By Olivia Watson*
Ramallah, March 22, 2014—Two teenagers were wounded in North Gaza by drone strikes in early March as Israeli forces target the occupied Gaza Strip.
Mohammad Basyouni, 15, sustained critical injuries and Rania Odeh, 13, was hospitalised following an attack on the village of Beit Hanoun on March 3.
Basyouni was hit by shrapnel in the neck, thigh and abdomen as he was walking home from his uncle’s shop.
In a sworn testimony given to DCI-Palestine, Basyouni said there was a sudden flash and moments later he was knocked to the ground.
“I was feeling pain in the right side of my neck and my right thigh,” he said. “The pain in my abdomen grew bigger and I started vomiting. I was not fully aware of what was going on.”
Neighbours took Basyouni to hospital where he underwent surgery to remove the shrapnel fragments. Surgeons removed a large part of his liver and he received multiple stitches in his internal organs.
Rania Odeh’s hand was injured during the attack.
She was returning home from a visit to see her grandfather with her family and remembers seeing drones circling in the sky shortly before hearing an explosion.
“I looked at the back of my left palm and saw it covered in blood and I realised I had been injured,” Odeh told DCI-Palestine in a sworn testimony. “I told my mother and she grabbed my hand. My siblings were screaming because they were scared.”
They are the latest children to sustain injuries as a result of Israeli air strikes, which frequently wound and kill civilians. According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the March 3 attack brings the number of children wounded in Israeli air strikes in 2014 to seven.
“Israel is pursuing a campaign of collective punishment in Gaza that results in regular injuries and fatalities amongst Palestinian children,” said Rifat Kassis, Executive Director of DCI-Palestine. “These air strikes are indiscriminate and disproportionate. Israel is in violation of international law and must be held to account.”
In 2009, a UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission found evidence of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity committed by both the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups during Operation Cast Lead, a 22-day Israeli military offensive in Gaza in 2008, which claimed the lives of at least 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 350 children.
Israel’s last major military offensive in Gaza, Operation Pillar of Defense, in November 2012 claimed the lives of over 30 children. Since then Israel has employed air strikes sporadically.
The Israeli military spokesperson’s office told wire service Agence France-Press that the target was a Palestinian “rocket-launching squad.”
The first months of 2014 have seen what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas described as “an escalation” of Israeli military activities, which according to the Israeli army are a response to an increase in rockets fired from the Gaza strip.
Speaking to DCI-Palestine from home, where he is convalescing, Mohammad said: “I cannot forget the flash I saw and the force that knocked me down. I am still scared. I remember those moments a lot.”
Olivia Watson is a freelance contributor to Defence for Children International Palestine.