Raid on Beit Hanoun (2004)
Following the deaths of two residents of the Israeli town of Sderot on 28 June 2004, killed in a rocket attack by militants in occupied Gaza, the Israeli army started a raid on Beit Hanoun, dubbed "Operation Forward Shield". The stated goal was to prevent future rocket attacks from Gaza. The operation, ahead the planned unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, was preceded by Operation Rainbow (2004) and followed by Operation Days of Penitence.
The raid started on 28/29 June 2004, around midnight, with a direct attack on the offices of local and international media. From an attack helicopter, 4 missiles were launched at the offices of inter alia BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, the German broadcast ARD and Al-Jeel. It was the third Israeli attack against media in Gaza in less than 2 months. The IDF said it targeted "a structure which was used by the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza City", that the building was "a communications center which maintained constant contact with terrorists" and that it had distributed "incitement material" from Hamas. Human Rights Watch and PCHR said it was a clear intent to silence local Palestinian media. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote a letter Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, expressing its concerns.
On 29 June 2004, about 5 am, the Israeli army deployed its forces around Beit Hanoun in north-eastern Gaza. With tanks and helicopters, the IDF attacked Beit Hanoun and neighbouring areas. The operation caused large-scale damage and destruction to property and infrastructure. On 3 August, the IDF expanded the operation further west with tanks and other armoured vehicles. The whole period of 37 days, civilian movement into and out of the town as wel as movement within the town was banned. After 37 days, the IDF began its redeployment, on 5 August at 1 am.
Damages and casualties
With tanks and bulldozers, the Israeli army caused immense damage. According to PCHR, 70 houses were destroyed. Al Mezan reported 33 completely destroyed homes. Also factories and workshops were destroyed. The IDF damaged and destroyed schools, health and other public facilities, kindergartens, mosques, sewerage pumps and security posts. There was large-scale damage to infrastructure: water, electricity and sewerage networks and roads. Sixteen water-wells were destroyed.
Levelling of agricultural land by IDF bulldozers and tanks was one of the main components of operation "Forward Shield". Orchards were almost completely destroyed. In addition, 6 livestock farms were destroyed. Some 2,600-4,000 dunams of agricultural land were razed and destroyed. 
Violation of international law
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Besides the large-scale damage and destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure, the Israeli army systematically obstructed medical assistance. A number of Palestinians died as a result. Ambulances, clinics and medical centres and medical crews were systematically attacked. They were fired at and personnel was threatened.
Al Mezan pointed out that the siege constituted collective punishment of the entire population, which is a breache of IHL and, especially, the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention. Also the attacks on the press are considered a breach of international humanitarian law.
- Preliminary Humanitarian Situation Report Operation "Forward Shield". Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 20 August 2004
- Israel: Strikes to Silence Palestinian Media. Human Rights Watch, 2 July 2004
- PCHR Condemns Israeli Aerial Attack on a Press Office in Gaza. PCHR, 29 June 2004
- CPJ expresses grave concern about Gaza strike. Committee to Protect Journalists, 30 June 2004
- A paper on the IOF Invasion of the town of Beit Hanoun (29 June – 5 August 2004). Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, 12 August 2004. On 
- A special Issue at the End of 2004. PCHR, 30 December 2004
- PCHR, Third Report on Israeli Attacks against Palestinian Medical Personnel, 1 September 2002 – 31 December 2004, par. Beit Hanoun
- Al Mezan paper on the IOF Invasion, 12 August 2004
"Another 36 homes were occupied by Israeli soldiers and used as watch posts. In every case of home occupation the IOF detained the inhabitants inside one room of the house"