PCHR is gravely concerned over continued military operations conducted by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) in the northern Gaza Strip, which have caused many casualties among Palestinian civilians. On Monday evening, 17 April 2006, a Palestinian child was killed and two were injured, when an artillery shell fired by IOF fell near a playground in Beit Lahia.
According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 18:30 on Monday, 17 April 2006, IOF fired a number of artillery shells at Sheikh Zayed town to the east of Beit Lahia. One of the shells fell near a playground located approximately 300 meters away from a residential area, where at least 20 Palestinian children were playing football. Soon afterwards, another shell was fired at the children before they had managed to leave the area, leaving 3 children wounded. They were evacuated to al-'Awda Hospital in Jabalya. One of the children, 17-year-old Mamdouh Mohammed 'Obaid, died on the way to the hospital. The other two children who were wounded are:Mohammed Hamdi Abu Tabaq, 14, and 'Ammar Abu al-Kas, 15.
IOF tanks positioned on the eastern and northern borders of the Gaza Strip have continued to shell the northern Gaza Strip for the past several days. Hundreds of shells have hit Palestinian homes and civilian and security facilities in the north, east and west of Beit Lahia, as well as in the east and south of Beit Hanoun and Jabalya towns. According to Israeli sources, 200-300 shells are fired daily by IOF on the Gaza Strip. Three Palestinian civilians, including two children, have been killed and 47 other civilians, including 17 children, have been wounded by the IOF artillery shelling in the past 8 days. Considerable damage has also been caused to houses, farms, buildings and infrastructure. PCHR is concerned that the IOF artillery shelling may cause more casualties among Palestinian civilians, as IOF have expanded the scope of shelling to include areas that are only 100-300 meters away from Palestinian houses.
PCHR is increasingly concerned over the continued killing of Palestinian civilians, especially children, by IOF. Since the beginning of 2006, IOF have killed 15 Palestinian children (8 in the West Bank and 7 in the Gaza Strip). Thus, the number of Palestinian children killed by IOF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, since the beginning of the current Intifada in September 2000, has increased to 666.
In light of the above:
1) PCHR calls upon the international community to immediately intervene to stop such crimes, which constitute as war crimes under international law, and reiterates its calls for the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to meet their obligations to ensure protection for Palestinian civilians in the OPT.
2) PCHR calls upon Palestinian resistance groups to abstain from launching any military attacks from inside or near civilian areas or that target civilians.