Ramallah, May 15, 2021—At least nine Palestinian children have been killed since Friday evening as Israeli forces intensified attacks on the Gaza Strip, bringing the total number of Palestinian children killed to at least 41 since the escalation of hostilities on May 10.
Israeli forces carried out hundreds of air and ground strikes throughout the Gaza Strip, continuing to target residential buildings and civilian infrastructure. Since Monday, at least 139 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and at least 1,038 Palestinians were injured, including 313 children, according to data issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.
Several days into escalating hostilities, over 17,000 Palestinians are now internally displaced and are sheltering in 41 UNRWA schools, primarily in Gaza City and other locations in North Gaza, according to UNRWA.
Israeli attacks have caused extensive damage to residential and commercial buildings, schools and civilian infrastructure, including roads, the electricity and water networks, and agricultural lands, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Since May 10, at least 76 buildings have been destroyed and at least 725 housing units have suffered major damage, according to data issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing. Another 4,134 housing units have sustained minor damage.
“As we’ve seen in past Israeli military offenses on the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces have repeatedly targeted residential and civilian buildings, including schools, killing entire Palestinian families,” said Khaled Quzmar, general director at DCIP. “Israel’s complete disregard for international law ensures Palestinian children have no safe space and undoubtedly become targets. The Israeli attacks we are witnessing are deliberately and recklessly causing disproportionate civilian harm and amount to war crimes.”
Israeli airstrikes killed 12-year-old Abdullah Ashraf Abdullah Jouda in Gaza City on Friday evening. Israeli warplanes struck the six-story Al-Rabee'a Building in the heart of Gaza City around 8 p.m., targeting an apartment on the second floor and destroying the second and third floors. The attack killed at least two Palestinians, including Abdullah, according to documentation collected by DCIP.
Shrapnel from a rocket-propelled grenade killed six-year-old Buthaina Mahmoud Issa Obaid in North Gaza around 9:15 p.m. on May 14. Buthaina was playing outside her home on Nuzha Street in Jabalia when she was struck in the back of her head by shrapnel, according to documentation collected by DCIP. She was rushed to Indonesian hospital and pronounced dead upon arrival. DCIP has not yet been able to confirm the source of the rocket-propelled grenade and continues to investigate this incident.
An Israeli airstrike in the densely-populated Al-Shati refugee camp, located northwest of Gaza City, killed at least nine members of the same family early Saturday morning. Among the dead were at least seven children ranging in age from five to 12 and their mothers. There was no prior warning before the aerial attack, according to information collected by DCIP.
An Israeli warplane targeted Alaa Abu Hatab’s three-story home in Al-Shati refugee camp around 1:30 a.m. on May 15. The airstrike completely destroyed the residential building, and rescue, civil defence, and medical teams searched for hours to find missing people under the rubble, according to documentation collected by DCIP. The family had reportedly gathered to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
Among those killed in the Israeli airstrike were four of Alaa Abu Hatab’s children, brothers five-year-old Yamen Alaa Mohammad Abu Hatab; nine-year-old Bilal Alaa Mohammad Abu Hatab; Yousef Alaa Mohammad Abu Hatab, 10; and their seven-year-old, sister, Miriam Alaa Mohammad Abu Hatab. Their mother, Alaa’s wife Yasmeen was killed alongside her children,. Alaa’s sister, Maha, and three of her sons, five-year-old Osama Mohammad Sobhi al-Hadidi; seven-year-old Abdurrahman Mohammad Sobhi al-Hadidi; and Suheib Mohammad Sobhi al-Hadidi, 12, were also killed in the blast, according to documentation collected by DCIP.
There were reports of an eighth child killed in the attack, Maha’s son, Yahya Mohammad Sobhi al-Hadidi, 10, but DCIP has been unable to confirm this death. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza and officials at Shifa hospital reported that nine people, including seven children, were killed. However, photos of the funeral depict 10 victims in the May 15 attack.
Maha’s five-month-old infant, Omar Mohammad Sobhi al-Hadidi, was the sole survivor of the attack, apparently shielded by his mother’s body, according to Haaretz.
DCIP has documented 32 other children killed since hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups escalated on May 10. In two separate incidents, at least two Palestinian children are missing, and while presumed dead, DCIP has not yet confirmed their deaths.
The latest escalation in hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups follow weeks of mounting tension as Israeli settlers, with Israeli government support, seek to expel hundreds of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem. Palestinian-led protests against these planned expulsions have been met with state-sanctioned violence as Israeli police and paramilitary border police use excessive force against Palestinian protesters.
In December 2019, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, announced the preliminary examination had concluded with the determination that a reasonable basis did exist and that an investigation be opened into war crimes. In March, her office announced a formal investigation into suspected war crimes in the State of Palestine after a nearly five-year preliminary examination.
This week, Bensouda warned against crimes as hostilities escalated. "These are events that we are looking at very seriously," Bensouda told Reuters on May 14. "We are monitoring very closely and I remind that an investigation has opened and the evolution of these events could also be something we look at."
International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and requires all parties to an armed conflict to distinguish between military targets, civilians, and civilian objects. Israel as the occupying power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the Gaza Strip, is required to protect the Palestinian civilian population from violence.
While Israel relies on the principle of self-defense to justify military offensives on Gaza, Israeli forces are bound to customary international law rules of proportionality and necessity.