As Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip passes the one month milestone, Defence for Children International - Palestine Section (DCI/PS) would like to draw attention to the 31 Palestinian children whose deaths expose anew the degradation of the principles of international humanitarian law. The death of these children implicates both the parties to the conflict as well as those States not directly involved, but who, as third parties, are legally bound to enforce these principles.
Recalling that the Gaza Strip has been under belligerent occupation by Israel since 1967, and that it remains under occupation despite the 12 September 2005 ‘disengagement’ of Israeli troops, the attacks by both the Israeli army and Palestinian armed groups in the past month have been characterized by their lack of respect for the customary international law principle of distinction. This principle requires combatants at all times to distinguish between civilians and civilian objects, and military objectives.
The Israeli tactics in Gaza have also been condemned as disproportionate by the EU and the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator in that the incidental loss of Palestinian lives, injury of Palestinians and damage to Palestinian civilian infrastructure has been excessive in relation to the military advantage understood to be gained by Israel.
Israeli air, sea and ground troops have opened fire in civilian areas in the dense population centers of Gaza cities and refugee camps, including near hospitals, schools, and in crowded residential housing complexes on numerous occasions.
The following children have been killed by Israeli military actions in Gaza since 26 June 2006:
Anwar Isma’el Atallah, 12 years old Saleh Sleman Al Jemasi, 16 years old Ruwan Fareed Hajjaj, 5 years old Khalid Nidal Abed Al Karim Wahbeh, 1 year old Mahfouth Farid Nasseer, 15 years old Ahmad Ghaleb Abu Amshah, 16 years old Ahmed Fathi Odah Shabat, 16 years old Waleed Mahmoud Al Zinati, 12 years old Salah Adeen Hammad Abu Maktuma, 17 years old Ibrahim Ali Khatoush, 15 years old Mahmoud Muhammad Al Asar, 15 years old Ibrahim Ali Al Nabaheen, 15 years old Ahmad Abdil Mina’m Abu Hajaj, 16 years old Nasrallah Nabil Abu Selmieh, 5 years old Aya Nabil Abu Selmieh, 7 years old Iman Nabil Abu Selmieh, 11 years old Yahya Nabil Abu Selmieh, 9 years old Huda Nabil Abu Selmieh, 13 years old Basma Nabil Abu Selmieh, 15 years old Sumaia Nabil Abu Selmieh, 16 years old Raji Omar Deif Alla, 16 years old Muhanna Sa’ed Mesleh, 16 years old Ahmad Rawhee Abdo, 13 years old Ali Kamil Al Najar, 13 years old Fadwa Faisel al ‘Urouqi, 13 years old Mohammad Awad Muhra, 17 years old Khitam Muhammad Tayeh, 11 years old Nadee Habib Al Ataar, 11 years old Saleh Ibrahim Nasser, 13 years old Bashir Abdullah Awad Abu Thaher, 12 years old Sabrine Naser Habib, 3 years old.
DCI/PS recalls that one of the predominant reasons for restrictions enshrined in the ius in bello (the law governing the conduct of warfare, or international humanitarian law) is to regulate combatant behavior such that acts will not be taken which are so grave as to prevent the return to peace. At a time when international political actors are calling for a return to the logic of ‘durable solutions’ to stop the current escalation in violence, DCI/PS asserts that nations at war remember no injuries as acutely as they remember the death of their children.
Thus, DCI/PS believes that any effective solutions to the current crisis and the crisis of the future must include a reiterated commitment to the principles of international humanitarian law, and particularly those principles relating to the protection of the civilian population and civilian infrastructure.