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Nearly 1300 Palestinians killed in 3-week long Israeli assault

Source:IMEMC News
Author:Saed Bannoura

In its weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in the Gaza Strip for the week of 15- 21 January 2009, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported that whole families were wiped out in Israeli air strikes, large areas of infrastructure have been flattened, and that children and women constitute nearly half of the victims of the Israeli onslaught.

Aftermath of Gaza assault:

According to the PCHR, 1,285 Palestinians were killed in the Israeli invasion, including 895 civilians and 167 civil police officers. The Israeli attack began on December 27th with an air strike on the closing ceremonies of the Palestinian police training academy, killing over 200 people within five minutes.

The civilian victims include 280 children and 111 women. 4,336 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including 1,133 children and 735 women, were wounded.

Dr. Nizar Rayan and Mr. Sa'id Siam, senior leader of Hamas, were extra-judicially executed by Israeli forces, together with a number of members of their families.

In addition, Israeli forces attacked ambulances and vehicles of civil defense and relief services. 2,400 houses were completely destroyed, including 490 that were destroyed by air strikes.

According to Israeli military sources, Israeli forces launched at least 2,500 air strikes against targets in the Gaza Strip. These targets included houses, civilian facilities, mosques, charitable societies, schools, governmental buildings, industrial and commercial workshops, security sites, fishing harbors, and educational and health institution. No place in the Gaza Strip was immune to Israeli attacks.

During the three week assault, Israeli forces destroyed 28 public civilian facilities, including buildings of a number of ministries, municipalities, governorates, fishing harbors and the building of the Palestinian legislative Council. The troops also destroyed 21 private projects, including cafeterias, wedding halls, tourist resorts and hotels.

Israeli forces destroyed 30 mosques completely and 15 others partially. In addition, Israeli forces destroyed offices of 10 charitable societies.

Israeli forces destroyed 121 industrial and commercial workshops and damaged at least 200 others, 5 factories of concrete and one of juice, 60 police stations, 5 media organizations, 2 health clinics, and 29 educational institutions have been completely or partially destroyed.

In an example of one of the Israeli 'targeted attacks', on Thursday January 15th, at approximately 08:10, the Israeli artillery shelled the vicinity of the building of Department of Education to the north of Sheikh Zayed housing project. As a result, 5 Palestinian civilians -- an elderly woman and 4 children, were killed: 'Aaisha 'Ayad al-Rumailat, 80; Sabreen 'Ata Hassan al-Rumailat, 15; Baraa' 'Ata Hassan al-Rumailat, 2, Areej 'Ata Hassan al-Rumailat, 9 months; and Amal 'Eid Eshtaiwi, 14. An hour later, at approximately 09:50, the Israeli artillery shelled houses in al-Farta arean in the east of Beit Hanoun. As a result, 6-year-old Eihab Sabri al-Kafarna, 6, was wounded.

In the early morning of Sunday, 18 January 2009, Israel declared a ceasefire, while deciding to keep its military presence in the Gaza Strip. Israeli Occupation Forces redeployed outside Palestinian communities towards border areas, but continued threats to resume the offensive against Palestinian resistance groups who attack Israeli communities with home-made rockets.

PCHR field workers who visited several areas throughout the Gaza Strip, especially Gaza City, the north and the Egyptian border reported that these areas looked as they were struck by a heavy earthquake. Medical and civil defense crews have continued to pick up decayed corpses from areas that were invaded by Israeli forces. Israeli military vehicles that redeployed outside residential areas have continued to fire at Palestinian civilians, especially those who live in border areas.

Following the declaration of the ceasefire, evidence that Israeli forces committed war crimes in the Gaza Strip have started to be revealed. According to international and Arab doctors who were able to enter the Gaza Strip to provide medical treatment for the wounded, Israeli forces used internationally prohibited weapons, including white phosphorous bombs. Israeli forces officially admitted the use of phosphorous bombs in the Gaza Strip, but claimed that the way these bombs were used would be investigated. They further claimed that they used such bombs in "uninhabited areas" just to specify targets and hit "terrorists," and that the use of the bombs in this way does not contradict international law.

The offensive launched by Israeli forces on the Gaza Strip, between 27 December and 18 January 2009, has caused total destruction in many parts of the Gaza Strip, making these parts look like earthquake zones. In its offensive on Gaza, Israeli forces employed its full-fledged arsenal and used its air, ground and sea forces. Some areas were almost completely razed, while many houses and civilian establishments became hills of dust. The Israeli offensive claimed the lives of over a thousand innocent unarmed civilians, including a large number of children and women. The casualties included entire families.

Under the Israeli forces offensive on the Gaza Strip, the Gaza civilian population are suffering serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation. The resulting acute humanitarian crisis is increasingly and seriously impacting living conditions of Palestinian civilians, which have been already deteriorating due to the tightened siege imposed by Israeli forces on the Gaza Strip from the land, air and sea for more than 18 months. Due to this siege, Palestinian civilians have been denied their economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights.

The deterioration taking place in health conditions in the Gaza Strip exacerbated due to the high number of the dead and the wounded who fell due to Israeli raids. This exacerbating deterioration comes along with the tightened total siege that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip, including the closure of Gaza border crossings for more than 18 months. The siege has impacted all medical institutions in the Gaza Strip, including hospitals and primary healthcare centers that have become unable to meet the needs of the civilian population and, as a result, have been unable to ensure physical and mental healthcare. This situation has impacted the capacity of Gaza medical institutions to provide medical services to the Gaza civilian population. The state of fear and horror caused by Israeli forces barbarian raids has severely affected the standard of civilians' health, including inability to access medical institutions due the gravity of the security conditions, or due to medical institutions' incapacity to respond to the needs of hundreds of wounded persons and thousands of patients.

Gaza hospitals suffer severe shortage in beds that are required to receive hundreds of victims of Israeli forces raids. There are approximately 1,200 beds in all Gaza hospitals. At Shifa Hospital, there are 530 beds, including 135 beds used for primary healthcare provision. Medical crews at Gaza hospitals and clinics have been unable to provide beds to treat and hospitalize the wounded persons, due to the high numbers of the wounded who arrived at hospitals and clinics in the wake of Israeli forces air raids. Approximately 319 dead persons and more than 1,000 wounded persons have been admitted into Gaza hospitals within the past four days. The wounded who have been admitted into hospitals are being treated and hospitalized under severe shortages in medicines and medical supplies. Medical crews are also suffering due to continued electricity cutoffs.

Summary of attacks since the offensive ended:

In the last week, after the Israeli offensive came to an end, a Palestinian civilian was killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank. 40 Palestinian civilians, including 17 children, were wounded by Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank. Israeli forces conducted 34 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, abducting 46 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children. In addition, Israeli forces positioned at various checkpoints in the West Bank abducted 6 Palestinian civilians, including a girl.

Israeli settlement activities:

Israeli forces have continued settlement activities in the West Bank and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property.

Israeli forces confiscated 3,000 donums in Hebron and 23 donums in Bethlehem for the purpose of settlement expansion.

Israeli forces have continued to take measures aiming at the Judaization of Jerusalem. Israeli forces closed 4 flats in Jerusalem with concrete. Israeli forces confiscated 500 donums of land in Abu Dis town.

Recommendations to the International Community:

Due to the number and severity of Israeli human rights violations, the PCHR made a number of recommendations to the international community. Among these were a recommendation that the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to convene a conference to take effective steps to ensure Israel's respect of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and to provide immediate protection for Palestinian civilians.

In addition, the PCHR calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to comply with its legal obligations detailed in Article 146 of the Convention to search for and prosecute those responsible for grave breaches, namely war crimes.