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More Israeli Crimes Against Humanity Go Unnoticed By American Press

Up to 1,500 Palestinians have been left homeless by the Israeli army's two-day raid into the Rafah refugee camp, the United Nations estimates.
Gaza raid leaves hundreds homeless
Up to 1,500 Palestinians have been left homeless by the Israeli army's two-day raid into the Rafah refugee camp, the United Nations estimates.

A senior UN official who went to assess damage said it looked like there had been a severe earthquake at the densely-populated camp in the south of the Gaza Strip, with up to 120 homes demolished.

But an Israeli army spokesman put the damage at "several" buildings destroyed, with the military targeting only structures used by militants.

I refused [to leave] but then they threatened to kill me with machine-guns... In 30 minutes, our house was as flat as the land
Rafah camp resident
Ayman Abu Shannalah

Hospital officials said eight Palestinians - including two boys aged eight and 15 - were killed in the operation, which the Israeli army launched to destroy tunnels used to smuggle weapons across the Egyptian border.

More than 50 were injured in the raid, codenamed Operation Root Canal, which was launched overnight on Thursday by dozens of Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships.

At least 40 Israeli tanks were seen withdrawing on Saturday evening from the camp, which is home to more than 70,000 people, often with several generations under one roof.

Sifting the rubble

"Many, many houses - maybe as many as 120 - have been completely demolished. They would have been the homes to 250, 300 families," said Peter Hansen, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa).

"And if you multiply that by the family structure you're talking about a great many people, as many as 1,500, have been made homeless.

His agency had yet to complete a definitive tally of the damage to property in the raid.

Unrwa would be setting up temporary shelters for the homeless, he said.

Dozens of residents could be seen trying salvage clothes, furniture and even school books by sifting amid the wreckage of their homes, the French news agency AFP said.

"We could not escape. The house was like a jail for two days, but suddenly occupation forces entered our houses yesterday and told us to leave, " camp resident Ayman Abu Shannalah told the agency.

"I refused but then they threatened to kill me with machineguns so my wife and her mother took me outside. In 30 minutes our houses was as flat as the land."

Switching tactics

An Israeli military official confirmed troops were pulling back, but said such operations would continue as long as the smuggling activities did.

"Some forces are stepping out," he said. "But the activity is still ongoing, forces are still there and it will go on as long as the smuggling activity continues."

The Israeli army said it had discovered three tunnels in the camp, but no weapons have been found so far.

Correspondents say the raid marks a change from previous Israeli tactics of launching brief incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas.

Israel defended its actions saying it had intelligence that Palestinian militants were seeking to smuggle from Egypt shoulder-fired missiles that could be used against tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.

"If we are successful ... blowing up most of [the tunnels], hopefully all of them, for some time at least they won't be used or there won't be any sort of smuggling of that sort," Israeli Government spokesman Zalman Shoval told the BBC's World Today programme.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned the killing of Palestinian civilians during the incursion.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2003/10/12 17:00:23 GMT




United Nations Commission on Human Rights
58 th Session
Item 8: Question of the Violation of Human Rights in the Occupied Arab
Territories, including Palestine
Oral Intervention by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, an NGO with Special
Consultative Status, together with LAW, Palestinian Society for Protection of
Human Rights & The Environment
(Speaker: Jaber Wishah, Deputy Director, PCHR)
We welcome Kofi Annan's statement regarding the illegality of Israel's 35 year colonial military
occupation and that of the Special Rapporteur to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPTs)
confirming that the occupation is "responsible for most of the violations of humanitarian law and
human rights" in the OPTs. We warn the international community of the dangers of allowing Israel to
enjoy impunity for its ongoing gross and systematic violations of international law. The consistent
failure to act has allowed the normalizing and escalation of the systematic violations of international
human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes, against the Palestinian civilian population.
The international community, which reaffirmed the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention and
protection for Palestinian civilians, and condemned Israel's violations in the meeting of the High
Contracting Parties on December 5 2001, can no longer continue to allow such ongoing grave
violations against Palestinian protected persons. This occupation and related human rights violations
amount to a form of State terrorism to which Palestinians have a legal right to resist using lawful
means, including in the realization of their right to self-determination.
We note with alarm the ongoing escalation in these systematic violations since the last session of this
Commission. In particular, since 28 February 2002 Israeli incursions into Palestinian refugee camps,
and other residential areas, marked a new intensification of the Israeli offensive throughout the OPTs.
This intensification began in Balata refugee camp near Nablus, and continued in refugee camps, towns
and villages throughout the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These military operations bear out Sharon's
statements that "The Palestinians must be hit and it must be very painful. We must cause them
losses, victims, so that they feel the heavy price... "1 . Rooting out 'terror' and destroying 'terror bases'
is the pretext given for these actions. However, the methods used are disproportionate and
indiscriminate, and effectively systematically punish the Palestinian civilian population. The frequent,
continuous i.e. systematic nature of many violations have been noted by international organisations, the
former and current UN Special Rapporteurs on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Special
Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and indeed, by the US State Department.
This intensification is characterized by increasing perpetration of war crimes; through the focusing of
military actions on civilian areas; and increasing use of methods targeting the entire civilian population.
Willful killings, including political assassinations, targeting of clearly identifiable medical personnel;
causing great suffering and serious injury to body and health, including the 18,485 Palestinians injured;
extensive destruction of property; deportations and transfers; crimes against humanity, including the
crime of apartheid; are all war crimes which have been perpetrated since 1948 and 1967, but which
have been escalated since the beginning of this Intifada, and particularly in recent months.
This escalation is particularly evident in the developing pattern of attacks on civilian areas. Excessive,
disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force in civilian areas has included the increased use of
helicopter gunship missiles, F-16 fighter jets, machinegun fire, high velocity live ammunition, and
tanks, including flechette tank rounds 2 . There is a developing pattern of deaths and injuries sustained
in circumstances outside gun battles or clashes; e.g. between February 28 and March 14, 2002, 157
Palestinians were killed, 124 of which were killed outside any clashes. There has also been a
consistent failure to distinguish between civilian and so-called "military" targets 3 . Indeed, cases have
1 Ross Dunn, Herald, 'Sharon vows to hit Palestinians until it is 'very painful'', 6 March 2002. 2 Flechette tank rounds dispatch up to 10,000 darts in an approximately 300 metre radius and are
designed for large-scale infantry attacks 3 It must be noted that as a general principle of international humanitarian law PA institutions cannot be
considered as legitimate military targets, particularly where they have not engaged in hostilities.

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