Israeli Snipers Target Palestinian Children
Palestine Monitor: May 26, 2004
On the morning of Tuesday, May 18 Asma al-Mughair, 16, and her brother Ahmed, 13, died on the roof of their home in the Tel as Sultan district of Rafah. Each of them was shot in the upper body by an Israeli sniper. The following day thirteen year old Saber Abu Libdeh was killed by a bullet through his heart. He and two of his brothers were also targeted by a sniper as they attempted to fetch drinking water for their family, also in the sealed off neighbourhood of Tel as Sultan. Ruwan Abu Zaid died on Sunday the 23rd of May, her fifth birthday. Ruwan was shot in the neck and the face as she walked hand in hand with her two year old sister 200 meters out of the family’s front gate.
Since the beginning of the intifada, 28, September, 2000, more than 580 Palestinian children have been killed. At least 155 of these children died as a result of receiving live ammunition directly to the head. 52% of children died from injuries to their upper body and 65% were killed by rounds of live ammunition. Of the casualties from Israel’s Operation Rainbow last week, Defence for Children International reported 70% were children.
Not all these children were gunned down outside their homes. On Wednesday May 19, eight children were killed when the Israeli army attacked a peaceful demonstration with air strikes and heavy artillery. Having first attempted to blame the deaths on the several thousand demonstrators by saying some were armed, the army subsequently described the incident as "very grave", and claimed that it had only fired "warning shots" with no intention to harm civilians.
Observers remain adamant no weapons were visible as the demonstrators walked through the heart of Rafah. Nevertheless, the disproportionate response of the air strikes against a crowd obviously containing civilians is symptomatic of the arbitrary methods all too often employed by the Israeli army against a civilian population unwillingly yet inexorably caught up in the conflict.
No other group is more unwittingly caught up in this conflict than the children of the Palestinian territories. The Israeli military occupation continually affects Palestinian children’s inherent rights to life, security and survival. All violations perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians over the last decades – ranging from torture and illegal killings to expulsion, the prevention of access to medical treatment, discrimination, and the destruction of homes and livelihoods – have had a disproportionate effect on these children.
Palestinian children account for just over 20% all Palestinian deaths since the start of the intifada three years ago.
The Israeli government has often claimed that many of these child deaths occurred when Israeli troops were fired on by ‘armed Palestinian gunmen’ hiding behind children as human shields. However, information from the DCI/PS documentation unit regarding the breakdown of child deaths demonstrates clearly that the facts indicate otherwise. For example in 2002, 85% of Palestinian child deaths occurred in situations where these children were not involved in clashes or demonstrations. Furthermore, as was the case on May 19 last week, where children have been killed in demonstrations the evidence overwhelmingly shows that Israeli troops had shot these children in situations where absolutely no exchange of fire had occurred.
Ahmad, Asma, Saber and Ruwan
The circumstances surrounding the deaths of Ahmad, Asma, Saber and Ruwan are clear cut. A trained soldier looking through a telescopic lens at a five year old girl and her two year old sister can make no mistake that he is intentionally killing a child when he pulls the trigger and fires two shots through the neck and the face.
After being confined to the house during three days of curfew five year old Ruwan Abu Zaid went to her father on Sunday and asked for a sheckle to go to buy sweets across the road from the family home. The troops had redeployed on the outskirts of the neighbouhood, the curfew had been lifted and there were other children out in the street, so having initially said no to his daughter Muhammad gave in to her appealing eyes and let her go the 200 meters with her younger sister.
As the two girls walked hand in hand out of the front gate, Ruwan was shot twice in her upper body by a sniper. Ruwan Abu Zaid was born on 23rd may 1999. She was killed five years later on exactly the same day.
On Wednesday, May, 19 thirteen year old Saber Abu Libdeh fell into his mother’s arms, bleeding from his nose and mouth having been shot in the chest by a sniper. He had been trying to cross a narrow ally to reach his brother’s house to fill soda bottles with drinking water for his family. The sniper that shot him also put his two brothers in hospital.
One day previously, Asma al-Mughair and her brother Ahmed were killed within moments of each other also in the Tel as Sultan neighbourhood. When their bodies were eventually taken to Rafah’s tiny hospital, Doctor Ahmad Abu Nakaria concluded that both children had been killed by single gunshot wounds to the head.
Asma had been hanging washing on the roof of her house and was shot by a sniper at a vantage point in a nearby tall building. Her brother Ahmad saw her bleeding and having called down to his father for help was also shot dead when he went to help her.
Last Friday relatives prepared the bodies and tried to coordinate with the Israeli army and the local hospital for the parents to be allowed out of their besieged neighbourhood and participate in the funeral. Their requests were declined and relatives had to bury the children.
Like Mouhammad Abu Zaid the Mughairs have no words to explain what happened or how they feel. As they recall memories of their young children they question the conscience and humanity of those that pulled the trigger to kill them.
Successive Israeli governments with the backing of the media have for too long constructed an ideological discourse within Israeli society which cultivates the representation of all Palestinians including children as the enemy, that pose a threat to the state of Israel.
In doing this they have succeeded in dehumanizing Palestinian children, generating the very attitude of indifference towards them which enables a young soldier to pull the trigger and gun down a five year old child in the street.
In Focus #23