Please find below the letter that was sent to the United Nations Secretary â€“ General Mr.
Kofi Annan, by the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, calling for immediate intervention to halt Israeli violations in the Gaza Strip.
18 May 2004 Mr.
Secretary-General of the United Nations
United Nations Plaza, New York Letter to United Nation Secretary-General,
Calling for Immediate Intervention to Halt Israeli Violations in the Gaza Strip We are writing to you to express our great distress regarding the escalation of human rights violations perpetrated by the Israeli occupying forces in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) and particularly in the Gaza Strip.
Over the past week, the Israeli forces have launched repeated massive military offensives and incursions throughout the Gaza Strip and particularly in the southern city of Rafah.
Innocent Palestinian civilians are losing their lives, their homes and their dignity in what the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Peter Hansen refers to as â€œdisproportionate military actionâ€? and measures of â€œcollective punishmentâ€?.
We believe that this matter requires your urgent attention and consequently call for immediate action by the United Nations to bring an immediate halt to this escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip.
Specifically, we appeal to you as Secretary General of the United Nations to mobilize the international community and dispatch an international force in the OPT to put an end to Israeli occupation.
In deliberate breach of the principle of proportionality required by international humanitarian law, the Israeli occupation forces have substantially escalated the use of force in the Gaza Strip at the occasion of a number of ground, aerial and maritime attacks since the beginning of the month.
The prime targets of these attacks have been Gaza city and the southern town of Rafah, both of which consist of densely populated residential areas.
Overall, since 11 May, over 31 Palestinian civilians have been killed and over 250 have been injured.
Over 180 houses and properties were also completely destroyed during this period, leaving over 2,200 Palestinians homeless.
Moreover, these figures continue to increase drastically as we write to you, with over 15 Palestinians reportedly killed in Rafah since the beginning of a massive incursion that was launched last night.
The Israeli incursion in Al Zeitoun neighborhood in Gaza City started on 11 May 2004 and lasted 48 hours.
This resulted in the death of 15 Palestinians and over 200 reported injuries.
At this same occasion, 8 houses were completely destroyed while tens of private and commercial buildings, 30 vehicles and water and electricity networks were severely damaged.
Access was denied to emergency medical services and humanitarian aid while a curfew was imposed on the neighborhood.
Israeli operations intensified following the deaths of 6 Israeli soldiers in the explosion of an Israeli armored personnel carrier.
The incursion that was launched a few days later in a densely populated area of the city of Rafah, resulted in the deaths of an additional 16 Palestinian civilians and over 50 injuries.
During the period of this incursion between 12 and 15 May 2004, over 134 houses were completely destroyed, leaving 1,287 persons homeless including 670 children.
In view of the current reports we are receiving from Rafah, this incursion appears to have been a preliminary for the intensified offensive that began last night.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights is especially alarmed by the unprecedented level of house demolitions that have taken place over the past week in the Gaza Strip and continues to occur massively on a daily basis in Rafah.
In an effort to bring this process to a halt, Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and other human rights organizations submitted petitions signed by Rafah residents against the planned house demolitions.
However, the Israeli High Court rejected the petitions on the grounds of Israel's military operational needs.
Therefore, in breach of the article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Israeli occupying forces continue to carry out extensive destruction of civilian property wantonly, unlawfully, and without military necessity.
The circumstances and the extent of the recent and planned destruction of homes in Rafah counteract the Israeli claim of immediate military necessity.
آ The recent statements made by Israeli officials have indicated military operations in the Gaza Strip will continue and are likely to result in the destruction of several hundred additional homes as well as the construction of a trench alongside the borderline in the exact area where houses are currently being demolished.
The calculated and deliberate nature of the demolition operation is therefore apparent, showing the invalidity of Israeli claims for immediate military necessity to proceed with demolitions.
While we welcome your recent condemnations of Israel's widespread destruction of Palestinian houses in Rafah, we consider this insufficient in light of the rapid deterioration of the situation and taking into account that the international community's silence since the beginning of the current Intifada has only encouraged Israel to continue to perpetrate its violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in total impunity.
We call upon you to intervene immediately to put a halt to the ongoing house demolitions and to take actions to ensure the fulfillment by Israel of its obligations under international law and United Nations Security Council Resolutions.
We also call upon the United Nations to refute the current process of politicization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to consider the Palestinian cause as a matter to be dealt with in a purely legal manner.
Finally, as the only sustainable way towards achieving just and lasting peace in the OPT, Al Mezan Calls upon the United Nations to immediately dispatch an international force to end the Israeli occupation.
آ Al Mezan Center for Human Rights  UNRWA Press Release, â€œUNRWA: Alarm at Planned Demolitionsâ€?, 16 Mat 2004 available at www.