Ramallah, May 16, 2021—Overnight Israeli airstrikes killed at least 11 Palestinian children, and an Israeli aerial drone strike killed another boy Saturday afternoon, bringing the total number of Palestinian children killed in the Gaza Strip to at least 53 since May 10.
Israeli warplanes launched dozens of airstrikes around 1 a.m. on Sunday in Gaza City, targeting residential buildings and civilian infrastructure, including roads and government ministry buildings. Two parallel streets in Gaza City, Al-Wehda Street and Egyptian Embassy Street, were targeted by Israeli warplanes with at least 25 bombs that leveled several residential buildings, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine. The overnight attacks killed at least 30 Palestinian civilians, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.
Among the residential buildings targeted in the bombardment were a five-story home owned by the Abu al-Auf family that housed 10 apartments and two four-story homes owned by Ameen al-Qawlaq and Mu’in al-Qawlaq. DCIP documented 11 Palestinian children killed in the Israeli aerial attacks, and at least 25 children sustained injuries.
The dead included Tala Ayman Tawfeeq Abu al-Auf, 13, and her 17-year-old brother, Tawfeeq Ayman Tawfeeq Abu al-Auf; brothers Yahya Riad Hasan Ishkantna, 4, two-year-old Zain Riad Hasan Ishkantna, and their nine-year-old sister Dana Riad Hasan Ishkantna; brothers Adam Izzat Mu’in al-Qawlaq, 3, and eight-year-old Zaid Izzat Mu’in al-Qawlaq; 14-year-old Hana Shukri Ameen al-Qawlaq and her brother, Ahmad Shukri Ameen al-Qawlaq, 15; Dima Rami Riad al-Ifranji, 15, and six-month-old Qusai Sameh Fawwaz al-Qawlaq, according to documentation collected by DCIP.
Tala and Tawfeeq’s father, Ayman Abu al-Auf, who served as the head of internal medicine at Gaza City’s Shifa hospital was also killed in the Israeli attack, according to Al Jazeera.
The death toll is expected to rise as rescue and civil defense teams were still searching for missing victims and survivors several hours after the attack, according to documentation gathered by DCIP.
"The destruction of civilian infrastructure and a large number of civilian fatalities suggests Israeli forces carried out indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks amounting to war crimes," said Khaled Quzmar, general director at DCIP.
A missile from an Israeli weaponized aerial drone killed 17-year-old Mohammad Ahmad Alya Bhar on Saturday afternoon in Gaza City’s Shuja’iyya neighborhood. Mohammad was returning home after visiting a nearby shop when the Israeli aerial drone targeted him and a group of boys who had gathered near the market around 1:30 p.m., according to documentation collected by DCIP. Shrapnel struck Mohammad in his lower chest, and he succumbed to his injuries while en route to Gaza City’s Shifa hospital. An 18-year-old Palestinian was also killed in the blast, and five others were injured.
DCIP has documented an additional 41 Palestinian children killed in the Gaza Strip 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.
Since May 10, at least 173 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and at least 1,221 Palestinians were injured, according to data issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. Over 38,000 internally displaced persons have sought protection in 48 UNRWA schools across the Gaza Strip, and over 2,500 people have been made homeless due to the destruction of their homes, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Israeli forces continue to target essential infrastructure, including roads leading to two main hospitals in the Gaza Strip, resulting in an additional decline in the public’s access to basic services, according to OCHA.
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.
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.