Israeli airstrikes killed seventeen Palestinian children during a three-day bombing raid on Gaza from August 5 to 7. Two others were killed during Israeli military operations in the occupied West Bank on August 9. UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet strongly rebuked the strikes. The “killing and maiming of so many children this year [by Israeli forces] is unconscionable,” she said. “Such attacks must stop.” More than one month later, where is the accountability?
The human rights chief asserted that “international humanitarian law is clear,” and that launching such attacks “expected to incidentally kill or injure civilians, or damage civilian objects, in [a] disproportionate manner to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited.”
But Palestinian parents have heard these words time and time again, yet Israel continues to kill them and their children with absolute impunity.
Since January 1, Israel has killed 37 Palestinian children, according to the human rights group Defence for Children – Palestine (DCIP), one of seven human rights and civil society groups raided and shut down by Israeli forces on August 18. More than a dozen European nations, including United Kingdom, Germany, and France, condemned the raids, clearly, a move by an Israel desperate to conceal its war crimes from the prying eyes of the international community.
On August 3, just two days before the bombing raids on Gaza, Israeli forces shot and killed 16-year-old Palestinian boy Dirar Riyad Luft al-Haj in Jenin refugee camp, located in the occupied West Bank. He was shot in the back by a sniper deployed on top of a rooftop some 90 yards away, another blatent and brazen case of child murder in the Palestinian Territories.
Dirar was the 18th Palestinian child to be killed by Israeli forces this year.
The 17th was killed only three days earlier, when an Israeli settler and at least one Israeli soldier shot live ammunition at 15-year-old Amjad Nashat Faheem Naser near the West Bank city of Ramallah on July 29.
It begs the question – how many Palestinian children can Israel kill before the international community does something—anything—to sanction or censure Israel?
Two years ago, UN human rights experts said they were “deeply troubled” by reports of Israeli soldiers killing Palestinian children with impunity, particularly in “circumstances where there was no threat of death or serious injury to the Israeli Security Forces.” They called such actions a “grave violation of international law.”
“Intentional lethal force is justified only when the security personnel are facing an immediate threat of deadly force or serious harm,” they said.
The following year, Israeli forces killed 78 Palestinian children, maimed another 982 and detained 637, according to the annual Children and Armed Conflict report.
Earlier this year, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that Israel “should be” added to a UN blacklist if its violence against Palestinian children is were repeated in 2022.
“I am shocked by the number of children killed and maimed by Israeli forces during hostilities, in air strikes on densely populated areas and through the use of live ammunition during law enforcement operations,” the UN secretary-general said in the report. “Should the situation repeat itself in 2022, without meaningful improvement, Israel should be listed,” he stated.
Well, we’re two thirds of the way through the current year, and 18 Palestinian children are now dead. Why is the United Nations silent now?
These recent killings come at the same time the Israeli military drills have essentially turned Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank into a “shooting range,” following an Israeli High Court ruling on May 4.
“Almost immediately, tanks flattened our agricultural lands and soldiers fired artillery bombs, while setting up practice targets that they riddled liberally with bullets from within farmers’ fields,” observed Ali Awad, an activist and journalist from the village of Tuba in Masafer Yatta, where live fire training drills are currently taking place.
He wrote that Israeli soldiers are carrying out training exercises “without a care” for the danger they pose to the lives of thousands of Palestinians living in the area. “Make no mistake,” he stated. “The danger is real: last week, bullets from a machine gun reached the roof of a family’s house in the village of Halat al-Dab’a.”
This is the environment Palestinian children are forced to endure, providing further evidence that Israel fails to fulfill its obligation under humanitarian law to protect the Palestinian population living under Israeli military occupation. In fact, it’s doing the exact opposite!
Last year, the Israeli Defence Force revised its “open-fire” policies for the occupied West Bank by allowing troops to shoot at “fleeing rock-throwers,” even if they have fled the scene and no longer pose an immediate or direct threat to Israeli soldiers or civilians.
Needless to say, there is nothing more cowardly than heavily armed and well protected soldiers wearing body armor shooting unarmed civilians in the back. This from the IDF, the “world’s most moral army,” according to its own propaganda, leaves one to wonder just what kind of morality drove one of its snipers to kill 16-year-old Dirar by shooting him in the back nearly 100 yards away.
Then, of course, there are the settlers, who also commit violence against Palestinian children with near total impunity. A recent investigation by Israeli human rights group Yesh Din found 91% of investigations into ideologically motivated crimes against Palestinians are closed without a single indictment filed, which only encourages and rewards further violence against Palestinians.
“Palestinian children live in a hypermilitarized context where Israeli civilians illegally settled in occupied territory are armed by the Israeli government as a matter of official policy,” reads a statement from Ayed Abu Eqtaish, the accountability program director at DCIP. “Israeli soldiers, police, and private security staff not only protect Israeli settler populations, but they also aid, abet, and perpetrate violence against Palestinians, including children.”
Given his warning that a repeat of last year’s violence against Palestinian children would result in Israel being “blacklisted,” that Israel has killed five times as many Palestinians in 2022 than it killed during the same period of 2021 should ring loudly in the ears of the UN Secretary General.
Palestinians eagerly await your next move, Mr. Antonio Guterres.