Ramallah, May 11, 2021—At least nine Palestinian children are dead in the Gaza Strip following an escalation of violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups late yesterday afternoon.
Nine Palestinian children, ranging in age from two to 16 years old, were killed in three separate incidents across the northern Gaza Strip on May 10. An Israeli drone-fired missile killed 15-year-old Mohammad Saber Ibrahim Suleiman shortly after 6 p.m. while he and his father Saber Ibrahim Mahmoud Suleiman were on their agricultural land outside the city of Jabalia, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine. Father and son were both killed instantly. Mohammad’s body was subsequently transferred to the Indonesian hospital in Jabalia where doctors reported there were shrapnel wounds throughout his body.
Mohammad’s father was reportedly a commander in Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, a Palestinian armed group and the armed wing of Hamas, according to information collected by DCIP.
In a second incident around 6:05 p.m., initial investigations suggest a homemade rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group fell short and killed eight Palestinians, including two children. The rocket landed in Saleh Dardouna Street near Al-Omari Mosque in Jabalia, North Gaza, according to evidence collected by DCIP. Mustafa Mohammad Mahmoud Obaid, 16, was killed in the blast, and five-year-old Baraa Wisam Ahmad al-Gharabli succumbed to his injuries around 11 p.m. on May 10.
Palestinian security sources and explosives experts indicated the cause of this explosion was a Palestinian armed group rocket that fell short. Another 34 Palestinian civilians were injured in the blast, including 10 children, according to DCIP’s documentation.
Six Palestinian children and two adults were killed in a third blast that occurred around 6 p.m. in Beit Hanoun about 800 meters (2,600 feet) west of the Gaza Strip perimeter fence. Those killed included Rahaf Mohammad Attalla al-Masri, 10, and her cousin Yazan Sultan Mohammad al-Masri, 2; brothers Marwan Yousef Attalla al-Masri, 6, and Ibrahim Yousef Attalla al-Masri, 11; as well as Hussein Muneer Hussein Hamad, 11, and 16-year-old Ibrahim Abdullah Mohammad Hassanain, according to information collected by DCIP. When the blast occurred, members of the al-Masri family were reportedly harvesting wheat in the field outside their home, and their children were playing nearby, according to information collected by DCIP.
DCIP has not yet confirmed the cause of these deaths. At the time of the incident, Israeli drones and warplanes were reportedly overhead and Palestinian armed groups were firing homemade rockets towards Israel. DCIP continues to investigate these incidents to determine and identify the responsible parties.
“Israeli forces must not carry out indiscriminate airstrikes in densely populated areas that fail to distinguish between military targets, civilians, and civilian objects,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups must take all steps necessary to conduct any hostilities in accordance with international law and protect civilians, especially children.”
These latest incidents 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.
During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on April 13, Israeli authorities have restricted Palestinian access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third holiest site, and set up checkpoints at the Damascus Gate entrance to occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City. On Saturday, Israeli authorities closed roads to Jerusalem and sought to prevent thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel from accessing and praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque on Laylat al-Qadr, the holiest night in the Muslim calendar.
On Monday, May 10, national religious Israelis marched through occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City celebrating Jerusalem Day, which commemorates Israel’s conquering of East Jerusalem in the 1967 War and its illegal annexation of the eastern part of the city. Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip began firing rockets at Israel during the march, and the Israeli military responded with aerial attacks striking several locations in the Gaza Strip.
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.
Israeli authorities have imposed a closure policy against the Gaza Strip since 2007 by strictly controlling and limiting the entry and exit of individuals; maintaining harsh restrictions on imports including food, construction materials, fuel, and other essential items; as well as prohibiting exports. Israel continues to maintain complete control over the Gaza Strip’s borders, airspace, and territorial waters.