; the Popular Resistance Committees; and the little-known Army of Islam - took responsibility for the attack and the abduction on Monday, and demanded the release of all Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails in return for information about Shalit. The Popular Resistance Committees also claimed responsibility for killing Eliahu Asheri, an 18-year-old Jewish settler kidnapped in the West Bank, apparently in response to Israel's current military action.

A hostage is a person held in the power of an adversary in order to obtain specific actions, such as the release of prisoners, from the other party to the conflict. International law prohibits the taking of hostages, which is a war crime under the laws of war. The summary execution of anyone held captive, such as Asheri, is also a war crime. Human Rights Watch calls on the Palestinian Authority to do all it can to ensure that Shalit and any other captured Israelis are treated in accordance with the laws of war, and urges militant groups to stop using Israelis as bargaining chips.

Human Rights Watch also expressed concern about the intentional and frequent use of sonic booms by Israeli military aircraft over Gaza, which has caused great fear among the civilian population, particularly among children. Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits "measures of intimidation" against the civilian population. As there appears to be no military justification for the use of the sonic booms, other than the prohibited practice of intimidation, Human Rights Watch urges Israel to immediately halt the practice.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that Israel is willing to take "extreme measures" to rescue the corporal. On June 28, Israel began offensive military operations into Gaza. Among the first Israeli targets was the only electrical power station in the Gaza strip, which was hit by multiple missiles and reportedly destroyed. The station provides power to the majority of the Gaza Strip, and is responsible for powering the water pumps and other systems essential to the survival of Gaza's civilian population. The destruction of the power station could quickly cause a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as electricity is essential to power the water system, sewage treatment, and medical services.

The laws of war prohibit attacks on "objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population." Israel's attack on Gaza's only power plant is in violation of its obligation to safeguard such objects from attack. Even though Israel unilaterally withdrew its troops and settlements from Gaza in 2005, it continues to have obligations as an occupying power in Gaza because of its almost complete control over Gaza's borders, sea and air space, tax revenue, utilities, and the internal economy of Gaza. At a minimum, Israel continues to be responsible for the basic welfare of the Palestinian population in Gaza, in particular the health, educational, and humanitarian needs of the population to the extent these are affected by the restrictions imposed on Gaza by Israel. Olmert reportedly threatened to block the entry of fuel and food to Gaza if Shalit is not released, which would violate these obligations.

Human Rights Watch urges Israel to take all possible precautions to limit the impact of its military campaign in Gaza on the civilian population. In particular, the laws of war require Israel to ensure that the impact of its military actions on the civilian population is not disproportionate to the military objectives it seeks to achieve, and that it does not target objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.

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Amnesty International: Growing concern for safety of civilian population

Amnesty International is gravely concerned that ordinary Palestinians, who have no part in the current escalating tension between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere in the Occupied Territories, are bearing the brunt of the confrontation. Israeli forces are increasingly resorting to the use of disproportionate force and attacks on civilian objects which are having a serious impact on the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories, and especially in the Gaza Strip.

At the same time, Eliyahu Asheri, an 18-year-old Israeli settler who was abducted by Palestinian armed groups on 25 June 2006, has been found killed (also see: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE150572006 ). Amnesty International condemns his killing. It also renews its call to the Palestinian armed groups who have said they are holding hostage an Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, to release him promptly and not to harm him. Corporal Shalit has been held since 25 June. The killing of prisoners, the taking and holding of hostages is prohibited by international law, which also prohibits harming or threatening to harm hostages (also see: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE150582006.

After the Israeli army dropped leaflets in the North of the Gaza Strip warning residents of impending military strikes in the area, tens of thousands of Palestinians are feeling increasingly unsafe in their homes. Israeli authorities contend that their attacks are targeted at Palestinian armed groups launching "qassam" rockets from the area into nearby Israeli towns. In the past three months Israeli forces have responded to some 300 Palestinian rockets with more than 8,000 artillery shells and scores of air strikes in the area, killing several Palestinian residents and injuring many more, including children.

Yesterday's warning by the Israeli army, conveyed by air-dropped leaflets, that residents should evacuate the North Gaza area has heightened fear among the population there, who have long been vulnerable to attacks by Israeli forces but who have nowhere else to go.

The inhabitants of other areas of the Gaza Strip are also increasingly vulnerable to repeated Israeli air-strikes. Scores of Palestinians, many of them children, have been killed or injured in recent weeks by missiles fired from Israeli helicopter gunships into densely populated residential areas in attempts to assassinate members of Palestinian armed groups.

At the same time the deliberate attacks and destruction by Israeli forces of civilian objects of bridges, power stations and the electricity network and other infrastructure are further eroding the quality of life and further restricting the freedom of movement of the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, aggravating an already dire humanitarian situation arising from the recent imposition of international sanctions against the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA).

Amnesty International is reiterating its call on the Israeli authorities and armed forces to end immediately their targeting of civilian property and infrastructure, and artillery shelling, air strikes and other measures which disproportionately threaten the lives of the Palestinian civilian population.

The organization is also seeking clarification about the circumstances surrounding the arrest by Israeli forces of scores of PA ministers, Hamas parliamentarians, Heads of Municipalities and other elected Palestinian officials earlier today. There is concern that some or all of these arrests may have been carried out as a purely retaliatory measure intended to exert pressure on the Palestinian armed groups who are holding the Israeli soldier hostage.

Amnesty International is seeking clarification from the Israeli authorities as to the reasons for these arrests and is seeking assurances that those detained are being treated humanely and are allowed unrestricted access to legal counsel and to medical care if necessary.

In the past, Israeli forces have frequently resorted to taking and holding hostages to use as bargaining chips to force Palestinian armed groups to return hostages or the mortal remains of Israeli soldiers who had been killed. The last hostages known to have been held by Israel were two Lebanese citizens who were released in 2004, after a decade in captivity.

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International Commission of Jurists: Collective punishments, destruction of property and taking of hostages are war crimes under international law

The ICJ is extremely concerned by the destruction of infrastructure and collective punishments carried out by Israel in the Gaza Strip, and by the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier last Sunday by Palestinian armed groups. Such acts can amount to war crimes for which individuals can be held criminally responsible. The ICJ calls on both parties to respect basic principles of international humanitarian law and reminds all States Parties to the Geneva Conventions of their legal obligation to ensure respect for the Conventions.

Following the abduction of Corporal Gilat Shalit by three Palestinian armed groups, Israeli Defences Forces (IDF) have destroyed infrastructure and bombed several roads and bridges in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Air Force aircraft also attacked a major Gaza City power station after midnight Tuesday, cutting power to much of the area and reportedly leaving some two-thirds of the Gaza Strip's 1.3 million residents without electricity and with reduced water supplies.

In the context of a military build up in northern Gaza, incursions and the firing of missiles in the southern Gaza Strip, the IDF has reportedly warned residents of the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun and another Gaza City neighbourhood to leave their homes as the army will begin targeting populated areas. The IDF have also carried out a wave of arrests in the West Bank, detaining at least 64 members of Hamas, including ministers and parliamentarians.

"The ICJ is extremely concerned by these latest developments that constitute a clear breach of international humanitarian law that applies to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict", said Nicholas Howen, Secretary-General of the ICJ. As an occupying power exercising effective control over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Israel is legally bound to respect the IV Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Time of War. Article 33 of the IV Geneva Convention states: "No person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective punishments and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."

"The announcement by the IDF that it will begin targeting populated areas is totally unacceptable and a blatant violation of a fundamental principle of the law of war that prohibits the excessive and disproportionate use of force against civilians", said Mr Nicholas Howen. Moreover, statements by National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer alluding to the possibility that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was not exempt from arrest or harm are extremely worrying and contrary to basic principles of the rule of law.

The ICJ calls on the Israeli authorities to abide by international humanitarian law, to ensure the protection and safety of the Palestinian civilian population and to stop military actions that constitute collective punishments and wanton destruction of infrastructure and basic objects indispensable for the survival of the civilian population. It recalls that under international law, the extensive destruction of property that is not justified by military necessity and carried unlawfully and wantonly constitutes a war crime.

As international humanitarian law also explicitly and absolutely prohibits the taking of hostages, the ICJ calls on the armed groups, which are also bound by Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, to treat Corporal Shalit in a humane way and to immediately release him. It also condemns the killing of an Israeli civilian near Ramallah, reportedly by Palestinian militants from the Popular Resistance Committees.

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Al Haq: Israeli incursion into Gaza threatens civilian lives and infrastructure

Israels ongoing military incursion into the Gaza Strip, which began in the early hours of 28 June 2006, raises significant concerns for the safety of the Palestinian civilian population. As a human rights organisation working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Al-Haq is acutely aware that it is all too often Palestinian civilians who pay the price of Israeli military operations. In Jenin in 2002, during Operation Defensive Shield, approximately half of more than 50 Palestinians killed were civilians.

While asserting that the sole purpose of the current incursion is to retrieve a captured Israeli soldier, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has instructed the army to prepare for a broad and ongoing military operation to strike the terrorist leaders and all those involved, further stating, We are ready for a long and assertive operation. Olmert also indicated, We want to create a new equation freeing the abducted soldier in return for lessening the pressure on the Palestinians. The well-being of the entire Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip has become a bargaining chip, removed from the protection of international law, a position that Israel has increasingly asserted since the formation of the Hamas government, and which the international community has been increasingly willing to accept.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, the civilian population of the Gaza Strip are protected persons. By virtue of this status, Article 27 of the Convention establishes that Israel, as the Occupying Power and a party to the conflict, is obliged to treat them humanely at all times, and to protect them especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof Recent Israeli rhetoric and actions, including the deaths of at least 24 civilians in the past three weeks in the Gaza Strip, cast severe doubt on whether Israel intends to discharge this fundamental obligation.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, customary international law establishes that,

"The parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives. Attacks may only be directed against military objectives. Attacks must not be directed against civilian objects."

International humanitarian law also recognises that during a military operation civilians may be injured or killed, and civilian objects damaged. However, any attack that is not anticipated to contribute to a military advantage proportionate to the injury or damage caused is illegal. Last nights destruction of a power plant, preventing the delivery of electricity and the functioning of water pumps in the Gaza Strip, which is already crippled by humanitarian shortages, yielded no legitimate military advantage. It was therefore manifestly illegal under international humanitarian law and may amount to a grave breach.

Al-Haq seeks to alert the international community to Israels sustained disregard for international humanitarian law, and the heightened danger this currently presents to the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip. Before the situation in Gaza deteriorates beyond recovery, Al-Haq calls on the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to uphold their obligation under Article 1, to respect and ensure respect for the provisions of the Convention, denounce Israels incursion, and adopt further concrete diplomatic measures that can and must be undertaken should Israel continue to flaunt its international legal obligations.

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Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: International community must intervene to halt Israeli war crimes

Al Mezan condemns the IOF destruction of vital facilities in the Gaza Strip and calls upon the International Community to immediately intervene to halt the Israeli war crimes

The IOF have intensified crimes against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip by targeting vital facilities, destroying bridges on Gaza Valley and the only electricity generator in the territory.

Destruction of the power plant came as the Israeli Electricity Company revealed its intention to disconnect its own electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip. That would leave the area completely without power. Eastern areas of Rafah witnessed displacement of people terrified by Israeli weaponry, notably after the IOF threat to launch a punishing war against towns and camps, including in Rafah.

According to Al Mezan's field investigation, on June 27th at approximately 11.40pm, an Israeli F16 fired a missile at Al Seqqa Bridge which links Al Moghraqa village with Al Nusairat Camp. The attack resulted in complete destruction of the bridge and caused damage to the main pipe which pumps water to Al Nusairat and Al Bureij Camps.

On June 28th at around 1.27am, Israeli military planes fired seven air-ground missiles at the electricity generator in Al Nusairat Camp, causing extensive damage. According to the electricity company it will take between one and three months to repair. Two men were injured in the bombardment; Zayed Al Shorafa, 43, and Emad Abu Sido, 33. An administrative building at the station was also damaged.

It is worth noting that under normal conditions the company supplied approximately 60 per cent of the Gaza Strip's population with electricity.

Also on June 28th, at around 2.24am, IOF fired three missiles at the bridge located on Salah Ed Dine main street, destroying totally. With this airstrike the IOF have entirely isolated Gaza districts from middle districts in the Gaza Strip. Vehicles are unable to move between the south and middle districts. Movement between Gaza and northern districts is similarly restricted. As a consequence patients and wounded are denied access to Shifa hospital.

The electricity cut off will results in water shortages in all areas of the Gaza Strip. This situation is exacerbated by a suffocating closure of all entry and exit points to the territory. Therefore medicine, food, fuel and gas imports are all suspended. Markets in the Gaza Strip are depleted from essential goods and food.

The closure of Rafah crossing caused significant suffering for more than a thousand Palestinians left stranded on the Palestinian and Egyptian sides of the border.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the IOF crimes and confirms that targeting vital civilian infrastructure constitutes a war crime. It is a grave violation of International Law, notably the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protections of Civilians Persons in Time of War. Further, the attacks on civiilian infrastructure constitute a clear escalation of collective punishment demonstrating the IOF disregard to political commitments they must abide by under International Law.

The Center reconfirms that this is one of a string of Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilians and properties in the OPT. The silence of the International community is to be condemned because it encourages Israeli war crimes.

Al Mezan hereby confirms that the International Community, most notably the High Contracting Parties to Geneva Convention should undertake their legal obligations and immediately intervene to put a halt to Israeli war crimes. There is a serious threat of humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip should the IOF continue imposing a tight siege and targeting civilians, properties and vital civil facilities which people cannot live without.

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Amnesty International: Hostage-taking and wanton destruction must cease

As confirmation was received of the abduction by Palestinian armed groups of a second Israeli, Amnesty International reiterated its call on the armed groups who are holding Israeli hostages not to harm them and to promptly release them. The organization also called on Israel to put an end to the wanton destruction and collective punishment being carried out by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

The Nasser Salah al-Din Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committee (PRC), today confirmed holding 18-year-old Eliyahu Asheri, a resident of the Israeli settlement of Itamar in the occupied West Bank, whom they reportedly abducted on 25 June. The group threatened to kill Asheri if Israeli forces do not end their incursion into the Gaza Strip.

The same armed group has also claimed responsibility jointly with Hamas' armed wing, Iz al-Din al-Qassam, and the Army of Islam, a little known group believed to be a breakaway faction of the PRC, for the abduction of an Israeli soldier, 19-year-old Corporal Gilad Shalit, on 25 June. The three armed groups are demanding the release of Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli jails in exchange for information about Corporal Shalit.

The holding of hostages, either civilians or armed forces' members, violates the fundamental rights to life, physical and mental integrity and liberty, and is expressly prohibited by international law, which prohibits threatening to harm or to continue holding a detained person in order to compel a third party to do or abstain from doing something as a condition for their release.

Amnesty International calls on the Palestinian armed groups who are holding these two Israeli hostages to abide by their international legal obligation to respect the principles of international humanitarian law, notably Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which reflects customary international law, and which prohibits the taking of hostages, murder and cruel treatment and torture.

The organization urges the Palestinian armed groups holding these two hostages to release them, to treat them humanely and not to subject them to threats or cruel treatment or torture, and to cease taking and holding hostages.

The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA), PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the political leadership of Hamas and any other parties who exercise command or influence over the armed groups holding these two hostages should make all possible efforts to secure their prompt release and to ensure that their fundamental rights to life, physical and mental integrity and liberty are respected.

Amnesty International is also increasingly concerned by the excessive use of force and wanton destruction of civilian property and infrastructure by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. Since 27 June, when Israel began Operation Summer Rain, which it says is aimed at releasing Gilad Shalit, the Israeli army has deployed large numbers of troops in the South of the Gaza Strip and carried out large-scale wanton destruction. This includes the bombardment and destruction of three bridges and electricity networks across the Gaza Strip. These measures have left half the population of Gaza without electricity and have reportedly also adversely affected the supply of water.

In recent days the Israeli authorities have also closed the Rafah crossing into Egypt, the only point of entry/exit for the 1.5 million of Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip. Several hundred Palestinians who were returning from abroad have been stranded on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing for up to a week and are prevented from returning to their homes. Those wishing to leave the Gaza Strip are likewise prevented from leaving.

The wanton destruction of civilian infrastructure and property and the disproportionate restrictions imposed on civilians by Israeli forces amount to collective punishment on the entire population of the Gaza Strip, a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits punishing protected persons for offences they have not committed.

Amnesty International reiterates its call on the Israeli authorities and army to put an end to the excessive and disproportionate use of force against densely populated residential areas and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, including frequent artillery shelling and air strikes which endanger the lives of Palestinian residents.

Since the beginning of this year Israeli forces have killed some 150 Palestinians, including some 25 children, and Palestinian armed groups have killed close to 20 Israelis, including two children.

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B'Tselem: Don't damage indispensable civilian facilities in Gaza

B'Tselem today sent an urgent request to Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz to instruct Israeli forces to refrain from bombing or deliberately damaging in any way facilities that supply indispensable services to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.

B'Tselem added that Israel has the right to all legal measures to free the abducted soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit. However, Israel must refrain from using measures which contravene International Humanitarian Law, which categorically prohibits all sides to a conflict from attacking "objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population".

Israel 's military operation in the Gaza Strip today included Air Force bombing of Palestinian civilian infrastructure. Among the facilities hit was the central electricity relay station south of Gaza City , which caused a widespread blackout. Damage to electricity facilities is liable to severely impair the provision of indispensable services, such as water supply and health care.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) punish Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip

PCHR strongly condemns IOF retaliatory measures targeting Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, including the destruction of properties that are not classified as a legitimate military targets. The Centre calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to force IOF to respect the convention, which prohibits reprisals against protected persons, as stipulated in article 33. In addition, the convention prohibits the destruction of private properties belonging to individuals, groups, organizations or official bodies. The Centre calls upon the High Contracting Parties to enforce article 3 regarding adherence to the convention and respect of its stipulations, and to take appropriate sanctions against the serious violations currently being perpetrated.

PCHR's preliminary investigation indicates that at approximately 01:45 on Tuesday, 27 June 2006, IOF conducted a number of air raids using fighter jets and helicopter gunships on civilian installations in the Gaza Strip. The raids completely destroyed two bridges on the Gaza Valley, one on Salah El-Deen Road and the other on the coastal road. These two bridges connect the northern part of the Strip with the center and south. A secondary bridge was also destroyed. Transportation to and from the north of the Strip has been completely cut off as a result, threatening people's lives and security by depriving them access to health and educational institutions. The aerial bombardment also destroyed the main water pipe feeding Nuseirat and El-Bureij refugee camps. Furthermore, panic was caused among civilians, especially children and medical patients by bombardment, mock air raids and sonic booms over the Strip.

In addition, IOF planes bombarded the Gaza Strip's only electricity generation plant, located to the north of Nuseirat refugee camp. Key sections of the plant were completely destroyed and fires broke out throughout the plant. The bombardment has cut electricity off for nearly half the population of the Gaza Strip. The bombardment destroyed the six main generators that provide 45% of the electricity needs of the Strip. Restoring the plant and resuming its operations could take up to 6 months and at a cost of approximately $15 million US.

PCHR condemns the destruction of civilian property, which is considered to be a reprisal and collective punishment against civilians. These reprisals are in retaliation to the military operation conducted by the Palestinian resistance against a military outpost near Kerem Shalom crossing on 25 June 2006. In addition, the bombardment is a continuation of the war crimes being perpetrated by IOF against civilians, including the comprehensive siege on the Gaza Strip.

PCHR calls upon the international community to provide protection for civilian lives and property, as stipulated in International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.

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Eight human rights groups: Safeguard the life and health of the abducted soldier

This coalition of organization calls on all groups holding the wounded soldier Gilad Shalit to adhere to the Geneva Convention which decrees responsibility to protect wounded and sick members of the armed forces and responsibility to provide adequate medical attention.

In the Chapter dedicated to sick or wounded individuals, the Convention states specifically "Any attempts upon their lives, or violence to their persons, shall be strictly prohibited; in particular, they shall not be murdered or exterminated, subjected to torture or to biological experiments; they shall not willfully be left without medical assistance and care, nor shall conditions exposing them to contagion or infection be created."

In the Chapter dedicated to prisoners of war, the Convention states that "Prisoners of war suffering from serious disease, or whose condition necessitates special treatment, a surgical operation or hospital care, must be admitted to any military or civilian medical unit where such treatment can be given,"

Signed:

- Physicians for Human Rights-Israel

- B'Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

- The Al-Mizan Center for Human Rights in Gaza

- HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual

- Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP)

- Addameer: Prisoners Support and Human Rights Organization

- ACRI: Association for Civil Rights Israel

- Public Commission Against Torture in Israel


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Al Mezan Center for Human Rights: IOF are continuing their psychological war on Palestinian civilians

Al Mezan condemns the terrifying of civilians and calls upon the international community to bear responsibility for the violations occurring in the OPT

The IOF are continuing their psychological war on Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) by placing tanks alongside the northern borders of the Gaza Strip, while officials in the occupying state revealed their intention to conduct a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip. This takes place parallel with an intensified siege and closure imposed on the Strip, where the IOF have closed all crossings linking Gaza with Israel and with the outside world, a situation which is currently leading to a human disaster.

The IOF have intensified their psychosocial and terrifying war since the abduction of an Israeli soldier, by threatening a punishing offensive on Palestinians, provisions and medics.

Al Mezan appealed to the Palestinian military groups which abducted the soldier to abide by international humanitarian law (IHL) while dealing with the prisoner and keep him harmless.

Al Mezan Center for Human rights condemns the ongoing Israeli crimes of assassination of civilians, tightening of the siege and closure, and the threats of a military operation which will target innocent civilians. The Center confirms that the international community, most notably the High Contracting Parties to Geneva Convention must undertake their legal and ethical obligations and immediately intervene to put a halt to Israeli war crimes which threaten protected Palestinian civilians. With reference to past military operation, the IOF disregard the basics of IHL while dealing with civilians in the OPT.

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Amnesty International: Palestinian armed groups must release abducted Israeli soldier

Amnesty International calls on the Palestinian armed groups who are holding hostage a 19-year-old Israeli soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit, not to harm him and to release him promptly.

The Iz al-Din al-Qassam group, the armed wing of Hamas, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) and a previously unknown group calling itself the Army of Islam have claimed joint responsibility for the attack on the Israeli army base in which Corporal Gilad Shalit was abducted, and are demanding the release of Palestinian women and children detained by Israel in exchange for information about the hostage.

Amnesty International calls on all those exercising command or influence over the armed groups involved in the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit, notably the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (PA) and the PA President Mahmoud Abbas, to take the necessary measures to secure his the release and to ensure that pending his release he is treated humanely.

Corporal Gilad Shalit was abducted in the early morning of 25 June by Palestinian gunmen in an attack on an army base on the Israeli side of the fence which separates the Gaza Strip from Israel. Two other Israeli soldiers were killed and a third wounded in the attack.

Hostage taking, that is threatening to harm or continue to detain a detained person in order to compel a third party to do or abstain from doing something as a condition for their release, is expressly prohibited under international law. Such practice threatens the fundamental right to life, personal integrity and liberty, and is expressly prohibited by international humanitarian law. Under no circumstances is the taking of hostages justifiable.

Armed groups have an international legal obligation to respect the principles of international humanitarian law, including Article 3 common to the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which reflects customary international law, and which prohibits the taking of hostages, murder and cruel treatment and torture. Amnesty International calls on the armed groups holding Corporal Gilad Shalit to comply with these principles.

Amnesty International is also continuing to call on the Israeli government and armed forces not to persist in using excessive force and to cease artillery shelling and air strikes in residential areas of the Gaza Strip, which endanger disproportionately the lives of Palestinian civilians living there. In recent such attacks against densely populated residential neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip Israeli forces have killed and injured scores of unarmed Palestinians, including several women and children.

Since the beginning of this year Israeli forces have killed some 150 Palestinians, including some 25 children. In the same period Palestinian armed groups have killed close to 20 Israelis, including two children.

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Palestinian Centre for Human Rights: Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Paralyze Lives of Civilians in the Gaza Strip

PCHR views with gravity the collective punishment currently being imposed by IOF on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. This punishment is being inflicted through the complete land and sea closure of the Gaza Strip, including the closure of Rafah International Crossing Point on the border with Egypt, prevention of fishermen from going out to sea and constant aerial surveillance. In addition, PCHR is apprehensive over the consequences of the current situation, following the military operation near Kerem Shalom checkpoint on Sunday 25 June 2006, and the possibility of a wide scale ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. The operation resulted in the death of two Palestinians from the group that conducted the operation and two IOF soldiers. Another IOF soldier was taken prisoner during the operation.

According to field information, Rafah International Crossing Point was closed on 21 June 2006, due to the absence of the European monitors. The spokesperson for the monitors indicated that they did not come to the crossing due to an Israeli security alert regarding an impending attack on Kerem Shalom checkpoint. The crossing has been completely closed since Sunday, 25 June 2006, following the military operation at Kerem Shalom. Hundreds of Palestinian travelers are stuck on the Egyptian side of the border. Among these travelers are women, children, elderly and ill persons returning after medical treatment in Egypt. They are enduring inadequate living and health conditions while waiting to enter Gaza.

Furthermore, IOF have closed the other crossings into the Gaza Strip: El-Muntar (Karni) Commercial Crossing; Beit Hanoun (Erez) Crossing - designated for workers, humanitarian cases and international workers; Sofa Crossing - designated for construction material; and Kerem Shalom Crossing - used for food and medical humanitarian assistance.

It is noted that the closure of Gaza Strip border crossings, since the Border Crossings Agreement between the Palestinian National Authority and Israel on 15 November 2005, has created a disastrous economic and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Since the signing of the agreement, El-Muntar Crossing has been completely closed for 96 days and partially closed for 162 days. As a result, the import and export of medicine and other commodities was kept at a standstill for the majority of this time, causing further economic strangulation of the Gaza Strip and a lack of essential goods such as milk and fruits in the local market. In addition, agricultural and industrial exports from the Strip have been barred.

PCHR calls upon the international community to exert pressure on IOF to respect International Humanitarian Law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, and to immediately end the closure and isolation that is worsening an already dire situation in the Gaza Strip. The continuation of the closure will have catastrophic effects on the living conditions of civilians and accentuate the existing problems of poverty and unemployment. PCHR calls upon the international community to pressure IOF to reopen El-Muntar Crossing, Sofa Crossing, Beith Hanoun Crossing and Rafah International Crossing Point, in order to allow Palestinians enjoy their rights to freedom of movement and to import and export goods. The lifting of the closure will put an end to the daily suffering of nearly 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, whose civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are currently being violated.

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