The Israeli military is facing fresh accusations from a Palestinian human rights group that it is responsible for civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip. Israel has also been accused of targeting children in Gaza. Al Jazeera‘s Ayman Mohyeldin reports.
Israelis Killed 68 Children in Gaza In Year
by Rory McCarthy
Young relatives of newborn baby Amira Abu ‘Aser mourn during her funeral in Gaza City, 5 March 2008. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)
A prominent Palestinian human rights group says it has found evidence that 68 children were killed in the Gaza Strip in the 12 months to June this year as a result of “disproportionate and excessive lethal force” by the Israeli military.
The deaths are documented, with witness testimony, in a report published today by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. Many of the deaths resulted from an Israeli military incursion into Jabaliya, in eastern Gaza, in late February and early March, in which more than 100 Palestinians, at least half of them civilians, died in what Israel said was an operation to stop rockets being fired into southern Israeli towns.
Others were killed in smaller strikes before a ceasefire was reached in June between Gaza’s Hamas administration and Israel. Despite occasional breaches, the truce still holds. In the year to June, another 12 children were killed by Israeli troops in the West Bank.
The rights group said many of the deaths passed without investigation, and those internal Israeli military inquiries that were held did not meet international standards of independence and transparency.
Since the start of the second intifada in late 2000, around 4,800 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military, including nearly 900 children. More than 1,000 Israelis have been killed, including around 120 children.
The centre cited as one example an incident in April near the village of Juhor al-Dik, when a Reuters cameraman was killed by Israeli tank fire. The same tank shells killed two children: Ahmed Aaref Farajallah, 14, and Ghassan Abu Otaiwi, 17. The Israeli military said it investigated the incident and concluded that the tank crew reached a “reasonable conclusion” that the Palestinians gathered on the road were “hostile”, and said the decision to fire was “sound”.
The Israeli military did not respond to the criticisms last night, because of a Jewish religious holiday. However, it has in the past repeatedly defended its military actions in Gaza, saying it does not intentionally target civilians, and noting that Palestinian militants frequently fire from civilian areas.
The centre said the killing of unarmed civilians represented grave human rights violations, and called on Israel to establish an independent commission to investigate the deaths. It condemned Palestinian militant groups that recruited children to fight and said militants should not fire missiles from in or around residential areas.
Blood on Their Hands: Child Killings By the Israeli Occupation Forces
” . . . at 4 AM on March 1 Samah Abu-Saif was preparing food for the family when twelve year old Safaa went upstairs to the second floor of the house . . . .
“Five minutes later the extended Abu-Saif family downstairs heard a single shot, followed by screaming. . . . Safaa had been shot and collapsed on the bedroom floor . . . .”
There was a hole in her chest and she was “bleeding heavily,” according to her brother. Ambulances were being attacked by the IOF so they could not come to the house. The little girl bled to death for three hours. When her mother and her grandmother waving a white flag tried to carry the dead girl outside the Israeli soldiers from inside a tank shot in front of them forcing them inside.
The above is direct quotation and a summary from Palestine Center for Human Rights Gaza’s “Blood on Their Hands”: Child Killings By the Israeli Occupation Forces In the Gaza Strip, June 2007-June 2008.
The sixty-four page report may be downloaded in PDF format here.
According to a PCHR press release issued today:
During international armed conflicts, including occupations by military forces, children are afforded protection under International Humanitarian Law. Children are also granted protection under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as persons who are especially vulnerable during war time. However, the State of Israel has consistently failed in its legal obligation to offer protection towards the children of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). Since the beginning of the Second Intifada in September 2000, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have killed more than 860 children in the OPT, the majority of them in the Gaza Strip.
In response to these IOF killings of children, and IOF consistent use of excessive lethal force against Palestinian children, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is launching ‘Blood on Their Hands’ – a major investigative report on child killings perpetrated by the IOF in the Gaza Strip.
Blood on Their Hands examines IOF killings of children in the Gaza Strip from June 2007-June 2008. During this period, IOF killed sixty eight children in the Gaza Strip. The report provides data, analysis and testimonies on the killings of these children, including detailed testimonies from eye-witnesses and bereaved families, which highlight the horrific nature of these IOF child killings. The report also examines the psychological impact of child deaths on other children in the Gaza Strip, especially those children who have witnessed IOF killings. Although it focuses on the Gaza Strip, the report also refers to child killings by IOF in the West Bank, where twelve children were killed by IOF during the reporting period.
The violent deaths of all these eighty children are the direct result of IOF policy of targeting unarmed civilians in the OPT, and especially the Gaza Strip, as a form of collective punishment against Palestinian civilians. The report investigates the context of child killings in the Gaza Strip, providing detailed investigations into IOF use of disproportionate and excessive lethal force in order to deliberately target children. The report also exposes IOF methods of killing children, and the consistent failure of the State of Israel to investigate IOF killings of Palestinian children in the OPT, or to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Blood on Their Hands exposes the extent of IOF child killings, and makes urgent recommendations for the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to respect the human rights of all Palestinian children in the OPT, as well as demanding that the international community intervenes immediately and effectively in order to ensure that children’s human rights are respected and upheld.
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