On 22 July 2002, the Israeli air force bombed a residential building with F-16 warplanes in Gaza City, killing at least 10 civilians, among them seven children. According to information provided to DCI/PS by Shifa Hospital in Gaza, the children who were killed in the attack were:*
1. Subhe Mahmoud Al Huwaiti, (age unknown but between 3-5 years)
2. Mahmoud Mahmoud Al Huwaiti (age unknown but between 3-5 years)
3. Ahmed Mohammed Shawa (3 years old)
4. Dina Ra'id Matar (2 months old)
5. Mohammed Ra'id Matar (4 years old)
6. Ayman Ra'id Matar (2 years old)
7. Ala Mohammed Matar (11 years old)
*This information is correct at the time of issuing this press release, however it is quite possible that the number of dead will increase.
In addition to these seven children, at least three adults were killed in the attack. An additional 17 children were wounded, thirteen of them under the age of 12.
According to eyewitness reports from Gaza, two F-16 warplanes circled the two-storey residential building at around midnight as the residents were sleeping. One bomb was dropped on the building which reduced it to rubble and also destroyed walls of more than ten surrounding buildings.
The killing of 10 people, among them seven children, as they slept is a war crime of the highest magnitude. Israel clearly knew that they were bombing a residential building which housed several families. There is no excuse or justification for this crime that deliberately targeted and killed innocent civilians.
The killing of the seven children brings the total number of Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip killed by Israeli soldiers this year to 117. This is the highest number of Palestinian children killed in any year since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.
The deaths last night confirm three trends noted by DCI/PS over the last three years:
1. The Israeli military is killing an increasing number of children. In the first seven months of this year, 117 children have been killed. This number exceeds the number killed each year in 2001 and 2000. In the year 2000, 105 children were killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers, in 2001 this figure was 98. Every year since 1990, Palestinian children have made up over 20% of total Palestinian deaths in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
2. The Israeli military is killing younger children. In the first seven months of the year 2002, 48% of Palestinian children killed were aged 12 years and under. This number exceeds the proportion in the year 2001, both relatively (48% compared to 34%) and also in quantitative terms (56 children compared to 33 children). It should be stressed that the figures for the year 2002 cover the first seven months of the year while those for 2001 include the whole 12-month period. An examination of data concerning children killed between 0-8 years shows a further disturbing trend. The number of children killed in this age group has been increasing on an annual basis, with 7 deaths documented in 2000, 12 in 2001, and 35 in the first 7 months of 2002. In addition, the percentage this age group of children represents is increasing within the context of total number of children killed annually. In 2000, deaths of Palestinian children 0-8 years constituted 6.6% of total children killed (7/105). In 2001 the percentage increased to 12.2% (12/98). In the first 7 months of the year 2002, deaths in this age group constituted 29.9% (35/117) of total child deaths. Thus, in the span of two years, the percentage of children in this age group that have been killed has increased by over 450%.
3. The Israeli military is using increasing levels of force in the killing of children. In 2002, nearly one half of the children killed sustained multiple fatal injuries to more than one part of the body (49.5%) as compared to one-third of children in 2001. In other words, the level of deadly force used by Israeli soldiers in 2002 has increased dramatically. This trend is also indicated by the cause of death, 37% of children this year have been killed by rockets, shelling or machine gun fire. Six children were killed when their houses were demolished on top of them.
The killing of the seven children confirms another indisputable fact - the vast majority of children killed by the Israeli army have been killed in circumstances where there were no clashes or confrontations occurring. Eighty-four percent of children have been killed this year in circumstances where there was no confrontation occurring at the time of the death. This indicates beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Israeli myth that children are dying because they are caught in "crossfire" is absolutely false. It should also be stressed that those children killed in demonstrations - 19 in the year 2002 - were killed when there was no exchange of fire. In other words, Israeli soldiers shot and killed unarmed children participating in demonstrations against the occupation of their land.
The question that must be posed is: Why are increasing numbers of younger children being killed with increasing levels of force? The killing of the seven children last night provides a very clear answer to this question. Israel can act with impunity against a civilian population because it has the green light to do so from the international community. The bombing of an apartment building in a residential area by F-16 warplanes as the inhabitants were sleeping is shocking confirmation of this fact. The international community not only sits in silence as Israel commits war crimes, but provides it with the material and moral means to attack Palestinian civilians.
DCI/PS poses the question very bluntly to the leaders of the international human rights community: Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson - you claim to uphold and defend the principles of human rights. The facts and statistics are clear. When will you act?