Amid yesterday’s celebrations of election victories in the U.S., it would have been easy to miss the news of the pre-dawn shelling of several homes in Gaza by the Israeli military. This latest indiscriminate attack killed 18 civilians, including women, children and 11 members of the same family.
Dare we hope that the latest power shift in the U.S. will give the Palestinians cause for hope and a way out of nearly 40 years of brutal occupation? We often heard about « the need for change » this campaign season, but will anything change for the Palestinians? Would it be too much to ask of our elected officials that they respect and protect the human rights of Palestinians and to call for peace with justice?
Below is the press release on the Beit Hanoun attack issued by Grassroots International partner, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and other Palestinian human rights organizations.
Date: 8 November 2006
Palestinian human rights NGOs condemn Beit Hanoun Massacre;
call for international investigation
The Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) have committed an appalling act of mass murder in the town of Beit Hanoun today, one day after they redeployed around it. At dawn, the IOF fired eleven artillery shells on six homes in the town killing 18 civilians; seven of whom are children and six of whom are women. 53 others were wounded; of whom 25 are children and 12 are women. With this, the number of Palestinians who have been killed since the commencement of the IOF operation in Beit Hanoun on 1 November 2006 has reached 77.
Field reports by the undersigned organizations indicate that at approximately 5:30am today, Wednesday 8 November 2006, IOF fired eleven artillery shells, striking six houses while their inhabitants were sleeping. The houses were identified as owned by Mas’oud, Sa’ad, Akram, Hussein and Ashraf Al Athamneh; all five brothers, Abdul-Hadi and Jamal Al Kafarneh; also two brothers, and Saqer Udwan. All of the houses were located in Hamad Street in Beit Hanoun. It is also worth mentioning that sixteen of the victims are from one family; the Al Athamneh family.
Palestinian human rights organizations strongly condemn this outrageous crime and stress that it is but another example of the continued excessive use of force and the targeting of civilians and civilian objects that is carried out by IOF. Moreover, the human rights organizations stress that this brutality is directed without the observance of the principles of discrimination, proportionality or military necessity. This crime again illustrates the extent to which the IOF disregards the prohibition by international humanitarian law (IHL) of targeting civilians and civilian objects and the obligation to protect them.
The undersigned organizations emphasize that the state of silence on the part of the international community, when such crimes have occurred in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in the past, has only encouraged the IOF to show even more disregard to its obligations as enshrined in IHL and civilian life, as manifested in this crime.
The undersigned organizations also emphasize that the IOF’s conduct in Beit Hanoun today constitutes a war crime according to the provisions of IHL and, as such, warns of Israeli attempts to manipulate the international community and public to avoid accountability. Hence, the undersigned organizations call on:
1. The UN Security Council to convene an emergency session to look into the situation in OPT, and dispatch an investigation commission on the IOF crimes since the start of its military operations in Beit Hanoun;
2. The UN General Assembly to uphold its legal and moral responsibilities and take effective action to ensure protection for the Palestinian people in OPT;
3. The Human Rights Council to dispatch a team to inspect this massacre and the breaches by IOF of human rights and IHL; to dispatch the relevant special procedures to the OPT to investigate the recent human rights violations without delay;
4. The international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention, to condemn this crime and to undertake effective action to end the IOF’s violations of Palestinian civilians’ human rights; to provide effective protection for this population; and to call for an emergency meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention to look into the mechanisms of full implementation of the Convention in OPT;
5. The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights to end its silence and take actions towards ending the gross violations of human rights in OPT;
6. International human rights organizations to condemn this crime, investigate it fully, and also call upon the international community to fulfill its obligations
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights
Jerusalem Legal Aid Center (JLAC)
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling
Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies
Defense Children International-Palestine
Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizens Rights
Al Haq: Law in the Service of Man
Al Dameer Association for Human Rights
Palestinian Center for Human Rights
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights