Ramallah, November 23, 2016—Abdullah Naser Atwa Abu Madeef, 10, was killed on October 12 when a bullet entered the thin ceiling of his family’s makeshift home, striking him in the back while he slept.
Around 8:00 p.m, Abdullah was asleep when his mother heard something hitting the plastic sheet ceiling of their makeshift home several times. Abdullah was taken to a hospital later that evening and pronounced dead. Investigators found a hole, attributed to a bullet, in the plastic sheet above Abdullah’s sleeping area. The home lies approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) west of the Israeli border fence in Qarara village, Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip.
“Gazan children are often casualties of Israeli military violence,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program Director at Defense for Children International - Palestine. “Consequently, Palestinian police determined without proper investigation and despite little evidence that the bullet’s source was Israeli. Thorough investigations must be conducted if accountability is to be achieved.”
Abdullah’s mother, Faten, told DCIP that they had moved into a makeshift shelter after being twice displaced by large-scale Israeli military assaults on Gaza in 2008 and 2014. She said their current home—made of stones, tin sheets, and a plastic covering—offers little protection and would be difficult, even for sheep, to live in.
On the night of the incident, Abdullah was asleep when Faten heard something hitting the plastic roof. At first, she thought her son was just startled or having a bad dream, as he called out to her.
“I held him, thinking he was only scared.” Faten said. “I pulled off his shirt and saw a small hole at the top of his back. I did not know what to do. I shouted to my children to call the neighbors.”
Abdullah began shaking, sweating, and experiencing difficulty breathing, eventually losing consciousness. A pharmacist, who lived nearby, tried to resuscitate Abdullah for around 30 minutes. Breathing but in critical condition, Abdullah was taken by ambulance to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead, approximately half an hour later.
Coroner Dr. Shehda Imran confirmed that a gunshot wound from a light weapon was found at the top of Abdullah’s back and that the bullet struck his lungs, heart and blood vessels, before settling in his chest and causing severe bleeding.
Investigators found a hole in the plastic sheeting over the room in which Ahmed had been sleeping. They concluded that the bullet had entered there, striking his back as he slept on his stomach.
Palestinian local authorities claimed the bullet came from an Israeli military source. However, Israeli authorities denied their military was responsibile, suggesting instead that stray bullets fired during a wedding party caused the child’s death. A Palestinian weapons expert told DCIP he believed a neaby, and still unidentified source, is likely responsible.
A DCIP investigation found that evidence gathered by the Palestinian police and Minstry of Health was insufficient to determine the source of the bullet, but uncovered no further conclusive evidence.
Security conditions remain low for children in Gaza, with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reporting that nine Palestinians were killed and a further 167 injured by Israeli forces in Gaza since January. In the first half of November, the Israeli military also performed three incursions.
Children from internally displaced households living in makeshift housing make up a particularly vulnerable population. As of December 2015, OCHA estimated that 88,897 Palestinians, including 44,000 children, remained displaced, and 4.5 percent were living in tents or other makeshift shelters.