Since 2007, a UNICEF-led working group has consolidated efforts to report on the impact of armed conflict on children in Israel and the State of Palestine. The bulletin is published on a regular basis highlighting trends and patterns in grave violations against children. Members of the working group include: Save the Children, DCI-Palestine, B'Tselem, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, War Child Holland, OCHA, OHCHR, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNRWA and WHO.
The Bulletin describes the spike in clashes in East-Jerusalem in the beginning of July following the abduction and killing of a Palestinian boy in Shufat neighbourhood on 1 July, as well as the impact on children 50 days into the Israeli military operation in Gaza, from the start of the operation on 8 July to the open-ended ceasefire announced on 26 August.
The information is compiled by UNICEF as part of its emergency response and cross-checked with reliable sources. The UNICEF-led Working Group on Grave Violations against Children is engaged in an ongoing vetting process of the available data, which will be subject to change based on further verification.
In early July 2014, an Israeli military operation was ongoing in the West Bank' following the reported abduction of three Israeli teenagers (two of them children) outside a settlement in the West Bank on 12 June. Following the discovery of the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers, a 17-year-old Palestinian boy was abducted by at least three Israeli settlers in Shufat, East-Jerusalem, two of which were confirmed 16-year-old children, in an alleged revenge attack on 1 July. The body of the Palestinian boy was found a day later, reportedly showing signs of physical assault and being burnt alive. This resulted in prolonged demonstrations and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in various parts of East-Jerusalem. Locations include: Shufat, Shufat refugee camp, Beit Hanina, As Sowaneh, Bab Hutta, Al Sa'dyeh, Jabal Al Mukabber, Wadi Al Joz, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Ras Al Amud, At Tur/Mt. of Olives, Issawiya and Eizariyya.
Violent clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces broke out at the funeral of the 17-year-old boy on 4 July. The release of the video footage of the Israeli police physically assaulting and beating unconscious the 15-year-old cousin of the killed Palestinian boy further intensified the clashes. During the ensuing violent confrontations, at least 170 Palestinian youth, including children, were reported injured and at least 40 Palestinian youth, including children, were arrested. Palestinian demonstrators threw stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces and Israeli settlers; Israeli security forces fired rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas canisters and live ammunition at the Palestinian demonstrators. On several occasions, groups of Israeli settlers attacked or threatened Palestinians in both East and West Jerusalem, including at least five reported instances of abduction attempts of Palestinian children.
2. GAZA AND SOUTHERN ISRAEL
Civilians, particularly Palestinian children, have borne the brunt of the hostilities in Gaza, the third major military confrontation between Israel and Gaza in six years. In a period of 50 days between 8 July and 26 August, at least 503 Palestinian children were reported killed as a result of airstrikes and shelling by Israeli aerial, naval and ground forces; at least 3,374 Palestinian children were reportedly injured or maimed; at least 258 schools, 17 hospitals and 58 clinics were damaged; the houses of 18,000 families (108,000 individuals) were totally destroyed or sustained major damage, rendering more than six per cent of the population in Gaza homeless; electricity and water infrastructure sustained severe disruption; and the number of displaced persons at its peak reached an estimated 485,000 or nearly 28 per cent of Gaza's population.
Since the launch of the Israeli military operation, hundreds of homes, some of which were of alleged members of armed groups, were directly hit by Israeli airstrikes. Residential properties, including multi-level buildings, were destroyed or severely damaged, causing civilian casualties, including multiple family members, and displacing the survivors. The Israeli bombardments from air, sea and land, resulting in loss of civilian life, alongside reports of civilians and civilian objects being directly hit in circumstances where there was allegedly no rocket fire or armed group activity in the vicinity, raises concern over the principles of distinction and proportionality. In some cases, residents were warned prior to attack (by phone calls/recorded messages or so-called “roof knocking” by launching missiles/empty shells) as a precaution, which does not preclude continued need of respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality.
Indiscriminate rocket firing by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza into southern and central Israel prior and throughout the Israeli military operation put civilians, including children, at risk. While most rockets fell in open areas or were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, a few hit homes, cars, schools and a fuel tanker. Since 8 July, four civilians in Israel, of which one child, were killed, and dozens directly injured by rockets or shrapnel, of which at least six children. Tens of thousands of families, including children, were forced to seek refuge in shelters. The firing of rockets from densely populated areas in Gaza towards main Israeli population centres endangers Palestinian civilians residing in these areas, as well as the targeted civilian population in Israel. The indiscriminate targeting of civilians as well as the staging of attacks from civilian areas raises concerns over the principles of distinction and precautions in and from attacks.
Since the start of the Israeli military operation in Gaza2 in the early morning of 8 July 2014, Israeli security forces (ISF) carried out hundreds of intense aerial and naval airstrike operations throughout Gaza, purportedly targeting military installations, rocket launching sites and residences of alleged members of armed groups. The Government of Israel stated as its objective the stopping of Palestinian rocket fire at southern Israel and the destroying of the military infrastructure of Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza. Palestinian armed groups fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli urban centres, including the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem metropolitan areas. Hamas stated that it was responding to the targeting of Hamas during the Israeli military operation in the West Bank, as well as in protest to the situation of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.
On the night of 17 July, ISF launched a ground incursion, which was preceded by a heavy barrage of artillery fire from ISF, combined with intense shelling from gunboats, as well as airstrikes. Prior to entering Gaza, the Israeli security forces announced that the Access Restricted Area, along Gaza's perimeter fence, had been expanded from 300m to 3km from the fence. Following two 72-hour ceasefire understandings, announced respectively on 5 August 8:00 and 10 August 23:00, and one five-day ceasefire announced on 13 August midnight, the parties agreed on an open-ended ceasefire announced on 26 August, with a view to talks on a more long-term arrangement in Cairo one month later.
The current crisis in Gaza comes against a backdrop of heightened vulnerability and instability, as a result of the closure imposed on Gaza by Israeli security forces since 2007. Since then, there have been three escalations of hostilities between Israel and Hamas.
KILLING AND INJURING
Since the beginning of the Israeli military operation in Gaza on 8 July, during 50 days between 8 July and 26 August 2014, at least 506 Palestinian children were reported killed. The number of child casualties exceeds the combined number of Palestinian children killed during the two previous escalations in Gaza (350 children in 2008-2009 and 35 children in 2012).
• The 506 child casualties include 316 boys (62%) and 190 girls (38%), aged between ten days and 17 years.
• Of the 506 children, at least 334 casualties (66%) are 12 years old or younger. Of the 316 boys, 194 (61%) are 12 years old or younger; of the 190 girls, 140 (73%) are 12 years old or younger.
• In the course of 50 days, on average more than 10 Palestinian children were killed in Gaza every day.
• At least 142 families have lost three or more family members in the same incident, for a total of 739 fatalities.
• The days with the largest toll of child casualties as a result of the hostilities in Gaza were 20 July and 1 August (twice 34 children); 21 July (42 children); and 29 July (66 children).
• During the period of the ISF ground incursion, at least 412 children were killed by Israeli aerial, naval and ground forces in the course of 20 days between 17 July and 5 August, equal to 81 per cent of the child casualties, on average 20 children per day.
According to the Protection Cluster, in total, 2,157 persons were killed due to the hostilities in Gaza, of which 1,479 were said to be civilians, 293 militants and 383 unknown (victims whose bodies could not be identified or their civilian status remains to be determined). Children make up for 34 per cent of the civilian casualties. The number of child casualties appears to exceed the number of Palestinian militants killed by 213.
• On 13 July, at least two missiles hit the Al Batsh family house in the Tuffah neighbourhood of Gaza City, killing 17 persons, including six children - four boys and two girls aged between one and 17 years.
• On 16 July, four boys aged between nine and 11 years old were killed in two consecutive naval airstrikes while playing on the beach near Gaza City's harbour, purportedly targeting a shed at a construction site nearby.
• On 20 July, the Abu Jami' family house in Bani Suheila, Khan Younis governorate, was targeted and destroyed in an airstrike, killing 26 members of the family, including 19 children aged between four months and 14 years old (12 girls and seven boys).
• On 21 July, a drone strike targeting the house of the Abu Sneineh family in the Saimat neighbourhood of Rafah, killed 11 family members, including four boys and two girls aged between seven months and 15 years.
• On 24 July, Israeli shelling of the UNRWA Beit Hanoun Co-Education School, which was used as shelter and where hundreds of displaced persons had gathered, killed at least six children - four boys and two girls aged between two and 17 years.
• On 25 July, a drone strike landed in front of the Darazin family house in Nuseirat refugee camp, Middle Area, the shrapnel of which killed three children - two boys and one girl aged between three and 12 years.
• On 29 July, Israeli forces fired artillery shells in the vicinity of the Al Omari mosque in Jabalia, resulting in the killing of 15 persons in the Hamouda and Abed-Rabbo family houses nearby, including six children.
• On 2 August, an F16 targeted a two-storey family house, killing nine persons, including five children, and injuring 26 others, including 12 children. Five persons in critical condition were subsequently waiting to be transferred abroad to receive adequate medical care.
Since 8 July, 71 Israeli were reported killed, including 66 Israeli soldiers, one security coordinator and four civilians, of which one child, in the course of the hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel. On 22 August, a four-year-old Israeli boy was reported killed by mortar shelling from Gaza in a kibbutz in Sha'ar Hanegev Region.
Between 8 July and 26 August, at least 3,374 Palestinian children were reportedly injured. In total, a reported 11,100 Palestinians were injured, of which children make up 30 per cent.
In addition, explosive remnants of war in civilian areas pose a continuing risk to children, farmers, displaced persons returning home, and humanitarian workers. Areas up to three kilometres from Gaza's perimeter fence (44% of the Gaza Strip), which were declared as a “buffer zone” for the duration of the Israeli ground incursion (17 July to 5 August), are considered particularly dangerous.
According to Magen David Adorn, between 8 July and 26 August, 36 Israeli civilians were injured by shrapnel of rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups from Gaza. At least six Israeli children, including three boys and three girls aged between 3 months and 17 years, of which four Bedouin children, were reportedly gravely injured due to rocket fire from Gaza. In addition, 581 Israeli suffered from anxiety attacks, 159 were injured as a result of falling and trauma on the way to shelters, 33 were injured by shattered glass and building debris, and 18 were injured in traffic incidents which occurred as a result of air alarms.
Since the start of the Israeli military operation in Gaza, children in Israel have been impacted by rocket fire and the threat of attacks from Gaza. Rockets have reached Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, cities in southern Israel, Bedouin communities in the Negev desert, as well as towns in central Israel and western Galilee, causing families and children to seek refuge in both municipal and residential bomb shelters. In remote Bedouin communities in the Negev desert, where some children were gravely injured, warning sirens, protective structures and other services remain largely unavailable.
1- Attacks on schools3
Between 8 July and 26 August, at least 258 schools, including 148 public schools (out of 395), 75 UNRWA schools (out of 245) and 10 private schools (out of 50), were damaged due to Israeli airstrikes and shelling nearby. At least 26 public schools were reported severely damaged to the extent that they can no longer be used.
At the height of the hostilities, up until the 5 August ceasefire, 90 UNRWA schools were used as UN shelters for displaced persons, and 26 public schools were used as Government refuges for displaced persons. At least six UNRWA schools which were used as shelters were reportedly directly hit by Israeli airstrikes or shelling in seven separate incidents.
• On 10 July, the agriculture training school “Hani Nairn Agriculture Secondary School for Boys” in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, was shelled by three missiles resulting in serious damage to the main gate.
• On 17 July, the “Children's Land” kindergarten in the Bedouin village of Um Al Nasser, northern Gaza, operated by the Italian NGO Vento di Terra, was destroyed by Israeli forces during its military take-over of Um Al Nasser village.
• On 21 July, the UNRWA “Maghazi Preparatory Girls School” in Maghazi refugee camp, which was housing 300 displaced persons at the time, was hit by Israeli shelling. On 22 July, the school was shelled again during a two-hour evacuation period coordinated with the UN.
• On 24 July, ISF positioned at the border fired at least four shells hitting an UNRWA school - “Beit Hanoun Elem. Co-ed 'AID' - used as a UN shelter, killing at least 16 persons, including seven children, and injuring at least 150 Palestinians.
• On 30 July, UNRWA “Jabaliya Elementary Girls School”, designated as UN shelter and harbouring 3,300 displaced persons, was hit by Israeli artillery shelling, resulting in the killing of at least 15 persons, including four children.
• On 2 August, IDF troops fired five shells at Omar Bin Al Khatab mosque, north-east of Jabalia, spraying a nearby UNRWA school with shrapnel, and injuring ten persons who were taking shelter there.
• On 3 August, a missile landed outside the gate of an UNRWA school in Rafah, used as a shelter for displaced persons, killing at least nine persons and injuring 45 persons, including children.
In southern Israel, children in special education facilities or participating in summer camps were relocated to resume activities in other parts of Israel. In three incidents, rocket fire from Gaza resulted in damage to school facilities in southern Israel. Due to the summer holidays the schools were not in session and no children were injured while at school.
• On 15 July, a special education school in Rishon LeZion, southern Israel, was severely damaged by falling parts of a rocket from Gaza intercepted by the Iron Dome.
• On 21 July, shrapnel of a rocket fired from Gaza fell on the playground of a school in Ashdod, southern Israel.
• On 21 August, shrapnel of a rocket fired from Gaza hit Eshkol Region community kindergarten, while children were present, injuring one adult.
Military use of schools4
At least five schools have been reportedly used for military purposes by Palestinian armed groups (three) and Israeli security forces (two).
• On 16 July, in the course of the regular inspection of its premises, UNRWA found approximately 20 rockets hidden by Palestinian armed groups in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip.
• On 17 July, IDF soldiers reportedly converted and used “Hani Naim Agriculture Secondary School for Boys” in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, as a military base, reportedly causing serious infrastructurel damages to the school premises.
• On 22 July, UNRWA discovered for a second time rockets hidden by Palestinian armed groups in a vacant school in Gaza, which is situated between two other UNRWA schools serving as a shelter for displaced persons.
• On 29 July, another cache of rockets was found at an UNRWA school in central Gaza during a regular UNRWA inspection of the school, which was closed for summer and was not used as a shelter.
• Beit Hanoun Secondary School for Boys was reportedly turned into an IDF command centre over the span of four weeks.
ATTACKS ON HEALTH CARE
Between 8 July and 26 August, 17 of the 32 hospitals in Gaza, were damaged by Israeli airstrikes or shelling nearby and 6 remained closed at the time of writing. Fifty-eight (58) out of the 97 clinics in Gaza, were damaged and 7 remained closed at the time of writing. In addition, one medical doctor and five ambulance workers were killed; 42 Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) health workers were injured; and 26 ambulances were damaged, of which seven rendered out of service. Lack of protection for medical personnel prevailed, and the coping capacity of medical personnel and facilities was increasingly overstretched.
The following are some examples of reported incidents:
• On 10 July, five health facilities (including the Gaza European Hospital, the Foukhairy Clinic, the PRCS Emergency Medical Service Centre, the Jamila Aisha Primary Health Care Centre, and an ambulance in Deir Al Balah) were damaged after Israeli airstrikes in their immediate vicinity.
• On the night of 10 July, Al Wafa Hospital was directly hit during an Israeli attack, causing damage to the staircase. On 17 July, Al Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital was evacuated, including 17 persons in serious condition, staff and international activists, and subsequently shelled and damaged in an Israeli airstrike following earlier warnings.
• On 23 July, Israeli shelling hit Al Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital, severely damaging the building. The Israeli forces reportedly targeted specific sites in the hospital compound after fire was opened from the location on several occasions. The hospital was struck twice by Israeli tank shells the week before, forcing doctors and patients to evacuate the premises.
• In an overnight incident between 11 and 12 July, a building in Beit Lahia housing the Al Mabrat Society, an institution for persons with severe disabilities, was directly hit in an Israeli airstrike, killing two and three other residents with disabilities, as well as one medical staff.
• On 18 July, Beit Hanoun Hospital was hit, sustaining partial damage to the roof of the administrative building. On 23 July, Israeli tanks fired shells into the garden of Beit Hanoun Hospital, damaging the water network. On 26 July, Beit Hanoun Hospital was shelled again during the night, injuring three staff members and extensively damaging the building.
• On 22 July, an Israeli airstrike hit the Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, destroying the top two floors, killing three and injuring 40 persons.
• On 25 July, the driver of a PRCS ambulance shot and killed by Israeli forces in Al Qarara neighbourhood of Khan Younis during a medical evacuation. In another incident on 25 July, one paramedic was killed and two others injured in Beit Hanoun as a result of Israeli tank shelling during a medical evacuation.
• On 30 July, Al Quds Hospital, operated by the PRCS and located in a southern neighbourhood of Gaza City sustained damaged due to shelling.
Restricted access to the injured was reported, as well as reduced access for referral of cases for medical reasons outside Gaza, due to difficulties for travel within Gaza and the delay in processing referrals by relevant Palestinian and Israeli authorities. People were unable to leave shelters or houses to seek medical care while under shelling and airstrikes.
• On 17 July, one family in Rafah was under shelling with six children injured unable to go to the hospital and unable to be reached by ambulances due to the ongoing hostilities.
An increase was also noted in relative numbers of miscarriages, premature births, and child mortality amongst pregnant women. At least five women who were killed in airstrikes during the ongoing hostilities were reported pregnant. Due to security/access constraints and serious damage to public infrastructure, medical facilities remain in urgent need of medical supplies and fuel to operate back-up generators.
DEMOLITION OF HOUSES AND DISPLACEMENT
Between 8 July and 27 August, the Shelter Cluster reported that the houses of approximately 18,000 families (108,000 individuals) were totally destroyed or sustained major damage as a result of Israeli airstrikes or shelling. The houses of another 5,800 families (34,800 individuals), sustained damage but are still inhabitable. The houses of a further 38,000 families (228,000 individuals) sustained minor damage but are in need of repair. The large-scale destruction/damage to houses and public infrastructure, including the Gaza electricity and water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as the threat of attack and the IDF warnings to evacuate large residential areas, resulted in at least 485,000 Palestinians being internally displaced in Gaza at the peak of the conflict — 28 per cent of Gaza's population - the large majority of which were women and children. Of these, 290,000 displaced persons found shelter in 90 UNRWA schools; 15,000 displaced persons found refuge in 26 Government schools; and 170,000 displaced persons were registered with host families.
The numbers decreased during the extended period of temporary ceasefires between 11 and 19 August, but soared again to 475,000 prior to the 26 August open-ended ceasefire. Following the ceasefire there was a dramatic decline in the number of displaced persons, with the numbers in UNRWA designated shelters decreased from 289,000 to 53,000 between 26 and 27 August. However, the numbers have been climbing gradually again with some 60,812 displaced persons registered in 31 UNRWA shelters as of 3 September higher than the number of displaced persons during the Gaza escalation in December 2008/January 2009. The reason for the increase appears to be a movement from government shelters — most of which have now closed — and host families to UNRWA shelters. An estimated 50,000 are staying with host families and 700 in two government schools.
DENIAL OF HUMANITARIAN ACCESS
Eleven UNRWA local staff members have ing of hostilities on 8 July. The compound of the UN Special Coordinator's Office in Gaza was struck by a number of projectiles early in the morning of 29 July. Damage was caused to the main building and to UN vehicles.
RECRUITMENT AND USE OF CHILDREN BY ARMED FORCES AND ARMED GROUPS
During the ongoing hostilities, three cases of association of children with Palestinian armed groups were reported.
In one instance, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was reportedly injured during a Hamas infiltration and ambush attack against the IDF on 21 July near kibbutz Nir Am/Erez in southern Israel. The boy was reportedly wounded during combat, taken into captivity by the IDF and subsequently being treated and detained in a hospital in Israel.
In two other situations, two boys aged 17-years-old were killed in targeted attacks by Israeli drone strikes in Jabaliya and Khan Younis, on 12 and 14 July respectively. Both boys were reportedly associated with Palestinian armed groups.
Furthermore, a 17-year-old boy was reportedly being used by the IDF over five days in the course of the Israeli ground incursion in Gaza. On 23 July, the boy was taken by the IDF from his home near Khan Younis and was reportedly forced at gunpoint to search for tunnels. During these five days, the boy reported being interrogated, restrained, verbally and physically abused, deprived of food and sleep, and used to extract information about Hamas members.
1 Israel refers to its military operation in the West Bank which started on 12 June 2014 as “Operation Brother's Keeper”.
2 Israel refers to its military operation in Gaza which started on 8 July 2014 as “Operation Protective Edge”.
3 “Attacks on schools” is an umbrella term in respect of both indiscriminate and direct attacks against schools that are civilian objects, resulting in their compromised functioning, partial damage or total destruction, as well as against related protected persons. In the case of schools, such incidents include: physical attacks, looting, pillaging and wanton destruction. In the case of related protected persons, such incidents include: killing, injuring, abduction, and use as human shields.
4“Military use of schools” refers to a wide range of activities in which armed forces or armed groups use the physical space of a school in support of the military effort, whether temporarily or for a protracted period of time. The term includes, but is not limited to, the use of schools as military barracks, weapons and ammunition storage, command centres, defensive positioning, observation posts, firing positions, interrogation and detention centres, training facilities, and recruiting grounds.
UNICEF State of Palestine: + 972 2 58 40 400
Catherine Weibel - email@example.com
Monica Awad - firstname.lastname@example.org