Youth in Gaza bear the brunt of Israeli war crimes, 20 children killed in current invasion

A child walks through rubble in Rafah, Gaza. Children account for 53 percent of Gaza’s population. (Photo: Ronald de Hommel)

For seven consecutive days, Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have carried out brutal raids on the northern part of the Gaza Strip in the largest attack in this area since the current intifada began. The siege and invasion of Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya and Jabaliya town and refugee camp has seen the IOF targeting civilians and their properties. A total of 75 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s so-called “Days of Penitence” military campaign, among them 20 children in the north of Gaza. In addition, one child was killed in the south and two children in the central area of the strip. More than 285 Palestinians have been injured in the raids, among them over 100 children.

The heavy death toll brings to 133 the number of children killed since the beginning of 2004 and 4 October 2004. The total number of child fatalities since the start of the intifada is now 647.

The youngest victim of the Gaza raids was 4-year old Lo’ay Ayman Mohammed al-Najjar from the Khan Younis area. He was killed minutes after he returned home from his kindergarten. His mother was preparing his lunch when she asked Lo’ay to bring a bottle of water which was near the door of their house. As he stooped to pick up the bottle, Lo’ay was shot in the head and killed. In Jabaliya, the worst affected area of the Israel attacks, seven boys were killed on 30 September when an Israeli tank fired at them as they stood near the Boys school. The force of the blast was so strong that in some cases family members were only able to identify the bodies from items of clothing.

Age of children killed in Gaza offensive

Age group: Number of children killed

0-8: 2

9-12: 1

13-15: 14

16-17: 6

Total: 23

The indiscriminate use of air-to-ground missiles and tank artillery has caused huge damage to Palestinians homes and civilian property, including schools. Basic infrastructure such as roads and sewage networks have been ripped up, power cables pulled down and agricultural land destroyed. The IOF bulldozers totally demolished tens of homes housing several hundred people. The Documentation Unit at DCI/PS managed to collect information on the destruction of 76 homes in Jabaliya and the Eastern part of Beit Lahiya, but it is clear that the total number will be far higher. Three schools were also reduced to rubble by the bulldozers - Jabaliya Prep Boys School for Refugees and Jabaliya Elementary Boys School for Refugees in addition to Tel el-Zatar Kindergartan which is both a school and a society for disabled children.

Israeli officials have announced their willingness to continue with the campaign not just for days but weeks. However, this military offensive constitutes a huge infringement of international humanitarian and human rights law, targeting as it does innocent civilians. This is clear by the number of deaths among children who were not participating in militant activities. Israel’s random shelling of the northern Gaza Strip - one of the most densely populated areas of the world - has resulted in the destruction of the lives and livelihoods of Palestinian civilians in a manner than can never be justified by Israeli military necessity. Such acts constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.

As a part of the Israeli media war, which is carried out in parallel to any Israeli invasion of Palestinian areas, Israel is repeating like a broken record claims that Palestinian militants have misused UNRWA vehicles for the transportation of missiles, with little or no proof of these allegations. Such assertions are used by Israel to justify the imposition of restrictions on health and humanitarian organisations and the UN agencies, preventing then from fulfilling their role to offer relief services for civilians in the areas exposed to attack and invasion. IOF have not allowed ambulances to reach, evacuate or provide treatment to the injured in northern Gaza. Nor has it been possible for relief agencies to send in food supplies to areas under siege and invasion.

In this regard, we at DCI/PS consider what the Israeli government is doing is little short of terrorism and is a war crime against the Palestinian people, especially the Palestinian children. It is imperative that the international community break its silence and take all measures possible to guarantee protection for the Palestinian people from the crimes of the occupation. We also call the State Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 to bear their legal responsibilities to the first article of the convention to respect and ensure respect of the convention in all circumstances. We also call on the UN Security Council to stop dealing with Israel as if it is a state above the law and take all measures to force Israel to implement the Fourth Geneva Convention.

For more information, please refer to the DCI/PS (Defence for Children International, Palestine Section) website: www.dci-pal.org, or call +972 (0)2 240 7530 and ask for: George Abu al-Zuluf, Director or Catherine Richards, Research Coordinator or mail dcipal@dci-pal.org.

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