On Saturday and Sunday, 17 and 18 February 2018, Israeli forces carried out a series of artillery, air and machine gun attacks that resulted in the death of two children, left two others injured, and partially damaged some houses in Gaza. The children were targeted in the access restricted areas, while the sites of Palestinian factions and open spaces were otherwise the main targets. The international community should condemn this escalation of the use of force against civilians in Gaza.
Al Mezan’s monitoring shows that at 9:30pm on Saturday, 17 February 2018, Israeli forces used artillery shelling and machinegun fire against a group of children who were approaching the southeastern border of Al Shouka in the Rafah governorate. The children were at a distance of around 30 meters from the border fence when they were targeted. Salem Mohammed Sabbah, 17, and Abdallah Ayman Armelat, 15, were killed; no medical teams were permitted by the Israeli authorities to retrieve the bodies until the morning of the next day. In the same incident, two children were moderately injured; they received the necessary medical treatment at Al Najjar Hospital.
At around 3:55pm on Saturday, 17 February 2018, Israeli forces targeted the site of a Palestinian faction in the east of Khan Younis. The Israeli air force then launched several sporadic raids on different areas in Gaza. The series of attacks was concluded with the bombardment of an area in the North Gaza governorate at around 10:25pm the same day. The assault was comprised of six aerial raids, in which 15 rockets were used to attack five sites of Palestinian factions and open lands in the Khan Younis, Deir Al Balah and Gaza City governorates. Some houses in nearby areas were partially damaged and the neighboring residents were shaken by the violence, particularly the children.
The Israeli forces responded to the presence of the children in the access restricted area—who posed no imminent threat of death or serious injury to the soldiers—with excessive force. The attacks on factions’ sites and open areas raise the question as to their necessity and to the proportionality of the strikes that damaged houses and created a sense of insecurity among residents. The international community must take effective steps to pressure the Israeli authorities into complying with the State’s international law obligations.