Two young children, 10-year-old Yassin Abu Khussa and his 6-year-old sister Israa Abu Khussa, were killed on Saturday when the Israeli military bombed an area near their home in Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip.
"When you use intensive airstrikes on one of the most densely populated areas in world, the inevitable result is large numbers of the deaths of children. Just because this happens with regularity does not mean we should allow ourselves to lose our own humanity and not be horrified."
—Danny Muller, humanitarian and child advocateReports indicate the missile (or missiles) struck while the family was asleep. Yassin was reportedly killed instantly in the blast, while Israa was transported to a hospital where she later died from her wounds. Other family members were also reported injured.
According to the Ma'an News Agency:
The Israeli air force had reportedly targeted four Hamas sites in the northern Gaza Strip early Saturday after four rockets were fired from the besieged enclave the evening before.
A Ma’an reporter based in Gaza said the children were in their house at the time of the airstrike, located in northwestern Beit Lahiya, adding that the family was still living in their home that was partially destroyed during the most recent Israeli offensive on the strip in 2014.The Israeli army said the rockets fired from Gaza had landed in open areas in southern Israel, without reporting damage or injuries.
Suleiman Abu Khoussa, 50, the children’s father, told the New York Times the family was sleeping in a makeshift shelter just outside their house when the missile struck. "Their mother was screaming, 'The children are dead, the children are dead,'" he said in a telephone interview. "I went and I saw them covered in blood."
Lieutenant Peter Lerner, a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, defended the bombing that killed the children by telling Reuters that rockets launch are an attempt by militants in Gaza to "threaten the security and safety of the people of southern Israel."
The Israeli military, he continued with no apparent sense of irony or dread, "will continue to act to protect against those who threaten innocent lives."
As the Israeli military occupation and blockade continues year after year, many organizations and individual experts have documented the severe negative impacts the siege is having on the Palestinian people – and children in particular – trapped in Gaza.
Despite those factors and international criticism, the United States government continues to provide political backing and military aid to the Israeli government.
Just last week, Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel to negotiate a new round of U.S. military aid, currently estimated at about $3 billion annually but likely to increase by as much as 50 percent.
"We're committed to making sure that Israel can defend itself against all serious threats," Biden told reporters after meeting with Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu.
So far this weekend, however, there has been no comment from the U.S. State Department or other officials about whether or not there will be any money left over to help the children of Gaza defend themselves against the "serious threats" they face.
Danny Muller, who has traveled to Gaza regularly since 2003 and previously coordinated humanitarian aid and psychological and social programs for children traumatized by war with the Middle East Children's Alliance, the young people of Palestine have become the serial victims of the violence unleashed by the Israeli government and backed with U.S. support.
"Children do not choose where they live, where they play, or how they die—but we do," said Muller in an email to Common Dreams on Sunday. "Israel and the United States continue to use collective punishment via carpet bombing in response to criminal acts. When you use intensive airstrikes on one of the most densely populated areas in world, the inevitable result is large numbers of the deaths of children. Just because this happens with regularity does not mean we should allow ourselves to lose our own humanity and not be horrified and take every appropriate action to bring retribution upon those responsible."