Israel’s Brutal War on Palestinian Children

Gaza – Ten-year-old Ahed was playing with his cousins on the beach at Gaza City harbor when three Israeli missiles hit them. Four cousins, including Ahed, were instantly killed, and two others were injured. Ten-year-old Zakaria, nine-year-old Ismail and 11-year-old Mohammed were killed by the Israeli navy missiles. The deadly incident of July 16 waswitnessed by NBC’s reporter in Gaza Ayman Mohyeldin.

Mohammed’s brother, Sayyid, survived the shelling. He said this was the first time they dared to leave the house to play on the beach since the Israeli aggression on Gaza started on July 8. It was the last time, too. “We negotiated what game to play, some wanted to play football, others wanted to play a fighting game [called] ‘Jews vs. Arabs’,” nine-year-old Sayyid told Al-Akhbar.

“We divided ourselves into the Israeli army and the Arabs. We started playing and chasing each other when my cousin Ismail [who played an Israeli soldier] climbed up a container. Suddenly, we heard a blast, and Ismail fell off. We started shouting “Ismail, Ismail!” and ran away, but another missile hit us, and three of my cousins fell down. I was screaming and kept on running,” Sayyid said, through sobs.

Children in Gaza have been consistently targeted by Israeli forces. During Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, Israeli airstrikes killed or fatally injured 350 children, according to Defence for Children International. During its eight-day onslaught on Gaza in November 2012, Israeli forces killed 33 children. Meanwhile, since the start of its latest aggression on Gaza dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” 54 children have been killed by Israeli airstrikes and missiles so far.

In the same context, the Palestinian Ministry of Information in Ramallah has revealed that a total of 1,518 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli forces since the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada in September 2000 up until April 2013, an average of one Palestinian child killed every three days for the last 13 years.

While the Bakr family’s massacre has received ample coverage, many other atrocities against children in Gaza have gone unnoticed.

On Wednesday, July 9, 12-year-old Amir Areef and his 10-year-old brother Mohammed were both killed in an Israeli airstrike which hit them directly. The two little brothers were on their way to buy yogurt for their breakfast.

Asked how they were killed, the children’s father Saeed told Al-Akhbar, “Does the world really want to know how they were killed? I’ll tell them.”

“At 11 in the morning, they went out,” he continued, with mounting anger in his voice, “they were on their way to fire rockets into Israel! On their way back, an Israeli drone fired a missile and killed them,” the father’s biting sarcasm hard to swallow.

Saeed now walks into his children’s room every day and looks at their beds, clothes and toys.

“They’ve killed my children,” he said soberly. “I wish they killed me instead. Why kill innocent children like these? I want my children to forgive me, I couldn’t protect them.”

Amir and Mohammed’s mother, Najiyya, blames herself every day for letting her children leave the house.

Their mother, grieving and beside herself because of the loss of her two sons, explained that the area was quiet and there were no blasts in the neighborhood when the attack took place. “I lament their death every day; I shouldn’t have let them go. I wish I’d gone to the shop myself,” Najiyya told Al-Akhbar.

In a similar incident, an Israeli drone fired a missile at three children who were going to the grocery store near their house. One of them, 16-year-old Ahmed Mahdy, was killed immediately, and two others aged 15 were moderately injured.

In his testimony for Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, which Al-Akhbarhas seen, Iyad Abu Taqiyya, who works as a janitor in a building next to the attack scene, said that he heard an explosion and rushed out to see three children lying on the ground and covered in blood.

“It was shocking,” he said. “It happened suddenly, there was nothing going on before the attack. The area was completely calm.”

During its ongoing assault on Gaza, Israel’s targeting of children continues unabated.

On July 17, three children from the Shuheibar family were killed in an Israeli airstrike which hit them directly. The children were on the rooftop feeding their poultry when the Israeli missile hit them. They are eight-year-old Afnan, 11-year-old Jihad and his eight-year-old brother Wasseem. Two others, 16-year-old Oday and eight-year-old Yasser were injured.

“We were sitting at our home when we heard a massive blast coming from the roof,” The children’s grandmother Jamila said. “When we got to the roof, we saw their bodies. They were torn apart, and next to them, there was a bag of feed that was scattered on the ground.”

Walid Zaglool is an 11-year old child who lives with his family in Jabaliya refugee camp. Walid told Al-Akhbar he feels scared that their home will be bombed like their neighbors. He is terrified to leave the house even during the day lest he be hit by a missile like the children he has heard of or seen.

“The other day, we were having suhour [the traditional meal eaten before the daily fast during Ramadan] when our neighbor’s house was bombed. I screamed at the top of my voice and spilled my tea on my sister… now we all sleep in one room, and we wake up to the sound of bombs every night,” Walid said.

Walid dreams of living a normal life like other children. He can’t go to the beach, play football on the street, or visit his relatives.

“We are terrified. We are all trapped in one room, thinking of our death,” he said.

Follow Mohammed Suliman on Twitter | @imPalestine

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