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Statement, Birzeit University, 9 October 2004
9 October, 2004
Urgent Appeal to the International Community
Operation “Days of Penitence”, a grotesque reference to the holiest days in the Jewish year, is an open admission of Israel’s intent to wreak indiscriminate suffering and collective punishment on the civilian populations of Jabaliya refugee camp, Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. This open-ended offensive has so far resulted in the killing of over 100 Palestinians with many hundreds more injured, including a large number of children and youth.
It is already the deadliest Israeli military incursion into the Gaza Strip since the start of the Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation 4 years ago, exceeding the death toll of Israel’s catastrophic invasion of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip in May this year, which left thousands homeless.
Jabaliya refugee camp is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with over 100,000 people living in an area of 3km2. Israel’s deployment of 2,000 troops, 100 tanks and more than 100 other armored vehicles in crowded neighborhoods, using heavy, imprecise weaponry such as tank shells and missiles dropped from the air by helicopter gunships, bring calculated devastation to the large civilian population. Israeli Army bulldozers have ploughed through scores of houses to clear their way through the camp and hundreds of Palestinians are without shelter as a result of the demolition of their homes, while tens of thousands are without water or electricity and are suffering from severe shortages of food and medicine.
In accordance with previous policy, the Israeli Army has also taken over a number of schools in the Jabaliya refugee camp and is using them as firing positions against surrounding civilian areas. UNRWA spokesman Matthias Burchard in Geneva confirmed that “they have now taken positions in three schools and are using them as a military camp for their ongoing campaign”. He described how Israeli tanks broke down the walls of three schools in the Jabaliya refugee camp on Thursday 30th September, while children were still in class. According to a report by Al-Jazeera, one school was left in ruins and “toys, coloring books, and posters of Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse were scattered in the dust.”
Presented in the international media as a defensive response to the rocket attack on the Israeli town of Sderot on Wednesday 29 September, which killed two Israeli children, the Israeli military offensive actually began on Tuesday 28 September, in the Jabaliya refugee camp and Beit Hanoun, and should be seen in the context of ongoing Israeli military attacks on Palestinian towns and refugee camps all over the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
On Monday 27 September, Israeli soldiers guarding Jewish settlements fired machine guns toward the Khan Younis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, killing a 45-year-old teacher, Said al-Madhoun, at a local school. On the same day, 10-year-old Raghda Adnan Al-Assar, died in hospital after being shot at her desk inside a UN elementary school classroom in Khan Younis 3 weeks earlier. On 5 October 2004, a 13-year-old school girl, Iman Sameer Al-Hams, was killed on her way to school in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah and, in an indescribable act by the Israeli Army Commander in charge, a whole cartridge of no less than 20 bullets was then emptied into her dead body at point-blank range.
The students, faculty and employees of Birzeit University are outraged at the escalating violence and war crimes being perpetrated by the Israeli military occupation in the Gaza Strip and urgently demand that the international community:
*Act immediately to stop the carnage being wrought on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.
*Demand an end to IsraelÂ’s destruction of schools and the attacks on children and teachers inside their classrooms.
*Provide international protection for the Palestinian civilian populations in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank.
*Place pressure on Israel to end to the illegal occupation and to stop military incursions into Palestinian territories.
*Place the necessary pressure on Israel to force it to abide by international law, complying with all UN Resolutions, the Fourth Geneva Convention and the recent ruling of the International Court of Justice.
Students, Faculty and Employees of Birzeit University
9 October, 2004
Union of Teachers and Employees – Birzeit University
Birzeit University Student Council
Right to Education Campaign
We urgently call on our international supporters to act now and write to:
Prime Minister of Israel
Fax: +972 2 5664838
President of United States of America
George Bush Jr.
* Call the Capitol switchboard toll-free on 1-800-839-5276 and ask to be connected to your member of Congress
Secretary General of the United Nations
Tel: (212) 963-1234; Fax for Kofi Annan’s office: (212) 963-7055
High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) for the European Union
Tel: +32 2-285-6467 or +32 476-93-6426