Fears for the children of Gaza

January 2009

Friends of Al-Aqsa Newspaper

by Arwa Aburawa

As the attack on the Gaza Strip continues, a Palestinian human rights organisation has warned of the immediate danger to children being targeted and killed by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights states in its latest report that, “If the Tahdiya (ceasefire/calming) is renounced by either side and the hostilities resume, then children living in the Gaza Strip will immediately be once more at risk of being targeted and killed by the IOF.”

Conflict first erupted in the Gaza Strip on November 4, when Israeli forces killed six Palestinians in a raid. Ongoing retaliatory attacks between the two sides raised concerns that the ceasefire agreement would either disintegrate ahead of its expiry or a new agreement would not be reached. The heightened blockade on Gaza, put in place at the beginning of the hostilities also attracted criticism from humanitarian organisation due to rapidly dwindling food, fuel and medical supplies. A report by the International Committee of the Red Cross revealed that the blockade had led to a steady rise in chronic malnutrition among the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip.

Whilst the threat of malnutrition was noted, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) feared that the rise in hostilities would mark the return of a significant military threat to Palestinian children. According to the PCHR report, Blood On Their Hands, Israel has “consistently failed in its legal obligation to offer protection towards the children of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Since the Second Intifada in 2000, Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have killed more than 860 children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, mainly within the Gaza Strip. Rather than respecting International Humanitarian Laws which grant children protection during armed conflict and occupation, the Israeli Occupation Force consistently use “excessive lethal force against Palestinian children.”

From June 2007 to June 2008 alone, 68 children were killed in the Gaza Strip. These lethal attacks on innocent children- some only one years old- are justified by the IOF as a response to militant groups firing missiles. However, PCHR investigations into such allegations have consistently refuted this, stating that the “IOF war on children in the Gaza Strip has increasingly involved IOF use of advanced military technology to pinpoint, and kill the intended targets.”

On 1 March 2008, twelve year old Safaa Abu-Saif from Jabalia of northern Gaza bled to death after being hit by a single bullet. Her only crime was to take the outdoor stairs up to visit her aunties during the large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip which was launched on February of the same year. She was struck down by IOF and when an ambulance was called, the family were told that they would be unable to make it as Palestinian ambulances were being targeted by Israeli tanks. Trapped inside their home, the family struggled to tend to Safaa who died three hours later.

Evidence suggests that IOF are using snipers to target children, further undermining claims that they are targeting legitimate military targets. PCHR investigations into 110 civilian deaths between February/March 2008 also 2008 confirmed “widespread use of excessive lethal force against civilians in the Gaza Strip, and the deliberate targeting of civilians, including children.”

Sadly, this is one of many widespread human rights violations against Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories which has resulted in the deaths of 3,724 unarmed civilians since 2000. PCHR’s report remarked that: “civilians were undoubtedly deliberately targeted, as the IOF bombarded, shot and shelled in and around densely populated civilian areas, where it was clearly impossible to distinguish between military and civilian targets.”

The recent attacks on Gaza deaths are clear indicators that the targeting young children and civilians is set to continue. Furthermore with ground troops now inside the Gaza Strip, new evidence indicates that Israel is openly targeting civilians. Such a blatant disregard for the lives of Palestinians and their young children cannot go unquestioned any longer.

Arwa Aburawa is a freelance Journalist


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