Despite increased media attention, there is nothing new about Israel targeting Palestinian youth

on 12 Comments

There was a noticeable increase in British coverage of Israel’s occupation in January, with The Guardian and the BBC running stories on the string of recent killings by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Israel’s refusal to co-operate with the UN’s Human Rights Council. Whilst greater coverage of Israel’s killings in the occupied Palestinian territories is welcome, it must be noted that these events are not new in the slightest.

These killings include a 21-year old student from Hebron was shot and killed on her way to college. The fifth unarmed Palestinian killed in 13 days, Lubna Muneer Hanash and her friends were said to be walking through al-Aroub refugee camp before armed men drew up in a civilian car and got out, firing four bullets, one of them the fatal shot that killed her. Whilst the army and police spokesmen have claimed they were ‘returning fire’ from petrol bombs and that evidence could be found at the scene, eyewitness have reported Lubna Hanash was unarmed and killed in cold blood. Her killing, along with several others, prompted the IDF’s military commander to warn soldiers about the use of live fire.

In December, the IDF was responsible for killing Muhammad Ziad Awad Salaymah, who was gunned down in Hebron on his 17th birthday after supposedly brandishing a toy gun. Once again, the killing of a minor was justified as self-defence. Similar to the case of Lubna Hanash, Salaymah’s family have denied he was carrying a toy gun, and that Israelis held the body from the Palestinian Red Crescent for two hours, suggesting they had time enough to plant one. The Guardian also claims footage shows Salaymah being shot as he left the scene.

There is a long record of this kind of behaviour by the occupying Israeli forces. South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council, whilst studying apartheid in Israel, documented that during the final months of 2004 numerous killings were made by the IDF directed against students and children. Taking this small window of violence, we can see the character of the killings emerging.

On 7 September 2004, a ten-year old girl sitting at her desk in an UN Relief and Works Agency school in Khan Yunis camp was struck in the head by an Israeli bullet and died. This aggression was repeated a month later, when on October 3rd an Israeli tank drove through a school with children still in it, allegedly using it as a firing position. Twelve days later on the 15th of October, yet another child was killed whilst at their desk in a UN school. Two months after these incidents, a whole school was subjected to gunfire from Israeli forces which wounded no less than seven children, the eldest of them just nine years old.

The targeting of children whilst they sit in their classrooms, as depicted by the above examples, is a particularly serious offence, and the wider picture of Palestinian minors killed during the occupation is deeply distressing.

The Office for the Co-Ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) records at least 703 children killed by the IDF since January 2005 alone, whilst life is particularly bleak for Palestinian children in Gaza, with studies by Queen’s University Belfast estimating nearly all children in the besieged strip of land suffer from psychological trauma as a result of the Israeli occupation.

By far the deadliest period for Palestinian minors was during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead. This assault on the Gaza strip in late 2008 and early 2009 resulted in the deaths of over 300 Palestinian children, and was recorded in Amnesty International’s report as ’22 Days of Death and Destruction’. The report details that hundreds of these children were killed with highly-accurate weapons, suggesting clear intent:

“Children playing on the roofs of their homes or in the street and other civilians going about their daily business, as well as medical staff attending the wounded were killed in broad daylight by Hellfire and other highly accurate missiles launched from helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, and by precision projectiles fired from tanks.”

It is imperative to see the continuing killing of the young in light of the Israeli occupation’s long record of brutality towards Palestinian youth. The same Amnesty report highlights how targeted schools were smouldered with burning white phosphorous, which constitutes a war crime, something which Israeli authorities continue to deny. Again in the recent attack on Gaza in November 2012, a further 34 children were killed by Israeli weapons.

When the previous two months ‘mistakes’ like the deaths of Lubna Hanash and Ziad Salaymah are woven into the long and repetitive narrative of state killings with highly precise and accurate weaponry, it is evident Israel is merely continuing its policy of disregard towards Palestinian life, a policy particularly heinous as it all too frequently includes the young, defenceless and innocent.

About James Elliott

James Elliott is a British student volunteering with the Right to Education campaign at Birzeit University, who advocate for the rights of Palestinian students who are impacted by Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

12 Responses

  1. jimmy
    February 9, 2013, 8:25 pm

    these stories never ever get any legs in the USA….

    wonder why….

    mondoweiss and a few others are the only ones to highlight them….

    in israel them kill the natives for nothing other than sport….

    in the USA we at least set them up to be jailed

  2. Obsidian
    February 10, 2013, 12:27 pm

    @Mr. Elliot

    “On 7 September 2004, a ten-year old girl sitting at her desk in an UN Relief and Works agency school in Khan Yunis camp was struck in the head by an Israeli bullet and died”

    Let’s try too put this tragedy in it’s proper context.
    Only minutes before the shooting, Hamas had fired five Qassam rockets, with two landing near the “Dugit” settlement and another in an open field near Sderot in Israel, lightly injuring a man. Israeli military positions in Gush Katif retaliated with sporadic gunfire targeted at the western part of the Khan Younis refugee camp.
    A mortar shell had also been fired at the “Neveh Dekalim” settlement causeing damage to a local bus stop. (AP, BBC, CNN, Ha’aretz, Ma’ariv)

    BBC reporter Alan Johnston, visited the school room where the girl was shot and reported:
    ” Groups like the Hamas organisation often fire crudely made missiles into the settlements or nearby towns in Israel where they can fall on family homes, or on schools or nurseries.”
    “They attack from the edges of the refugee camps and the Israeli army tries to hit them there”.

    So they bullet that struck and killed the school girl was likely a stray shot. Nor has it been conclusively proven that it was an Israeli bullet and not one fired by the miliants.
    Did the child’s classroom window face the Israeli positions? No one has even said so.

    • sardelapasti
      February 10, 2013, 1:01 pm

      Before whining, criminal propaganda agents are reminded to count all the tens of thousands of civilians slaughtered by the Zionists with the excuse of “collateral damage”. This post does not reflect well on the perception of your mental powers.

    • tree
      February 10, 2013, 5:06 pm

      Testimony from ex-IDF soldiers about “stray shots”:

      Still dressed in the loose sharwal trousers that he wears for his work as a gardener, the 22-year-old ex-soldier sits across the café table in a central Tel Aviv shopping mall, and says that when he joined the Israeli army he just “wanted to kill Arabs”.

      Like most of the other 300 ex-soldiers who have so far testified about their experiences to Breaking the Silence, an organisation formed a year ago by a group of young men who had done their military service in Hebron, the soldier doesn’t want to give his real name. But he tells how his attitude gradually changed when he came into contact with Palestinians and Bedouin for the first time and saw the long delays, and sometimes harassment, faced by them at the checkpoints he manned in the Jordan valley.

      The ex-soldier, who joined the religious Nahal brigade despite having already shed his own ultra-orthodox background, talks about “initiated action” he saw when serving at the military base at the Psagot settlement on the edge of Ramallah in early 2002, and to which he says officers sometimes turned a blind eye.

      Instead of carrying out the instructions to use their machine guns and M16s only when fired at by Palestinians militants, he suggests, “a soldier would say: ‘Why let them decide when the shooting takes place? Let’s show them who’s boss.'”

      With time, he says, “the soldiers got the feeling that they were at a firing range, and for every shot fired … they’d fire hundreds of bullets in return. There’s no need to add that they hit innocent people, and sometimes afterwards we saw … ambulances arriving there. Nobody cared that they were liable to hit innocent people, they found the whole thing funny.”


      Breaking the Silence contends that the inspiration for many orders, which it says directly violate the international legal obligations of an occupying power, came from the highest ranks. Certainly, Booomerang, a new book by two prominent Israeli journalists, Ofer Shelah and Raviv Druker, reports that at a conference of officers as early as May 2001, Shaul Mofaz, now the Defence Minister but then Chief of Staff, asked for the tape to be switched off before telling them that he wanted a “price” exacted from the Palestinians of 10 killed a day on each of the Army’s seven fronts.

      Even assuming that the IDF soldiers were “responding to mortar fire” its clear that they simply fired indiscriminately and not at specific targets such as a mortar location.

      • tree
        February 10, 2013, 6:43 pm

        And here’s a report from 2003 where an IDF commander admits that most of the then recent child deaths were the result of actions by his own soldiers:

        The army offered a senior officer of its southern command to discuss the shooting of these six children over a period of just 10 weeks earlier this year. The military told me I could not name him, even though his identity is no secret to the Israeli public or his enemies; it was this officer who explained to the nation how an army bulldozer came to crush to death the young American peace activist, Rachel Corrie.

        “I want you to know we are not a bunch of crazies down here,” he says. At his headquarters in the Gush Khatif Jewish settlement in Gaza, the commander rattles through the army’s version of the shootings: either the military knew nothing of them, or the children had been caught in crossfire – a justification used so frequently, and so often disproved, that it is rarely believed. But three hours later, after poring over maps and military logs, timings and regulations, he concedes that his soldiers were responsible – even culpable – in several of the killings.

        The Israeli army’s instinctive response is to muddy the waters when confronted with a controversial killing. At first, it questioned whether Huda was even shot. I described for the soldiers the scene in the classroom with blood rippling up the wall behind the child’s desk.

        “I don’t know how this happened,” says the commander. “I take responsibility for this. It could have been one of ours. I think it probably was.”

        The killing of Haneen is clearer in the commander’s mind. “We checked it and we know that on the same day there was shooting of a mortar,” he says. “The troops from the post shot back at the area where the mortar was launched, the area where the girl was killed. We didn’t see if we hit someone. I assume that a stray bullet hit Haneen. Unfortunately.” Doesn’t he think that simply shooting back in the general direction of a mortar attack is irresponsible at best? He says not. “You cannot have soldiers sitting and doing nothing when they are shot at,” he says.

        And from the same article, he’s an example of the IDF falsifying reports. In this case they were discovered because the IDF officer responding to Btselem’s demand for an investigation accidently enclosed the internal report on the incident which clearly indicated that they were lying in their official response to BTselem.

        The case of Khalil al-Mughrabi is telling. The 11-year-old was shot dead in Rafah by the Israeli army two years ago as he played football with a group of friends near the security fence. One of Israel’s most respected human rights organisations, B’Tselem, wrote to the judge advocate general’s office, responsible for prosecuting soldiers, demanding an inquiry. Months later, the office wrote back saying that Khalil was shot by soldiers who acted with “restraint and control” to disperse a riot in the area. However, the judge advocate general’s office made the mistake of attaching a copy of its own, supposedly secret, investigation which came to a quite different conclusion – that the riot had been much earlier in the day and the soldiers who shot the child should not have opened fire. The report says a “serious deviation from obligatory norms of behaviour” took place.

        In the report, the chief military prosecutor, Colonel Einat Ron, then spelled out alternative false scenarios that should be offered to B’Tselem. B’Tselem said the internal report confirmed that the army has a policy of covering up its crimes. “The message that the judge advocate general’s office transmits to soldiers is clear: soldiers who violate the ‘Open Fire Regulations’, even if their breach results in death, will not be investigated and will not be prosecuted.”

        And from the penultimate paragraph, quoting the IDF commander again:

        Towards the end of the interview, the commander in Gaza finally concedes that his soldiers were at fault to some degree or other in the killing of most – but not all – of the children we discussed. They include a 12-year-old girl, Haneen Abu Sitta, shot dead in Rafah as she walked home from school near a security fence around one of the fortified Jewish settlements. The army moved swiftly to cover it up. It leaked a false story to more compliant parts of the Israeli media, claiming Haneen was shot during a gun battle between troops and “terrorists” in an area known for weapons smuggling across the border from Egypt. But the army commander concedes that there was no battle. “Every name of a child here, it makes me feel bad because it’s the fault of my soldiers. I need to learn and see the mistakes of my troops,” he says. But by the end of the interview, he is combative again. “I remember the Holocaust. We have a choice, to fight the terrorists or to face being consumed by the flames again,” he says.

        This is the sad and sick morality of Zionism. The idea, no doubt inculcated in many Israelis, that killing innocent children is somehow justified by a phantom threat of an impending second Holocaust if these children are instead treated as fellow human beings.

      • tree
        February 10, 2013, 7:03 pm

        And lest you think that this way new behavior on the part of Israel in the early 21st century, here’s a piece from Donald Neff, who was Time Magazine’s reporter in Jerusalem in the late 1970’s with an incident from 1978, where IDF soldiers went on a rampage against Palestinian schoolchildren, throwing tear gas grenades into classrooms filled with children, forcing some of those children on the second floor to jump out windows and break their bones in order to escape the attack. Some children had also been beaten and had their heads shaved by the IDF soldiers.

        Neff broke the story, which was roundly denied in Israel. Of course, as a result he was labeled a lying anti-semite, until several months later the Israeli Defense Minister ordered an investigation which admitted that Neff’s account was true.

      • Obsidian
        February 11, 2013, 2:29 pm


        You forgot to mention that,

        “As a consequence of an incident that shook all of Israel in late March, Defense Minister Ezer Weizman …removed Brigadier General David Hagoel as chief of the 2,200-man Israeli occupation force on the Jordan River’s West Bank. … the commander and deputy commander of the Bethlehem military district, a lieutenant colonel and a major, were ordered to be court-martialed for “an infringement of existing orders.”

        Yes. The IDF gassed the high school, and consequently, heads rolled.

  3. Obsidian
    February 10, 2013, 1:30 pm

    “In December, the IDF was responsible for killing Muhammad Ziad Awad Salaymah, who was gunned down in Hebron on his 17th birthday after supposedly brandishing a toy gun.”

    Mr. Elliot. I’m sure you saw the video of the shooting where Muhammad Ziad Awad Salaymah assaulted an Israeli Border Guardsman without apparent provocation.

    The ‘toy gun’ that the Border Guard displayed immediately after the incident was an exact replica of a Luger pistol.

  4. Obsidian
    February 10, 2013, 1:53 pm

    @James Elliot

    “This assault on the Gaza strip in late 2008 and early 2009 resulted in the deaths of over 300 Palestinian children, and was recorded in Amnesty International’s report as ’22 Days of Death and Destruction’.”

    The data I’ve seen shows a higher male to female ratio — greater than 4.0 —among teens killed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.
    In age 17-18, an age group often involved in hostilities, there is an abrupt increase in M/F ratio to 6.5. These high m/f ratios suggest that many could have been involved in combatant situations, either as shields, fighters, circumstantial helpers, sporadic helpers, or bystanders who were drawn into the goings on.


Leave a Reply