The reporting period was distinguished by an alarming increase in the level of violence, in particular in the Gaza Strip. The intensity of fighting and Israeli incursions is unparalleled in Gaza City since the start of the current conflict in September 2000 with many clashes taking place in the densely populated city and refugee camps. Some 53 Palestinians were killed and more than 387 were injured between 16 February and 11 March. Twenty-five percent of the casualties were children.
The Israeli incursion into Jabalya refugee camp on 5 March lasted for 8 hours and was the second in two days. Three of the 11 killed were children under 15 years of age, and another 140 people were injured. Most of the deaths occurred when a tank shell was fired at a group of Palestinians attempting to put out a fire ignited in earlier fighting. Rocket and artillery attacks into heavily populated urban areas will inevitably result in collateral deaths.
Many of the victims are often children, which is cause for grave concern. In Gaza, over 70% of the population is under the age of 25 and 50% is under the age of 15. Among Palestinian children injured in the OPT in 2002, 493 children were between the ages of 0-8 years, and 584 were between the ages of 9-12 years. That is, 42 per cent of Palestinian children injured in 2002 were below the age of 12 years.
A Palestinian suicide bombing was carried out in the city of Haifa on 5 March, resulting in the deaths of 17 people, including 9 teenagers. Members of Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip carried out a number of attacks against Israeli targets, including the firing of several homemade Kassam rockets into Israeli towns in the Negev.
Children in Gaza
Since September 2001, the Gaza Strip has witnessed the most conflict-related Palestinian child casualties, with 84 deaths in 2002, and 64 in 2001, making it the most dangerous location in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) to raise a child.
Israeli military and settler violence towards Palestinian children has increased considerably over the last year. Total Palestinian child casualties increased by 96 per cent over the last year, from 98 in 2001 to 192 in 2002.1 More worrying, eighty-two of the 192 deaths in 2002 were caused by multiple injuries, compared with only 31 out of 98 in 2001. This suggests that the scale of violence to which Palestinian children are being exposed has also intensified.
Between 1 December 2002 and 4 March 2003, 16 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers, either in their own homes, on the way to or from school, in school, or while at play.
One example of the IDF's indiscriminate use of force in civilian areas was when a 12-year-old girl was shot in the head while sitting at her desk in a United Nations school in Gaza. The girl was attending an Agency-run school when she was wounded by retaliatory fire from Israeli forces after Palestinian militants opened fire on an Israeli tank near the Khan Younis refugee camp.
There is widespread concern within the humanitarian community about the non-fatal injuries to Palestinian children. In 2002, DCI documented 2,524 Palestinian child injuries related to the current crisis in Israeli-Palestinian relations. The Gaza Strip witnessed the highest number of injured Palestinian children. Other areas also bare the brunt of violence with 627 children injured in Nablus (West Bank) alone.
According to UNICEF, the total number of children killed since September 2000 is 405 Palestinian children and 92 Israeli children.
Major events in Gaza
The escalating violence in Gaza was reported on in the previous OCHA update covering 22 January-15 February, and continued to occur.
Humanitarian Access and Incidences in Gaza
On 19 February in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, IDF soldiers fired warning shots within meters of a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) car. The team’s presence in the area had been previously coordinated and approved by the IDF.
Humanitarian access to Al-Mawasi, the Palestinian enclave in the Gush Qatif settlement bloc in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, has become increasingly difficult. MSF and WFP trucks carrying medical and food assistance tried to gain access on several occasions during the reporting period but were unable to pass the checkpoint. Furthermore, only men over 40 and women over 35 are allowed to cross the checkpoint and then, only by foot. B’Tselem released an alarming report of the situation on Al-Mawasi in March 2003. For the full report see:
PRCS reported severe difficulties in accessing people in need of medical help during IDF incursions in Gaza:
Graphs of curfews in the West Bank
1 Statistics provided are attributable to both UNICEF and Defense for Children International (DCI).