Israel makes 2016 deadliest year for Palestinian children

Published 10.01.2017 00:00

The recent conviction of an Israeli soldier on charges of killing a wounded Palestinian assailant has revived some age-old debates since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other noteworthy Israelis urged authorities to pardon the soldier, while others voiced their support for the verdict.

Netanyahu denounced the verdict, saying: "This is a difficult and painful day for all of us; first and foremost for [convicted soldier] Elor [Azaria] and his family, for Israeli Defense Forces soldiers and for the parents of [defenders of our country], including me."

Palestinians and members of anti-Israeli circles, on the other hand, hailed the decision saying that it would prevent similar war crimes from being committed in the future and raise hopes among Palestinians in the country seeking justice.

Unfortunately, however, Israeli courts have not been equally fair towards Palestinian children, as a report released by Defense for Children International (DCI) revealed that Israeli forces killed more Palestinian children in the occupied Palestinian territories last year than any other year in the last decade. "Israeli forces and security guards have killed 32 Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 2016. This makes it the deadliest year of the past decade for children in the West Bank, according to DCI-Palestine research," the report said.

The findings also revealed that the murdered children were completely defenseless and are continuously targeted in the killings. The report also revealed that Israeli soldiers used live ammunition in the killing of 15-year-old Faris Ziyad Atta al-Bayed from Ramallah.

"Doctors who treated Faris at the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah told DCI that the rubber-coated metal bullet pierced the front of his head and became lodged in his brain, causing severe brain damage and bleeding. They successfully removed the bullet and placed [al-Bayed] on life support. Witnesses told DCI that the young boy had attended a march in commemoration of Ahmad Sharaka, also from the Jalazoun refugee camp, who was just 14 years old when he was killed by Israeli forces in October last year under similar circumstances. Al-Bayed joined the group in clashes with Israeli soldiers in an area located between the U.N. boys' school in Jalazoun and nearby Beit El Settlement, according to witnesses," the report read.

Meanwhile, the Times of Israel reported in October that Israeli soldiers usedlive ammunition in preventable cases, stating: "An internal army memorevealed that four shooting incidents among Palestinians in the past two weeks could have been prevented if proper procedures had been followed, Israel Radio reported," the Times of Israel reported.

Citing at least four cases of similar incidents, the Israeli newspaper said themurdered children could have been stopped from throwing stones in another way but the soldiers preferred to kill them under auspices that their "lives were at risk." Moreover, Israeli courts found that the majority of these actions were justified. "Accountability for shootings by Israeli forces is extremely rare," said the DCI report.

"Between Nov. 29 and Dec. 12, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that Israeli forces injured 11 children in clashes across Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The DCI documented injuries of 81 Palestinian children in 2016, the vast majority of whom were injured at the hands of Israeli forces. In several child injury and fatality cases highlighted by the DCI and the local media, paramedics who arrived on the scene after an incident reported that Israeli forces prevented them from approaching children who had sustained gunshot wounds," the report added.

It is not rare for Israeli soldiers to target children. Frequently, videos of the murders appear on the internet. However, Israel makes audacious claims in defense of its soldiers, even saying that throwing stones can be considered an act of terror, regardless of the child's age. Due to frequent arbitrary raids by Israeli soldiers, tensions have escalatedand dozens of children are being killed every year.

Al-Jazeera also reported that "Last year alone, the total number of civilians under the age of 18 who were killed in clashes on the occupied West Bank and across East Jerusalem stood at 28; whereas, 13 Palestinian children were killed in 2014 and four were killed in 2013."

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