An Israeli air strike killed Raad Al-Batash, 8, Mahmoud Al-Batash, 15, and Ahmad a-Sweisi, 14, on Monday. Sumiyya Al-Batch, the mother of Raad and Mahmoud, was also wounded. And in a separate incident, two brothers, Allam and Nidal Abu Saud, 14 and 15, were blown to pieces when an undetonated explosive left by the Israeli military in their neighborhood suddenly exploded near them.
Eight other passers-by were wounded in the air strike, most of them children, and Sukar’s aunt, who lives nearby, died of a heart attack when she was told the news of the boys’ deaths.
According to the Israeli military, the missile fired by the Israeli Airforce was targeting a car driven by two Palestinian resistance fighters, who were also killed by the attack. Military sources said that by the time the crowd was identified, it was already too late to divert the two missiles from their courses.
But a report by Israeli human rights group B’tselem called the attack a war crime, for the fact that it violated the principle of proportionality, a central tenet of international law. "Given the time and place chosen for the attack, the planners should have known that it was liable to injure many innocent civilians. Despite the extensive harm to civilians resulting from yesterday’s attack, Israel has once again failed to provide any evidence regarding the necessity of the action or the lack of alternates that would entail lesser harm to civilians. These facts create a grave suspicion that yesterday’s attack was disproportionate and thus constitutes a war crime", said a report by the group released Tuesday morning.
Over 800 Palestinian and 123 Israeli children under the age of 18 have been killed in Israel and the occupied territories since the current open conflict erupted in September of 2000, according to human rights groups.
Most of the Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces died of multiple gunshot wounds. But at least 40 were killed by explosives left behind by Israeli forces that did not explode on impact, like the Abu Saud brothers killed on Monday.
Children in occupied Palestine are prone to playing with bullet casings, artillery shells and other military paraphenalia left behind by Israeli forces when the troops withdraw from the neighborhoods. Sometimes the devices turn out to be live, and explode, killing or wounding the children.
A report by the Gaza City Palestinian Police Department in July 2005 showed that in 2003, 36 explosion incidents were recorded, claiming the lives of five children, and wounding 135. In 2004, police records documented 105 explosion incidents, in which two children were killed and 88 wounded. In 2005 until late June, the police statistics showed 35 explosion incidents, causing two deaths and 21 injuries, mostly children. Abu Azoum appealed to residents to make their children fully aware of the dangers of the remnants of explosives, not to pick them up or come near them, as they may contains unexploded parts.
The Palestinian police handles incidents of the explosion of the suspected devices and unexploded bombs. Saleh Abu Azoum, director of explosives engineering of the police, said, "We have a well-trained team equipped with the most modern equipment; they are capable of handling any kind of suspected object even if it is extremely dangerous."
However, Azoum noted that much of the necessary equipment was denied entry into Gaza by Israeli forces, saying, "The European Union (EU) provided the Palestinian police with four advanced automated explosive-detection devices but the Israeli occupation forces hindered the arrival of the rest of the EU-donated equipment." The Police Report also accused Israeli occupation forces of deliberately leaving behind explosives and landmines when retreating from Palestinian neighborhoods, causing deaths among innocent residents, in particular children who played with the objects.
Israeli Commander Eliezer Shakedi said on Tuesday morning that the Israeli Airforce makes "super-human efforts in order to reduce the number of innocent casualties in aerial strikes", and said that the number of civilian casualties has decreased dramatically over the last two years. Human rights groups, however, dispute that claim, saying that over 2/3 of the 3,829 Palestinians killed in the last five years have been civilians.
In February, the Resalah Center for Human Rights in Gaza issued a report condemning the killing of children by Israeli Occupation Forces. According to the report, Israeli Occupation Forces killed 797 children under the age of 18 between 28 September 2000 and 30 December 2005, approximately the time period of the Al Aqsa Intifada. The center pointed out that many children who weren’t killed have been left with physical and psychological damage.
The center confirmed that those children were killed without any reason and that they hadn’t committed any illegal or violent activities against the Israelis. The Center pointed out that many children were killed in aerial strikes. Other children were killed by random shooting and others as bystanders during targeted assassinations.
The Center criticized myths perpetuated in the Israeli and international media that Palestinian mothers send their children to die in order to receive more international sympathy, noting the high number of children killed at home or at school, or between home and school.
The report also stated that Israeli soldiers treat peaceful protests and marches as if they are battlefields, and shoot randomly into crowds, suggesting, "They should follow police methods of crowd dispersal to reduce danger to children in the area."
Resalah Center lawyer Ramzy Abu Jalhoum called on the international community and all human rights organizations to intervene immediately to protect the Palestinian children and to stop the Israeli killing of children.
After Monday’s attack, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that it represents a dangerous escalation against the Palestinian people, adding that such escalations do not serve to push the peace process forward.
Hamas leaders called the air strike a "massacre". Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said that "if the international community remains quiet the situation will explode."