Israeli genocide targets disabled Palestinian children’s futures

"I just want to walk"

Jun 05, 2024
15-year-old Mohammad O. is paralyzed from the waist down after surviving a gunshot wound from an Israeli quadcopter in Gaza. (Photo: DCIP)

Ramallah, June 5, 2024—Israeli forces have critically injured thousands of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip, creating lifelong disabilities in direct and indiscriminate attacks as part of Israel’s campaign of genocide against Palestinians. 

Defense for Children International - Palestine collected testimonies from children suffering from serious injuries as a result of Israeli attacks in Gaza city. Israel’s campaign of genocide has collapsed Gaza’s health care system, making it impossible for children to receive the surgeries, medication, physical therapy, and follow-up care that is required to recover from such traumatic injuries.

“Palestinian children who survive Israeli attacks face a lifetime of recovery to heal from the physical and psychological trauma,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Israeli forces have made their intentions clear to kill and injure Palestinian children in Gaza to prevent this generation from growing up. The international community must apply an arms embargo and sanctions against the Israeli government and military to force an end to the genocide of Palestinians.”

“I am confident that I will return to walking” 

“I used to love playing football, as I always stood as a goalkeeper,” 15-year-old Mohammad O. told DCIP. “I also loved repairing watches and electrical appliances, but now I cannot do that due to my disability.” 

Mohammad is one of thousands of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip who has suffered critical injuries from Israeli strikes. 

An Israeli quadcopter fired a bullet that struck Mohammad in the back while he was walking in the Salah al-Din street in Gaza city around 12 p.m. on March 22. He remained lying and bleeding on the ground for two hours, until some passers-by took him to the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital. He was transferred to Kamal Adwan Hospital for back surgery, and now suffers from paralysis in the lower part of his body.

“I still suffer from laxity, or loose muscles, in the upper part of my body, in addition to paralysis of the entire lower half, so I spend most of my time on a mattress, lying on my back. Also, I suffer from ulcers due to prolonged sitting, and have not healed yet. The medicine for these wounds and painkillers are expensive and my father cannot always afford them,” Mohammad said.

Mohammad O. spends most of his time in bed after a bullet from an Israeli quadcopter paralyzed his legs. (Photo: DCIP)

Israeli forces use quadcopters in the military operations to target individuals and groups of people by firing live ammunition and conducting surveillance. They were notably used in the Rashid Street massacre also known as the “Flour Massacre,” where witnesses reported that quadcopters opened fire on hundreds of people waiting for aid trucks, resulting in many fatalities and injuries. At least one type of quadcopter is manufactured by Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems, which has an extensive presence in the United States.

Even before a bullet from an Israeli quadcopter gravely injured Mohammad, he survived four Israeli strikes in a single day, December 5.

Mohammad and his family were sheltering in a residential building in the Al-Shujaiya neighborhood in Gaza city when they were targeted by three missiles fired by unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drones. The three strikes, which occurred over three hours between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., killed seven members of Mohammad’s family and injured four others. 

Israeli forces have been using UAV drones extensively for intelligence gathering, surveillance, and targeted strikes in Gaza Strip. The UAVs have been used in a systematic manner to kill Palestinians, including civilians, in close proximity. The majority of UAVs in Israel’s fleet are provided by Elbit Systems, though other drones, in addition to cameras, GPS navigation, and other technology, are manufactured by companies in the United States in China. 

Later that same day, around 5 p.m., the family gathered in the building to bid farewell to their killed family members. A U.S.-sourced Israeli F-16 aircraft launched a missile targeting the three-story house. The strike killed 58 Palestinians, including 33 children, whose bodies remain under the rubble. 

“I used to love playing with my friends, who I lost some of them during the war, but now I cannot play due to injury. However, I feel determined and steadfast, and I am confident that I will return to walking after treatment,” Mohammad told DCIP. “I want to learn how to make roofs and tiles, as I love building and making beautiful houses and roofs.”

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. 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. As the occupying power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the Gaza Strip, Israel is required to protect the Palestinian civilian population from violence.

“I still remember the day of the targeting”

13-year-old Abdulrahman recounted to DCIP the moment he and his brothers were targeted by an Israeli strike on March 19, 2024.

Abdulrahman and his two brothers, 17-year-old Bara and 14-year-old Hamdi, accompanied by their grandfather, went to inspect their house located in the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza city, after being displaced due to the war. They were targeted by an Israeli aircraft that launched a missile directly at them around 8 p.m. 

The strike killed Bara and Hamdi as well as their grandfather. Abdulrahman survived, but was seriously injured. Injuries to his head, shoulder, back, pelvis, and feet, caused him to become paralyzed in the lower half of his body.

The warplanes in Israel’s fleet are manufactured by companies in the United States. The F-15 is manufactured by Boeing while Lockheed Martin manufactures the F-16 and F-35. 

I have not adapted to my disability and am not comfortable in the wheelchair at all,” Abdulrahman told DCIP. “I’m still in the hospital, exposed to constant high temperatures and sometimes slip into a coma for two or three days for unknown reasons. My injury has not healed yet.” 

The same Israeli airstrike that paralyzed Abdulrahman killed his brothers and grandfather. (Photo: DCIP)

“I feel very sad because I can not walk. I also feel sad for my brothers who were killed in the same incident and for my grandfather who took his last breath in front of me before I lost consciousness,” Abdulrahman told DCIP. “I still remember the day of the targeting.” 

Abdulrahman is in Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza city and has not been discharged due to the seriousness of his health condition, awaiting a referral for treatment outside of Gaza in hopes that he will regain his ability to walk.

“I take him out in a wheelchair to eat in the courtyard of the hospital, and he refuses to eat when he sees everyone walking while he is in a wheelchair,” Abdulrahman’s mother said. She added that he wears a hat to hide his face from people and he cries for long hours if anyone he knows sees him.

“I used to play football and repair bicycles for the boys of the neighborhood, and I went swimming, but now I cannot do any of it,” Abdulrahman said. “I have several friends, but most have been displaced to the southern Gaza Strip because of the war and there is no way to communicate with them.”

“I am not afraid of anything, and if I died, I would be happy because I would go to my brothers,” Abdulrahman said.

“My dream is to become a doctor to help all patients. I used to hear the cries of patients when I was in Kamal Adwan Hospital. The doctors were busy with a large number of cases and there was no one to help some of the patients,” he said and added “I just want to walk and travel abroad for treatment. The doctors and an American-Spanish medical delegation told me that I can regain walking if I travel for treatment.”

“The first thing I want to do is swim in the sea”

"Before the war, there was school, friends, and life, and I had a football team with my friends in the neighborhood, and we used to play every afternoon," Mohammad J. told DCIP.

"Every Friday at dawn, I went with my friends to swim in the sea. The day before the war, I swam in the sea. It seemed that we were bidding farewell to the sea for the last time.” Mohammad's friends were all displaced to southern Gaza.

13-year-old Mohammad was injured by shrapnel from an Israeli missile during his displacement with his family in Al-Fakhoura School in Jabalia, which caused multiple burns. He underwent a platinum insertion in his right leg at Kamal Adwan Hospital at that time, but he still needs further treatment and medical follow-up, which is unavailable now due to the destruction of the hospitals in the Gaza Strip, in addition to the huge number of wounded Palestinians in need of care.

“The burns cover most of Mohammad's body, and his leg contains a large amount of shrapnel, so his brothers carry him when he wants to move from one place to another, as he cannot go by himself without assistance,” Mohammad’s father said. 

Mohammad lived with his parents, brother, and three sisters in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. The family was displaced at least 10 times after their house was completely destroyed, and they settled in an UNRWA school shelter in Al-Tuffah neighborhood in Gaza city.

“I could not get a wheelchair, and even if I did, how would Mohammad move around in the midst of this destruction? Mohammad’s psychological state has worsened. He cries when he goes to the bathroom because he is asking for help. He was active, and his wish was to become a doctor, but after the injury he became sad and depressed, feeling shy around people, and stutters when he speaks,” Mohammad’s father added.

“My life has become very boring. Most of my time is in class. I do not like to go out. Every time I leave class, I either fall to the ground or someone accidentally hits my injured leg,” Mohammad said. “The worst thing is when I go to the bathroom. I cannot move because of my leg and the burns on my back.”

“The first thing I want to do is swim in the sea when the war is over, and my legs and burns are better,” Mohammad said.

According to his father, Mohammad suffers from loss of appetite, feelings of anxiety, shyness, and tension, bouts of sadness and depression, introversion and social isolation, and a lack of medications and assistive tools.

Since October 7, at least 36,450 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, including 15,440  children, and at least 82,600 Palestinians are injured, according to the Ministry of Health. At least 17,000 children are living without their parents, according to estimates from UNICEF, and many others are still missing and buried under the rubble. Over 1.7 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes and 60 percent of residential buildings have been destroyed, according to UN OCHA.

The Israeli military offensive has resulted in a significant number of child amputees. According to UNICEF, more than 1,000 children have become amputees since October, often without anesthesia due to severe shortages in medical supplies. This has left many children facing long-term physical and psychological challenges.

Israeli forces deliberately target Palestinian civilians, including children, from close range in indiscriminate and disproportionate manners with the purpose of killing them, exploiting the impunity given to the occupation. Israeli forces have caused permanent disabilities by critically injuring thousands of Palestinian children in Gaza since the beginning of October 7, according to documentation collected by DCIP.

DCIP and other human rights organizations have extensively documented Israeli forces’ targeting of schools, hospitals, and other civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, as well as the killing and maiming of children in and around such infrastructure.

Under international law, genocide is prohibited and constitutes the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group, in whole or in part. Genocide can result from killing or by creating conditions of life that are so unbearable it brings about the groups destruction.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has issued several orders related to the genocide committed by Israel in Gaza in a case brought by South Africa. The most recent order was issued on May 24, 2024, and emphasized the need for Israel to take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of Article II and Article III of the Genocide Convention. 

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