Ramallah, August 15, 2018—A Palestinian toddler and her pregnant mother were killed by an explosion in the central Gaza Strip in the early hours of the morning last Thursday.
At approximately 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, 9 August, 2018, a powerful explosion hit the roof of the Abu Khammash family’s home in al-Jafarawi neighborhood east of Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, instantly killing an 18-month girl, Bayan Mohammed Kamil Abu Khammash, and her mother, Enas. Defense for Children International - Palestine’s preliminary evidence suggests that the explosion was likely caused by an Israeli airstrike, as many media outlets reported. Israeli authorities have neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the two deaths.
“An incident like this must not pass without an independent and impartial investigation,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCIP. “Bombardments on densely populated residential areas are strictly prohibited under international law.
Eyewitnesses who were the first to enter the building after the blast told DCIP that they heard a voice calling from the house and rushed in to help. When they entered, they found a large hole in the house. Inside the hole, witnesses said they saw the child’s father soaked with blood, the fetus, and partial remains of the child and her mother. They also found parts of the Bayan’s and her mother’s bodies on trees adjacent to the the house, indicating a forceful explosion.
An explosives engineering team found part of a missile approximately 700 meters (766 yards) away from the house and the unexploded head of a F16 missile, suggesting that the body of the missile exploded in the Abu Khammash’s house.
DCIP sources also confirmed that they found shrapnel with Hebrew writing on them which were turned over to a team of specialists for analysis.
The incident came in a period of escalation in which Israel carried out a large number of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip. The spokesperson for Israel’s military stated on August 9 that Israel targeted 150 sites, also reporting that 180 rockets had been launched toward Israel from the Gaza Strip between August 8 and 9. A Palestinian cultural center was also among the sites Israeli airstrikes struck, media outlets reported.
Children, including civilians, must never be targets in armed conflict. In 2014, DCIP independently verified the deaths of 547 Palestinian children killed in Gaza, 535 of them as a direct result of Israeli attacks.