A key concern during this reporting period was the increase of violations and the highest levels of hostilities in Gaza since Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009). Measures are needed to ensure greater accountability. Cases resulting in the loss of civilian life, especially children, should be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible for unlawful acts held accountable.
Killings and Injuries
Four Israeli children (3 boys and 1 girl) were killed during the reporting period. A 16-year-old boy was killed when a missile launched by a Palestinian armed group struck an Israeli school bus travelling near the Barrier separating Israel and Gaza. In the West Bank, two boys, ages 4 and 11, and a three-month-old baby girl were killed when a settler family was attacked inside their home in Itamar settlement. Two Palestinians, age 17 and 19, were charged with the murder and an investigation is ongoing.
Forty-four per cent of the injuries took place in East Jerusalem, with 88% of these in the neighbourhood of Silwan and 12% in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The high number of children injured in Silwan during clashes between Palestinian residents and Israeli forces in the context of settler activities and Israeli policies reflects the ongoing exposure of children in East Jerusalem to violations and injuries. Another 26% of injuries took place in the West Bank and 30% took place in Gaza, including 6 children injured in the buffer zone. No Israeli children were reported injured in March and April.
Of the 117 Palestinian children injured, thirty-nine children were injured in the context of military activities by the Israeli security forces. Another thirty-five children were injured in confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli forces following Friday prayers in Silwan and two other children were physically injured by Israeli forces. Other injuries include twenty-five children injured by Israeli forces during Palestinian civil society demonstrations. Fifteen children were injured in the context of settler-related violence, including 9 injuries caused by settlers directly and 6 by Israeli forces. In addition, one child was injured in a vehicle incident in the West Bank caused by settlers.
Arrest and Dentention
At the end of April 2011, 220 Palestinian boys between the ages of 12 to 17 years were in Israeli detention. This includes 37 boys between the ages of 12 to 15, an increase of 9% from January 2011. Currently no children are held in administrative detention.
Recruitment and Use of Children by Armed Forces and Groups
No incidents reported.
In March and April, 95 Palestinian structures were demolished in Area ‘C’ and East Jerusalem in the West Bank, including 46 homes and 49 other structures, such as animal shelters and water cisterns. As a result, 158 people, including 66 children, lost their homes. Another 269 people, including 159 children were otherwise affected by the demolitions, which impacted the community and caused threats to livelihood.
As noted above, an Israeli school bus was struck by a missile launched from Gaza by a Palestinian armed group, critically injuring a boy who later died from his injuries. In a separate incident, a Palestinian armed group fired a rocket from Gaza which landed on the roof of a kindergarten in southern Israel; no injuries were reported. In addition, a Grad rocket fired by a Palestinian armed group caused minor damage to a school fence in southern Israel.
Six other incidents involve the presence of Israeli security forces taking part in attacks, raids, forced entry, and search and arrest operations, including the use of teargas on students. During a 4 day curfew in the village of Awarta the secondary school for girls was used by Israeli forces as an interrogation centre for village residents, including children. Students from two schools in the Gaza buffer zone were evacuated due to frequent firing by Israeli forces close to the schools; in one incident the firing reached within 6 meters of the school walls and in the other incident resulted in damages to a number of classrooms. Four other incidents include the damage of 5 schools in Gaza during Israeli air strikes targeting nearby areas. Also included is a demolition order issued against a new school building in the West Bank with additional classrooms.
Denial of Humanitarian Access/Impact of the Conflict on Access to Basic Services
Access to Healthcare
Children in need of specialized medical care outside of Gaza continue to face severe and at times fatal access restrictions. In March and April 2011, the Israeli District Liaison Office approved 686 out of 706 applications for children to cross Erez for medical treatment outside of Gaza. Twenty applications were delayed, no cases were denied. A 3 year old girl suffering from meningitis and related health complications died while waiting for referral to an Israeli hospital.
For more information on referral of patients from Gaza strip see: http://issuu.com/who-opt/docs/update_rad_march_2011 or
In Gaza, four schools were closed as a result of escalating tension and hostilities between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups, affecting 2,123 students.
In the West Bank, a security incident between PA security forces and Israeli settlers resulted in an Israeli military incursion into Nablus City and the closure of checkpoints. Four schools were closed for one day, affecting 2,724 students, and 7 schools were closed for half a day, affecting 3,923 students. In addition, 85 teachers were denied access to schools due to closure of the checkpoints. In Awarta, a curfew resulted in the closure of 4 schools for 5 days, affecting 1,647 children.
In Silwad, close to Hebron, seven boys were detained at a checkpoint where they were reportedly hit, verbally abused and forced to remove clothing during the search. In Susiya, near Hebron, three children were attacked by settlers on their way to school during the reporting period. In addition, on several occasions, the Israeli military escort tasked to protect schoolchildren in at-Tuwani village from attacks by settlers arrived late or failed to accompany the children.
Source: Jerusalem Post, "Schools close in South as residents fear more rockets," 24 Mar 2011 Haaretz, "Be'er Sheva, Ashdod schools close as cross-
The Case of Awarta Village
On 11 March 2011, three young Israeli children – two boys aged 11 and 4, and a three-month old baby girl - and their parents were brutally murdered in Itamar settlement, near the city of Nablus in the northern West Bank. The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process declared that “there could be no justification whatsoever for such atrocities”. UNICEF condemned the murder.
Immediately following, on 12 March, Israeli Security Forces (ISF) surrounded the neighbouring village of Awarta and declared it a closed military zone in order to conduct a search operation for suspects. On 17 April, Israeli authorities announced the arrest of two youths from the village, aged 17 and 19, reporting they had confessed to the killings.
According to the village residents, during the five weeks prior to the arrests, Awarta was cut off from the world and its inhabitants confined at home for entire days, unable to access work or educational and medical services, as ISF engaged in house-to-house searches. “I was awakened in the middle of the night at the noise of a sound bomb, followed by heavy banging on our door and loud speaking voices ordering us to leave the house”, a 17-year old girl told UNICEF. “We were told to wait outside in the cold while soldiers were searching the house with dogs”, she added. Several of her friends reported being denied access to the bathroom for hours during house searches. The village residents reported that many homes were ransacked and damaged and some were used as a base for military operations.
Awarta mayor, Qays Awwad, said that the majority of boys and men between the ages of 16-35 were arrested and interrogated about the murders, and that many of them reported ill-treatment. About 150 women were also arrested, forced to submit DNA samples and sign documents written in Hebrew - a language none of them understands - with no access to a lawyer. The women, who were authorized to take a child or a relative to accompany them, were released after several hours. Awwad said it was the first time ISF conducted mass arrests of women in the West Bank, prompting worry among their relatives. A 16-year-old girl told UNICEF she had spent six days in detention without access to a lawyer or to her parents: “I knew my mother was close as once I heard her calling my name and asking people where I was, but I could not see her and felt terribly lonely. No one would tell me why I had been arrested.” She was later released without charges.
The head of Awarta Secondary School for girls, Nadia Odeh, told UNICEF that classes were cancelled for two weeks and that Israeli Security Forces turned the school into an interrogation centre for four days. She said that many girls were unable to access the school for another two weeks as they were confined at home by the ISF or too worried to study. Several girls said that their school books, computers, furniture and personal belongings had been damaged and sometimes confiscated by soldiers. According to Odeh, academic achievement scores have plummeted.
Several mothers told UNICEF that young children were still under stress more than two months after the launch of the search operation. “My children were very scared to see soldiers with dogs inside our home in the middle of the night”, reported a mother of seven. “One of the soldiers pointed his gun to the chest of my two-year old son. He asked the soldier not to shoot because he was in pain, before going into shock. His 13
year old brother, who was held by soldiers in the yard and interrogated while his father was away from home, still has nightmares every night. His younger siblings freeze and hide any time they hear a vehicle”, she added. Another woman said her children were scared of settlers: “Since the killings, settler attacks have been increasing in the village. As our house is located very close to the settlement, my children have seen settlers
roaming around. My 6 year old boy now wets his bed at night, my 10 year old daughter refuses to let me out of her sight and their 12-year-old sister refused to go to school for several days after seeing some settlers close to home,” she said.
UNICEF is currently providing psychosocial support to 81 children and 80 mothers in Awarta through its psychosocial emergency teams led by the YMCA, with funding from ECHO. Teachers and school counselors have received support, and, 21 children have been referred for in-depth specialized counseling. Eight days of recreational activities were organized for 429 children and their caretakers, and emergency interventions were able to reach 89 families. Some members of the emergency teams have requested support for themselves, suffering from secondary trauma.
1The buffer zone denotes the area close to Gaza’s border with Israel. The Israeli military has indicated the boundary of the no go area to be 300 meters from the border but, in practice, it extends up to one kilometre and two kilometres at its widest point in North Gaza. The number of people directly affected is estimated at approximately 113,000 people or 7.5 per cent of Gaza’s total population and 35 per cent of the arable land in Gaza ( OCHA & WFP 2010: ‘Humanitarian Impact of Israeli-imposed Restrictions on Access to Land and Sea in the Gaza Strip’).