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One of the many children in Gaza whose homes were destroyed by Israel last summer. (Mohammed Talatene / APA images).
Of the 2,220 Palestinians killed during Israel’s 51-day bombing campaign, at least 1,492 were civilians, including at least 547 children.
A total of 535 of those children were killed as a direct result of Israeli attacks. Moreover, 68 percent of children Israel killed in Gaza were under the age of twelve, according to the report.
An additional 3,374 children were injured, including over 1,000 who have been left with lifelong disabilities, many of which require medical care that is inaccessible in Gaza due to a crushing Israeli siege that has yet to be lifted. Another 373,000 children are suffering from deep trauma and require desperately needed psychosocial support that is severely lacking in the Gaza Strip.
As a matter of policy, Israel deliberately and indiscriminately targeted the very spaces where children are supposed to feel most secure. Such acts violate international law and amount to war crimes, according to the report.
Children were crushed to death while they sheltered in their homes, dismembered as they slept in their beds and torn to pieces as they played in their yards. At least eighteen children were killed by Israeli attacks targeting schools. For the children of Gaza, nowhere was safe from Israeli violence.
Equally as haunting as where children were killed is the assortment of weapons Israel deployed against them.
At least 225 children were killed in airstrikes “while they were in their own homes or seeking shelter, often as they sat down to eat with their families, played, or slept,” the report states.
An investigation by the Associated Press yielded similar data, finding that 844 Palestinians, over half of the total of civilians killed in Gaza last summer, were killed by Israeli airstrikes on civilian homes, “including nineteen babies and 108 preschoolers between the ages of one and five.”
Israel tried to justify the targeting of Gaza’s civilian population by arguing, without evidence, that Palestinian resistance fighters were using civilians as human shields, giving Israel no choice but to fire at children. DCI-Palestine strongly disputes this claim, arguing:
The rhetoric voiced by Israeli officials regarding “human shields” during the military offensive amounted to nothing more than generalizations that fall short of the precise calculation required by international humanitarian law when determining whether something is actually a military object. Even if evidence existed that Hamas or other Palestinian armed groups did use civilians as human shields, this does not relieve Israel from its obligations under international law nor does it justify an attack on civilians or civilian structures.
In fact, it is Israel which has a long and documented history of using Palestinian children as human shields, and last summer’s attack was no exception, as detailed by DCI-Palestine report.
DCI-Palestine attributes Israel’s indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilian homes and schools in Gaza to the Dahiya doctrine. Named after the Dahiya neighborhood in Beirut that Israel purposely devastated in its 2006 assault on Lebanon, the Dahiya doctrine refers to the Israeli army’s stated policy of deploying overwhelming force against civilian infrastructure.
Israel’s baseless “human shields” accusation against Palestinians is an attempt to mask a military policy that systematically violates international law.
Another 164 children were “directly targeted and unlawfully killed” in Israeli drone strikes on their homes and in the street as they attempted to flee to safety, according to DCI-Palestine.
DCI-Palestine was particularly alarmed by the high number of children targeted in drone attacks because Israeli drones deliver well-defined images of the people below in real time. Furthermore, Israeli officials often boast that drone strikes are superior to other methods of warfare due to their surgical precision, says DCI-Palestine, suggesting that Israel deliberately targeted children in drone attacks.
One of the many cases highlighted in the DCI-Palestine report is the death of nine-year-old Rabi Qasem Rabi Abu Ras, who was dismembered by an Israeli drone missile that targeted him as he ran to an ambulance after an Israeli shell landed near him and his mother.
“His arms and legs were cut off. The upper part of his body was separated from his lower body, which was turned into small pieces. I screamed,” recounted his mother, Aisha Abu Ras, in an interview with DCI-Palestine. “I shouted to the ambulance. I rushed to the paramedics and told them about it, but they said they could not approach the location without prior coordination with the Israeli army.”
Aisha and Rabi were traveling back to a UN shelter after collecting extra belongings from the home they fled in Um Nasr, a town in northern Gaza near the boundary with Israel.
An Israeli drone fired the missile that tore through the home of Issam Jouda on 24 August, killing his wife, Rawiya, and four of their five children as they played together in the family’s yard in Gaza’s Tal al-Zaatar neighborhood.
The Joudas were one of an estimated 140 families partially or completely annihilated by Israel last summer.
Another was the El-Farra family, which lost nine members on 1 August, including five children between the ages of four and fifteen, in a drone strike that targeted them as they ran into the street fleeing two prior drone attacks that struck their home in the middle of the night without warning, according to DCI-Palestine.
Over the last decade, Israel’s use of robotic warfare against Palestinians has escalated dramatically, with each new military assault on Gaza relying more heavily on drones than the last. Thirty-seven percent, or 840 people, were killed in drone attacks alone during last summer’s attack.
As the world’s largest exporter of drones, Israel is profiting immensely from the technology used to kill children.
The bombs have stopped falling for now but children continue to suffer due Israel’s eight-year-long siege, imposed in partnership with Egypt.
The circumstances in Gaza are so desperate that 46 international international aid agencies have called for sanctions on Israel over its blockade, which DCI-Palestine has labeled “a man-made humanitarian crisis.”
Since reducing much of the Gaza Strip to rubble, Israel has refused to allow the entry of desperately needed reconstruction material into Gaza, leaving 108,000 people, the majority of them children, homeless.
Consequently, four infants whose homes were destroyed by Israel last year have died of hypothermia due to lack of proper shelter. The youngest was just one-month-old, according to the UN.
Other children have died as a result of unexploded Israeli ordnance littered across the Gaza Strip. In October last, four-year-old Muhammad Sami Abu Jarad was killed by an unexploded Israeli hand grenade left behind by Israeli soldiers who occupied his house in Beit Hanoun during the ground invasion, according to DCI-Palestine.
The ferocity of Israel’s violence against Palestinian children may have reached new heights in 2014, but DCI-Palestine notes that the brutality is part of an ongoing systematic campaign.
“Since 2000, a generation of children living in the [occupied West Bank and Gaza] have been shot at, shelled and bombed,” says the report. “During this time, Israeli forces and settlers have killed more than 1,950 Palestinian children, the vast majority of whom were living in the Gaza Strip,” it continues.
Indeed, since 2006, Gaza has been subjected to six devastating Israeli military assaults that have killed scores of children.
Gaza is home to 1.8 million Palestinians, eighty percent of whom are refugees. Their families were forcibly expelled from present-day Israel and barred from returning because they are not Jewish.
Meanwhile, 43 percent of Gaza’s inhabitants are under the age of fourteen. Israel’s ongoing war against Gaza is essentially a war on a refugee ghetto.
“While Israeli authorities have selectively opened their own investigations into several incidents occurring during the latest military offensive, previous experience has shown that Israeli authorities persistently fail to investigate alleged violations of its armed forces in accordance with international standards,” warns DCI-Palestine.
Indeed, the Israeli army recently absolved itself of wrongdoing for its behavior in the southern Gaza town of Rafah on 1 August, a day referred to by Palestinians as Black Friday.
On that day Israeli forces executed the Hannibal Directive, an Israeli military protocol that calls for massive firepower to prevent a captured Israeli soldier from being taken alive, even if it means killing the soldier and hundreds of civilians in the process.
To prevent the capture alive of a soldier wrongly believed taken by Palestinian fighters, Israeli forces carpet-bombed Rafah, killing 190 Palestinians in under 48 hours, including at least 49 children on 1 August alone, according to DCI-Palestine.
With the morgues full to capacity, medical workers were forced to store corpses in vegetable refrigerators and ice cream coolers to accommodate the high volume of dead bodies.
The Israeli army’s internal investigation ruled this carnage to be “proportionate.”
The DCI-Palestine report ends by calling for international action to lift the siege on Gaza and hold Israel accountable for its crimes.
“The continued failure of the international community to demand justice and accountability has provided tacit approval of the persistent denial of Palestinian rights,” says DCI-Palestine. “Without an end to the current regime of collective punishment, targeted assassinations, and regular military offensives, the situation for Gaza’s children is all but guaranteed to further deteriorate.”
Author: Rania Khalek