The slaughter of children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories must stop now
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights gravely condemns the killing of Palestinian children by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). The Center demands effective protection by the international community to stop the killing and severe injury of children, which cannot be justified by military necessity under any circumstances whatsoever.
At approximately 11 am today, Tuesday 12 October 2004, the IOF shot 10-year-old Ghadeer Jaber Mkhemar, from Khan Younis. Witnesses said IOF troops opened fire from Neve Dekalim settlement towards the UNRWA Al Khalidyeh Primary School, which is located in Khan Younis refugee camp. The schoolgirl sustained critical wounds in the chest while she was inside her classroom.
Earlier on 22 September 2004, an 11-year-old girl, Raghda Al Assar died from wounds she sustained on Tuesday 7 September, 2004, from a live bullet in the head when she was in her classroom in Khan Younis.
In Rafah, in the south of the Gaza strip, Israeli soldiers killed 13-year-old Iman Samir Darweesh Al Hams near a military post. Fifteen bullets were extracted from her body. Eyewitnesses, including Israeli soldiers from the unit that killed her, said the unit's commander opened his automatic rifle at her at close range after she had been identified as a child and therefore not a threat. Numerous other children have been injured inside their classrooms in UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip from IOF fire over the past two years.
Since 28 September 2004, the IOF have killed 115 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, of whom 29 were children. Another 127 children have been injured in the IOF offensive, called "Days of Penitence", in north Gaza. Children have been killed by missiles, artillery and by snipers as IOF evidently used indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force in residential areas. This latest offensive so far raises the toll of Palestinian children killed by the IOF in Gaza since September 2000 to 516.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights voices its grave concern and strongest condemnation of the slaughter of Palestinian children in the OPT. Children have been killed and injured at home, in schools and in the streets. They are the main victims of home demolitions and other violations committed by the IOF. Facts on the ground refute the IOF's claim of military necessity. It is evident, as mentioned in the Center's previous releases, that Israel has, for a long time, been in full breach of its obligations towards Palestinian children under international humanitarian law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The IOF's conduct will only be encouraged by the failure of the international community to ensure respect for international law.
The Center therefore renews its call upon the international community to effectively intervene and stop such violations, including the violation of Palestinian children’s right to life. The most recent events in the Gaza Strip reinforce the fact that the absence of such intervention leads to more violations, and to the loss of civilians’ and children’s lives. Al Mezan also calls upon the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to investigate Israel's violations of the provisions of the Convention. Israel must uphold its obligations under international law, and immediately stop the violation of Palestinian children’s rights.
 Contrary to IOF claims, the girl was at her desk. She sat at the second desk of the fourth row according to witnesses from the school. The teacher who was in the class at the time suffered from severe shock when the incident occurred.