PCHR strongly condemns the latest attack committed by Israeli occupation forces (IOF) today, when they opened fire at an elementary school in Rafah, Killing an 11-year-old schoolchild and injuring a second one when the two were in the schoolyard. PCHR is increasingly concerned for attacks by IOF on educational institutions, threatening the lives and safety of children, even in places where full protection is supposed to be offered to them in all circumstances. This latest attacks refutes Israeli official claims regarding commitment to a ceasefire according to ongoing understandings with the Palestinian side.
According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 12:00 on Monday, 31 January 2005, IOF positioned at the Egyptian border, south of Rafah, opened fire at an UNRWA elementary school in al-Brazil neighborhood, nearly 600 meters away from the border. Two Palestinian schoolchildren were wounded: 11-year-old Nouran Eyad Deeb was seriously wounded by a live bullet in the head; and 8-year-old ‘Aaesha ‘Essam al-Khatib, was wounded by a live bullet in the right hand, while the two were about to enter their classrooms. The two children were evacuated to Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, but the first child died a few minutes later. According to a teacher at school, the area was completely quiet when IOF opened fire which absolutely terrified the schoolchildren.
Palestinian educational institutions have been frequently attacked by IOF, and PCHR has documented dozens of such attacks, which injured dozens of schoolchildren while they were at school. In two of such attacks in September and October 2004, 2 schoolchildren were killed by IOF in Khan Yunis refugee camp, when the two were sitting on their desks.
PCHR is deeply concerned for such grave breaches of international law and international humanitarian law perpetrated by IOF against Palestinian children and their right to life, security and physical integrity. PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, to immediately intervene to stop Israeli attacks that have affected the lives, security and physical integrity of Palestinian civilians, and to provide protection for these civilians. PCHR calls also upon international organizations, especially UNESCO and UNICEF, to immediately intervene to sop Israeli violations of the right of Palestinian children to education, which is ensured by international humanitarian law and international human rights law.