Ramallah, August 2, 2018—Two children died between April and July during explosions related to activities of Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip.
Odai Ahmad Mansour Abu Hassan, 11, died when an improvised device exploded on his roof in Gaza City on July 15. A second child who died in an explosion in the southern Gaza Strip on April 11, 17-year-old Hashem Abdulfattah Othman Kallab, was a member of a Palestinian armed group, according to media reports and Defense for Children International - Palestine’s research.
“The Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups obligated themselves to not recruit children when they signed a code of conduct in 2010,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director to DCIP. “The Israeli blockade and recurring wars that are largely causing the de-development of the Gaza Strip keep children vulnerable to nearly every kind of human rights risk, including the risk of recruitment.”
Around 8:30 a.m., Odai and his father were on the roof of their home when an improvised explosive device detonated. The explosion damaged several houses, killing Odai and his father instantly. The child’s father was a field commander in the Nabil Massoud Brigades of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a military wing of the Fatah movement, in charge of a rocket unit in the Gaza Strip, the family told DCIP. Evidence collected by DCIP suggested the explosion was accidental.
Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, identified Hashem among a group of members killed during an explosion on April 14 near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Hashem was traveling in a rickshaw with three others when an accidental explosion ignited, killing them all.
The boy's family told DCIP they had no knowledge of their son's affiliation with the group and did not wish to comment on the circumstances of his death.
Amid heightened allegations of child recruitment in the Gaza Strip, DCIP investigated five additional instances of potential child recruitment among children killed by Israeli forces in the context of ‘March of Return’ protests.
Ahmad Adel Musa Sha'ar, a 15-year-old boy killed by Israeli forces on May 14, was a member of Islamic Jihad’s youth “Scouts” program, known as Al-Faris. The child’s family said Ahmad was not an enlisted member of the party’s armed wing, despite the fact that the Al-Quds Brigades also named Ahmad in a list of members killed during ‘March of Return’ protests.
According to the group’s Facebook page, Al-Faris is a youth club operated by Islamic Jihad, with programming such as sports, field trips, religion lessons, first aid and self-defense training. Children in Al-Faris also appear to be issued military-style uniforms.
The child’s family told DCIP that the photo of Ahmad in a military-style uniform that was published by Al-Quds Brigades upon his death was taken when Ahmad joined Al-Faris, two months earlier.
According to eyewitness testimony, Ahmad was throwing two tires toward the remnants of burning tires when an Israeli soldier stationed on the opposite side of the fence shot him in the back of the head with live ammunition. He was unarmed and dressed in civilian clothing. Ahmad was transferred to the European Hospital and was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Saadi Abu Salah, 16, died May 14 from a gunshot wound to the abdomen. Israeli forces shot him while he was attempting to set fire to a tire near the perimeter fence, northeast of Beit Hanoun, according to witnesses. Photographic evidence from that day reviewed by DCIP showed Saadi taking cover near the perimeter fence and making the “victory” sign, while wearing civilan clothing and unarmed. Based on all the documentation gathered, DCIP concluded the child was protesting as a civilian.
In a separate incident, 17-year-old Ibrahim al-Zarqa and 15-year-old Said al-Kheir were also killed on May 14, east of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. DCIP’s research found that Israeli forces opened fire on members of Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, who threw a grenade at the perimeter fence. Israeli forces fired indiscriminately in response, shooting and killing the two children who were in vicinity of the group. DCIP concluded the children were protesting as civilians and were unaffiliated with the armed group.
Israeli sources originally identified Ibrahim Abu Sha’er, 17, as a 29-year-old member of Islamic Jihad based on a video allegedly depicting the child in the moments before Israeli forces shot and killed him on March 30 near the perimeter fence in southern Gaza.
The boy’s family confirmed that the individual in the video was not Ibrahim. DCIP concluded that Ibrahim was not a member of any Palestinian armed group and was protesting as a civilian at the time Israeli forces shot him in the neck.
In situations of armed conflict, both international humanitarian law and international human rights law apply. While international humanitarian law regulates the means and methods of warfare during hostilities, demonstrations involving civilians are not considered active hostilities and international human rights law demands that lethal force only be used against a specific threat to life, as a measure of last resort.
While political affiliation alone is protected under international law, international law prohibits all forms of child recruitment by armed groups and use of children in armed conflict.
According to the Paris Principles and Guidelines on children associated with armed forces or groups, child recruitment refers to the use or recruitment of any person under the age of 18 by an armed force or group, in any capacity. It includes both direct roles in armed combat and indirect roles, such as cook or informant.