Ramallah, May 7, 2019—An Israeli missile strike killed two children in the Gaza Strip while a misfired Palestinian rocket killed another Palestinian child during a period of hostilities over the weekend.
Israeli forces conducted an airstrike on a residential high-rise structure on Sunday, killing two Palestinian children in the northern part of the Gaza Strip: an infant girl and an 11-year-old boy. A toddler girl and her pregnant aunt were further killed by a Palestinian rocket on Saturday evening, east of Gaza City.
“While international law regulates the means and methods of armed conflict, all parties must take all necessary precautions to protect and not directly target civilians,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Director of Defense for Children International - Palestine’s Accountability Program. “When Israeli forces routinely deploy explosive weapons in densely populated residential areas, it suggests civilians are being directly targeted.”
DCIP’s preliminary investigation found that on May 5 2019 around 9 p.m., an Israeli aircraft fired two F-16 missiles at Tower 12 of the Sheikh Zayed Towers in the northern Gaza Strip. The strike entirely destroyed two apartments on the fifth floor of the building, killing three-month-old Maria Ahmed Ramadan Ghazali and 11-year-old Abdel-Rahman Talal Attieh Abu Jidian.
Maria’s parents, Ahmad and Iman Ghazali, were killed in the same incident. The airstrikes also killed Abdel-Rahman’s mother and father, Raghda and Talal Abu Jidian.
One day earlier, on May 4, members of the Abu Arar family were on their land across the street from their residence in the Zeitoun neighborhood in northern Gaza. Around 6 p.m., a rocket struck the area, severely injuring 19-month-old Saba Mahmoud Hamdan Abu Arar. The child died around 7:30 p.m. from extensive shrapnel wounds. Her aunt and the fetus she was carrying were also killed. A 3-year-old sister and other family members sustained injuries.
Based on evidence gathered from the scene, witnesses and experts, DCIP concluded the blast was the result of a misfired rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group nearby, and was not caused by an Israeli forces strike.
“Palestinian armed groups, as a party to the armed conflict, must take measures to protect civilians under their control against the effects of attack, including, to the extent possible, avoiding launching attacks from populated civilian areas,” said Brad Parker, Senior Adviser, Policy and Advocacy at DCIP. “This obligation applies to all Palestinian armed groups in Gaza.”
The Gaza Strip witnessed an Israeli military escalation beginning Friday evening on May 3, 2019. The Israeli military stated on Twitter that two soldiers were injured by shots fired from the Gaza Strip and that Israeli forces had then “struck a Hamas military post.”
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 25 Palestinians and four Israelis died during the weekend escalation, while at least 50 Palestinians and approximately 70 Israelis were injured. OCHA also reported that “tens of housing units, were destroyed” and 300 units were damaged.
So far this year, Israeli forces have killed at least 14 Palestinian children, including 11 from the Gaza Strip.
On April 12, Israeli forces shot Maisara Mousa Suleiman Abu Shalouf, 15, near Jabalia, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. A witness told DCIP that Maisara used metal cutters on the bottom of the perimeter fence around 5 p.m. When he stood up, the witness said Israeli forces stationed on the other side of the perimeter fence fired a single shot at him.
Maisara sustained a gunshot wound to the abdomen and was later pronounced dead at the Indonesian hospital.
An additional child, Ishaq Ishteiwi, 15, is likely dead after being shot and removed by Israeli forces on the evening of April 3, 2019. DCIP sources said Ishaq had crossed the perimeter fence east of Rafah in the southern part of the Gaza Strip in order to find work inside of Israel. The child’s parents said the Palestinian District Coordination Office had informed them of their child’s death but they were awaiting official confirmation and the return of his body.
While various news media have stated this is the worst escalation since Israel’s summer 2014 military offensive on Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge, between March 30, 2018 and April 30, 2019, OCHA reported that there have been 279 Palestinian fatalities and 31,514 Palestinian casualties. The fatalities included those that occurred in the context of “Great March of Return” protests and activities as well as Israeli airstrikes, incursions, and other incidents. In the same period, two Israelis were killed and 56 were injured.
The “Great March of Return” demonstrations began in the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2018 in protest of Palestinian refugees’ inability to return to properties lost during events surrounding the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and also to demand an end to Israel’s 11-year near total closure of the Gaza Strip.
DCIP has found that Israeli forces repeatedly responded to protesters with unlawful force, killing children who posed no imminent threat. In January of this year, DCIP submitted a joint report to United Nations investigators detailing Israeli forces’ killing of Palestinian children during mass protests in the Gaza Strip. UN investigators found in March 2019 that Israeli forces likely committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in killing and maiming child protesters in Gaza.