Ramallah, February 11, 2020—An explosion in the northern Gaza Strip in late January destroyed a residential building, damaged several public buildings, and caused injury to 18 Palestinian children.
The explosion occurred on January 23 around 8:15 a.m. originating on the roof of a three-story residential building in a densely-populated neighborhood in Beit Hanoun, located in the northern Gaza Strip. The building owner’s son, Ahmad Al-Kafarneh, 32, built and maintained a warehouse on the roof used to store munitions and military equipment for the Palestinian armed group, Saraya Al-Quds, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, of which he is a member, according to a source in the North Gaza General Investigation Department.
“Palestinian armed groups must take measures to protect civilians including not storing explosive materials and weapons in densely populated civilian areas,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, DCIP’s Accountability Program Director. “The de-facto Hamas-run government must conduct a thorough, independent, and impartial investigation into this incident and all necessary measures must be taken to ensure Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip do not store weapons and munitions in densely populated civilian areas.”
The explosion destroyed the residential building and damaged a nearby hospital, police station, and three United Nations-run schools. At least 26 houses were damaged in the blast, according to information collected by DCIP.
Six of Al-Kafarneh’s children sustained injuries from the blast, with Al-Kafarneh sustaining the most severe injuries, according to information collected by DCIP.
The Al-Kafarneh children were preparing to have breakfast on the ground floor of the building when the explosion occurred. Nahedh, 10, sustained a minor injury to his left leg; Enas, 9, was struck by glass shrapnel in the left leg; Abdulkareem, 7, was struck by glass shrapnel in the head; Habiba, 6, was struck by shrapnel in the head and legs, and three-year-old Ni’ma and one-year-old Hayat sustained bruises. An additional 12 children sustained mild to moderate injuries from the blast, according to information collected by DCIP.
There is no indication that any of the children injured in the blast were involved with the Palestinian armed group Saraya Al-Quds or any other armed group, according to evidence collected by DCIP.
In recent years, DCIP has documented several child fatalities and injuries occurring within the context of activity by or involvement with Palestinian armed groups. Odai Mansour Abu Hassan, 11, was killed on July 15, 2018, when an improvised explosive device accidentally detonated on his roof, according to an investigation by DCIP. Odai’s father was a Palestinian armed group field commander in the military wing of the Fatah movement.
Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip are at risk of violence, including accidental violence, as a result of Palestinian armed group activities. Between January 2011 and September 2020, DCIP documented the deaths of nine children and the injury of two children who were involved with Palestinian armed groups.
Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip are increasingly vulnerable and at risk of death and injury due to repeated Israeli military offensives, attacks, and incursions. Additionally, Israel’s ongoing closure of the Gaza Strip has created an acute, human-made humanitarian crisis and deteriorating economic context within which children are vulnerable to recruitment during active hostilities.