Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Israeli War Crimes Against
Children During Operation Cast Lead
By Stephen Lendman
ccun.org, June 14, 2009
Following Israel's Operation Cast Lead, the Palestinian Centre
for Human Rights (PCHR) documented the toll on Gaza's children and
published it in May. It did so "in response to the unprecedented number of
children who were killed (and injured) by the Israeli Occupation Forces
(IOF) during the offensive on Gaza." According to international standards,
the Convention on the Rights of the Child's (CRC) definition was used to
apply to anyone under age 18.
PCHR reviewed IOF killing of Gaza's
children since the beginning of the Second Intifada in September 2000,
then focused on the 313 youth deaths during the recent conflict. Its
evidence comes from eye-witness accounts of the willful targeting of
civilians, including women and children. Also covered are the
psychological scars and "alarming scale of physical injuries" leaving some
children blind and many others (as well as adults) permanently disabled by
the loss of limbs and psychological trauma.
PCHR's report bears
testimony to Israel's contempt for international laws, its imperial
agenda, culture of violence, disdain for peace, genocidal intentions,
disparagement of Arabs and Islam, and its scorn for Palestinian lives and
PCHR presented 13 case studies in its report. Briefly
discussed below, they represent a small fraction of the many hundreds
killed and thousands more grievously harmed.
Since the September 2000 Second Intifada, Israeli occupation forces killed
1179 children, including 865 in Gaza as part of a decades-long policy of
collectively punishing millions of Palestinians in the Occupied
Territories, mostly civilian men, women, and children.
calls self-defense "terrorism" and justifies its actions as responses to
militant missile or other attacks. PCHR's investigations "have
consistently undermined these claims," and condemns all killing,
especially of children.
In September 2006, the London
Independent's Donald Macintyre headlined his story: "Gaza: The children
killed in a war the world doesn't want to know about." He wrote about more
than 37 children under 18 killed since June 25 during Israel's Operation
Summer Rain, according to PCHR figures, out of an overall 228 total,
He highlighted a "forgotten war in the Middle
East" with young boys, girls and adults blown apart by Israeli shells and
missiles, but who notices. He said the IDF attacks heavily populated areas
indiscriminately on the pretext of fighting a "terrorist infrastructure."
He stressed that "attention (was) diverted from Gaza as Israel launch(ed)
a full military invasion of southern Lebanon" yet civilian deaths mounted
in both areas. He listed by name Gazan children under 18 killed and by
what means - from airstrikes, while playing football, missiles, shrapnel,
tank or artillery shells, and shot in the head or chest at close range.
Khitam Mohammed Rebhi Tayey was one - age 11. Aya Salmeya another - age 9.
Israel rarely responds to public outrage or investigates its crimes,
including against children. The few times it does turn into whitewashes.
After 11 days on March 30, 2009, military advocate general Avichai
Mandelblit closed the IDF's inquiry into Israeli soldiers' accounts of
Operation Cast Lead crimes and dismissed them as unfounded.
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Protection for Children
Various laws apply, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). As protected persons, they're
to be safeguarded against willful killing, coercion, corporal punishments,
torture, collective penalties and reprisals.
CRC was the first
legally binding international instrument incorporating all human rights
for children, including civil, cultural, economic, political and social.
They're now universally agreed on non-negotiable standards and obligations
supporting their rights.
CRC's Optional Protocol on the
Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict took effect on February 12,
2002. Israel ratified it on July 18, 2005 and CRC in 1991. The Optional
Protocol strengthens children's rights, recognizes that they require
special protection, and condemns their being targeted in armed conflicts,
especially in schools, hospitals or at home. Israel is legally bound under
both laws and Geneva, yet disdains them repeatedly, especially by "willful
killing" through indiscriminate attacks or deliberately targeting civilian
areas or structures.
Truth and Lies: Operation Cast Lead and
Besides vast destruction and mass population
displacement by Israeli occupation forces, 313 children were killed among
the 1414 who died over a 23-day period. Of the 5300 injured (many
seriously), 1606 were children. In all cases, the vast majority were
Of the children killed:
-- most were at
home or nearby;
-- around one-third were girls and the rest boys;
-- almost 15% were under age 5 and another one-fourth between 5 and
-- the remainder were between 11 and 17;
"overwhelming majority" were killed in densely populated residential
-- 46% were killed in northern Gaza;
-- 38% in Gaza
-- 9% in Khan Yunis and Rafah and 7% in less densely
Israeli occupation forces used conventional and
illegal weapons. The former included missiles, artillery and tank shells,
mortars, and automatic weapons.
phosphorous that burns flesh to the bone and can be fatal; it's use is
prohibited in civilian areas;
-- flechettes that are 4cm long
darts used as anti-personnel weapons; they penetrate to the bone and can
cause multiple horrific injuries; up to 8000 of them can be packed into
one artillery shell; on explosion, they travel at high speed in multiple
directions up to around 300 meters; and
-- various other
internationally prohibited weapons that PCHR investigations uncovered and
Its case studies show a consistent failure of Israeli
forces to protect civilian lives, especially those of children. They
document indiscriminate attacks against densely populated neighborhoods in
grave violation of international laws.
To safeguard civilians and
non-military areas and structures, IHL requires that precautions be taken
in any attack, and civilian protection is paramount. Israel pays no heed
and attacks indiscriminately in grave violation of the law.
Study One - The Olaiwa Family
Gaza City's Isma'il (age 7), Mo'men
(age 13), Mo'tassem (age 14) and Lana Olaiwa, (age 9) and their mother
Amal were killed when an artillery shell struck their home on January 5,
2009. Three other family members were injured, including Amal's husband,
Haider, and her eldest son, Muntasser.
Two survivors were too
badly injured to be interviewed. PCHR spoke to Fadwa Olaiwa, Haider's
sister, who lived two floors below. She said that 42 extended family
members lived in the four-story house. The shell killed five of them in
their kitchen where Amal was cooking.
When Fadwa heard the
explosion, she ran upstairs and saw what happened. She found Amal
decapitated by the refrigerator and the other bodies close by. Haider,
Muntasser and Ghadir were taken to Gaza City's al-Shifa Hospital. Haider
sustained permanent facial and jaw injuries. Ghadir's right arm was
seriously injured. She and her father's hearing were badly damaged.
Muntasser had serious liver and stomach shrapnel wounds requiring two
operations. Metal is still embedded in his right leg, and he continues to
PCHR investigations confirm that no combatants
or military targets were close by at the time of the attack. Artillery
shells were fired indiscriminately, have a range of up to 60 km, and were
used against entire areas, including civilian ones. This attack and many
others like it constitute war crimes on two counts under Articles
8(2)(b)(ii) and (iv) of the International Criminal Court Statute.
Case Study Two - the al-Dayah Family
In the Zaytoun district of
eastern Gaza, 22 family members were killed when a bomb struck their home
- including 12 children and a pregnant woman. The explosion destroyed the
house and buried many of the family inside. Only two family members
survived, 28-year old Aamer and his brother Rida. Those killed included:
-- Fayez Musbah Hasham, age 60
-- Kawkab Sa'id Hussein, age
-- Radwan Fayez Musbah, age 22
-- Sabrin Fayez Musbah,
-- Raghda Fayez Musbah, age 34
-- Eyad Fayez Musbah,
-- Rawda Hilal Hussein, age 32
-- Ali Eyad Fayez
Musbah, age 10
-- Khitam Eyad Fayez Musbah, age 9
Eyad Fayez Musbah, age 7
-- Raba'a Eyad Fayez, age 6
Sharaf Al-Din Eyad Fayez, age 5
-- Mohammed Eyad Fayez, age 7
-- Ramez Fayez Musbah, age 27
-- Safaa' Saleh
Mohammed, age 20
-- Baraa' Ramez Fayez, age 1.5
Salsabil Ramez Fayez, age 5 months
-- Tazal Isma'il Isma'il
Mohammed, age 28 and 8 months pregnant
-- Amani Mohammed Fayez,
-- Qamar Mohammed Fayez, age 5
-- Arij Mohammed
Fayez, age 3, and
-- Yousef Mohammed Fayez, age two
February 3, 2009, PCHR interviewed Aamer al-Dayah (who was home) and his
brother, Rida who was outside the house when attacked. Aamer said 24
family members shared seven apartments in the building. When it was
struck, the force knocked Aamer unconscious, and he awakened under rubble.
Rida was at a nearby mosque at the time. He rushed home, freed Aamer and
his twin brother Radwan inside, still alive but only barely until he died
on January 9.
Both survivors told PCHR that the explosion flung
some family members meters outside their home while others inside were
burned beyond recognition. They had no advance warning of an immanent
attack, but PCHR fieldworkers learned there was military activity nearby.
However, all al-Dayah family members were civilians. The IDF attack
gravely breached international law and constitutes two war crime counts
under Articles 8(2)(b)(ii) and (iv) of the International Criminal Court
According to IHL principles, Israeli forces used
excessive and disproportionate force against a known civilian target
resulting in the death of 22 al-Dayah family members - a crime
Palestinians will long remember.
Case Study Three - the al-Battran
On January 16, six al-Battran family members were
slaughtered in their al-Bureji refugee camp home by an Israeli aircraft
fired missile. Killed were Manal and five of her children:
Manal, age 32
-- Islam, age 15
-- Eman, age 9
twin sister Ehsan, age 9
-- Bilal, age 6 and
One year old son Abdul Hadi and Amal's husband Issa
survived. On February 25, PCHR interviewed Issa's brother, Diaa' who was
in the house next door at the time of the attack. When he heard the
explosion, he ran over and discovered the bodies, burnt and shorn of some
According to al-Battran family members, Issa hadn't
seen his wife and children since Operation Cast Lead began for fear of
being assassinated. The day of the attack was the first time in January he
was with them, only to pack clothing before heading to a safer location.
He survived three earlier attempts to kill him because of his position in
the Izz ad-Din Al Qassam Brigades.
Shrapnel at the scene
identified a US-made Hellfire missile providing clear evidence of US
involvement. Killing noncombatants is a war crime as defined in Article
8(2)(b)(iv) of the International Criminal Court Statute.
Case Studies - Further Examples of War Crime Attacks on Noncombatants,
(1) On January 16, two projectiles killed four
Abu Eita family members outside their home, the youngest 2.5 year old
(2) On January 9, two projectiles destroyed their house
and killed six Salha family members, the youngest Bahaa, age 5
On January 5, a projectile killed Mohammed Hijji. Earlier their home was
commandeered by Israeli occupation forces. Family members were held
prisoners inside, then forced to be human shields so they could occupy a
nearby house. Afterwards the family was ordered to evacuate Zaytoun where
they lived, then shot at while leaving, killing their 2.5 year old
daughter Shahd. Relatives and Arafat family members told to leave were
also fleeing. In progress, one woman was shot and killed. Nine others were
wounded. All are civilians, including children.
(4) on January 14,
a projectile killed 14 year old Izziddin al-Farra in Qarara village in
eastern Gaza while he and his friend Abdul Ghani were bicycling on a rural
road. Abdul sustained a serious head injury.
(5) On January 4,
Israeli forces shot and killed 1.5 year old Farah al-Helu. Family members
were in their home. Soldiers entered, shot and killed 62 year old Fouad,
then ordered the family to evacuate. Outside they were shot at, injuring
three family members and killing Farah who bled to death. One family
member described their ordeal. They tried crawling to safety. Most did but
three others were struck and lay in the street. Farah bled to death
because emergency care was denied - further evidence of a war crime
(6) On December 29, a bombing of an adjacent mosque
destroyed the Balousha family Jabaliya refugee camp home. Five of eight
daughters were killed, the youngest Jawaher age four. Five others were
injured and another five homes were seriously damaged.
January 6, two projectiles struck the yard of Mo'in Deeb's Jabaliya
refugee camp home when 10 family members were there. Ten were killed
instantly, the youngest Nour Mo'in age 3. Others were injured, four
critically. One subsequently died. Another had both legs amputated.
(8) On December 29, a bomb struck the al-'Absi family Yibna refugee camp
home in Rafah while those in it were sleeping. Three children died
instantly, the youngest Sidqi age 4. Their mother sustained critical
injuries. Four other children were also injured.
(9) On January
17, a white phosphorous artillery shell struck the area around a Beit
Lahiya school killing Bilal al-Ashqar (age 6) and Mohammed al-Ashqar (age
4). Two other family members were seriously injured. Their mother
sustained critical head injuries and loss of her right hand. Her 19 year
old daughter had her leg blown off. All were sheltering there at the time.
(10) On January 5, a projectile struck a house where the Abdul-Dayem
family was attending a condolence ceremony. Those inside fled across the
street and were struck by two tank shells containing flechettes. Three
family members, including one child, were killed instantly. Two others,
including a child, subsequently died of their injuries.
summarized the 23-day toll as follows:
"Alongside the 313 children
killed by Israeli occupation forces during (Operation Cast Lead), 1606
children were injured, with some sustaining horrific disabilities, head
and spinal injuries, facial disfiguration, burns and amputation."
Most were in their homes at the time. Others in shelters for their safety.
Some of the injured couldn't access medical care resulting in their
permanent disability, infection, and for some their death. Even at
hospitals, doctors were overwhelmed, under-resourced, and forced to
deliver care under battlefield conditions.
The toll on parents and
children was horrific, and some surviving adults face a lifelong task of
caring for their permanently disabled offspring. Those who lost parents
require help from relatives. The stench of death, injury, vast
destruction, displacement, and Gaza still under siege pervades the
Territory. The conflict's psychological impact inflicted collective trauma
- unrelieved and hardly noticed by Israel, America, the West, and most
Children more than others suffer most and now
experience "anger, sleeping difficulties, nightmares, avoidance of
situations that are reminders of the trauma, impairment of concentration,
and guilt" because they survived while others didn't. Post Traumatic
Stress Disorders (PTSD) approach epidemic levels, but fortunately Gaza's
Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) provides some of the best care
of its kind in the Middle East. Years of conflict honed their skills.
After hostilities ended, they assessed the psychological damage on
children and learned that the overwhelming majority personally witnessed
traumatic events that could seriously impair their mental health. For
-- 98% of children said they didn't feel safe;
96% didn't think they could protect themselves;
-- 97% thought
their families couldn't protect them;
-- 90% heard bombing;
-- 89% saw homes destroyed from it;
-- 65% were forced to evacuate
-- 61% saw their neighbors' homes bombed;
54% were either physically detained in their homes by soldiers or were
trapped inside them during bombings and/or shellings; and
said they were told that one or more of their family members or relatives
Psychologist Hassan Ziyada said: "These children
reported high levels of trauma and insecurity that will impact on the
psychological and intellectual development....(They're) suffering
continual long-term trauma due to the psychological, social and economic
effects of the recent offensive, the siege and closure of Gaza, and the
internal political situation. This (attack) came at a very difficult time
for all the people of Gaza, especially children, who were already
suffering acute feelings of anxiety and powerlessness....Children in Gaza
are continuing to exhibit long-term symptoms of hyperactivity,
deterioration of their cognitive abilities, instrusive memories and hyper
arousal and anxiety."
Ziyada believes many children will develop
long-term depression from the loss of loved ones and friends that
contribute to a feeling of abandonment. He also said they're experiencing
physical body pain, headaches, stomach aches, insomnia and aggressive
In an appendix, PCHR listed all 313 children killed by
name, gender, age, location, date of attack, and date of death. The
youngest was one month old Al-Mu'tasim Bellah Mohammed Ibrahim al-Samouni.
Also one month old Hala 'Isam Ahmed al-Mnei'i.
The Israeli occupation government expressed no regrets nor did the US
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the
Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be
Also visit his blog site at
sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on
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