Gaza's Children Trapped in Path of Israeli Air Assault

Karim Hussein al-Atawneh sustained a head injury during Israeli airstrikes on Al-Zuwaida in central Gaza on Wednesday. (Photo: Defence for Children International)

Gaza's Children Trapped in Path of Israeli Air Assault

As the human rights crisis grows more acute in this besieged strip, the number of dead and injured children continues to rise

As Israeli fighter jets, attack helicopters, and armed drones continue to pummel Gaza for a fourth day, children--who comprise half of the population of this besieged strip--face mounting wounds and deaths.

According to a list of the dead released Friday by Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesperson for Gaza's Health Ministry, at least 105 Palestinians--including at least 23 children--have been killed. Many of the at least 785 people who have been wounded are children, health officials report.

With a population of 1.7 million people living on 140 square miles, Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on Earth. Palestinian residents of Gaza must obtain Israeli permission before exiting, leaving the vast majority trapped in the path of the over 1,000 air strikes launched by Israel this week.

"Here, there are no warning sirens. Only the noise of the F-16s warn us that the bombs are close." --Rany Hemaid, lecturer at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza

There is no safe place to take shelter from the bombs falling on Gaza--which has been described as the world's largest open-air prison. Decades of economic and military siege have depleted medical supplies for treating the dying and wounded, as well as fuel--which is critical for running hospital generators and ambulances. These shortages have grown especially acute during this latest onslaught, with the World Health Organization warning that health systems are close to collapse.

Reports are emerging that Israeli air raids are targeting critical civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals. Gaza's Ark--a Palestinian-led initiative to break the siege on Gaza--was also reportedly hit, with no loss of life reported in that attack.

Meanwhile, stories of death and loss continue to accumulate.

Suleiman Salim Mousa al-Astal, aged 17, and Mousa Mohammad Taher al-Astal, aged 14, were among eight people killed on Thursday when an Israeli air craft bombed a crowd that had gathered on a beach in Khan Yunis to watch the World Cup on Thursday night, Defence for Children International--Palestine reports.

In another instance, an Israeli air strike on the household of an alleged Hamas activist in the city of Khan Younis killed an entire family of eight, including six children.

In an interview with Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, 75-year-old Muhammad Hamad, who lives in the town of Beit Hanoun, described the Israeli attack on Tuesday that killed six of his family members in what he believes was an attempt to target his son, a commander in the group Islamic Jihad. "I went into shock. The neighbors held me because I couldn't stand. I felt like I was going to faint from the horror of it. The missile fell on my family with no warning... Why did they kill an entire family?"

"I felt like I was going to faint from the horror of it. The missile fell on my family with no warning." --Muhammad Hamad, resident of Beit Hanoun

High death rates for Gaza's children in Israeli bombings are not new. During Israel's November 2012 attacks, and the 2008 to 2009 "Operation Cast Lead," children comprised a high percentage of those killed in Israeli air raids, Defence for Children International--Palestine reports.

"Here, there are no warning sirens. Only the noise of the F-16s warn us that the bombs are close," said Rany Hemaid, a lecturer at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza, according to France 24.

In a statement issued Friday, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned high civilian death rates and targeting of homes may constitute a violation of international human rights law and must immediately be investigated.

From the West Bank City to Ramallah to London to Paris, thousands of people around the world took to the streets this week to call for an end to Israel's assault on Gaza. This included U.S. protesters in cities including Chicago and New York urging the U.S. to withdraw its financial and political backing of Israel's aggression.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Friday that "international pressure" will not make him stop the attacks, emphasizing that Israel is still "preparing" for a possible ground assault, according to media reports.

Updates and commentary on the ever-rising toll of deaths and attacks in Gaza are being posted to Twitter:


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