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Israeli Impunity: Three Palestinian Children Killed
- [27 July - 2 August] - Ref.: 77/2015
08، Aug 2015

Despite repeated international condemnation, Palestinian civilians continue to be targeted by Israeli state and non-state actors in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The killing of three Palestinian youth in separate incidents on Friday, 31 July 2015, starkly highlight the lack of protection of Palestinian civilians in the context of Israeli impunity.

Muhammad_Hamed_Al-MasriOn 31 July at approximately 4:30 pm, Muhammad Hamed Al-Masri, and his two friends Saher Al-Radi' and Bara' Saleh, all 16, were near the buffer zone northwest of Beit Lahia, north of Gaza City. The youth first sat in a Palestinian-owned farm to eat some food, approximately 500 metres away from the border fence. After a while the three started walking around when Muhammad found a green flag and decided to put it on the border fence. Bara' took some pictures and a video of Muhammad. Five Israeli military jeeps and five four-wheelers approached them from behind the fence, with some soldiers stepping out of the vehicles. At that point, the boys were scared that the soldiers would shoot at them and hence retreated and sat in a farmland about 500 metres away.

At approximately 6:35 pm, a group of children walked towards the fence. Muhammad approached them, and warned them against getting closer to the fence since the IOF was present. The children did not listen and continued with Muhammad. The soldiers then opened fire in their direction, injuring Muhammad.

Bara' recalls that he did not approach Muhammad immediately out of fear, but told Muhammad to crawl towards them. Muhammad tried to, but then stopped moving. Bara', Saher, and the other youth took their shirts off and waved to the soldiers behind the fence while walking towards Muhammad. Once they reached him, Muhammad was on his back and bleeding from his nose, mouth and the right side of his torso. He was not breathing and his eyes were wide open; he showed no signs of life. He was taken in a private car to the Kamal Udwan Hospital in Beit Lahia where the doctors confirmed his death immediately. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10853/2015)

laith_khaldiOn the same day at 6:04 pm, Laith Fadel Al-Khaldi, 15, was admitted to the Palestine Medical Centre in Ramallah and declared dead hours later at 2:17 am. Autopsy results confirm that Laith was shot with a bullet in the centre of his back, which exited from his upper-right stomach, damaging his stomach, liver and intestines. It is highly likely that the bullet was shot from an M16 weapon. Israeli soldiers shot Laith near the 'Atara checkpoint, north Ramallah. At the time, six Palestinian youth, including Laith, aged 15 - 16, arrived near the military tower at the checkpoint. A soldier in the tower yelled at them and fired two bullets in their direction. In response the youth threw two Molotov cocktails at the tower and a barrel of paint, and then ran away. The soldiers shot at them as they were running away, hitting Laith in the back.

The killing of Muhammad Al-Masri and Laith Al-Khaldi came following a tragic incident that took place earlier that day in Duma, a village south of Nablus. That morning Israeli settlers set two Palestinian houses on fire in the village, killing 18-month old Ali Sa'ad Dawabsha, and severely injuring his parents, Sa'ad, 33, and Riham, 27, and his four-year-old brother, Ahmad. Sa'ad died in hospital on Saturday 8 August 2015 due to injuries he sustained from the arson attack.

The first witness, Ibrahim Muhammad Dawabsha, 23, was on his balcony when at approximately 2:09 am, he heard his neighbour Sa'ad Dawabsha calling out "help me, they slaughtered me". Ibrahim arrived to Sa'ad's house which was on fire. From approximately 7 metres away, Ibrahim saw Sa'ad's burning body on the ground near the front door. His wife, Riham, was on the ground outside, about 12 metres away from Sa'ad; her body was also on fire. Two masked individuals, dressed in black shirts and dark-blue jeans stood near Sa'ad and Riham watching them burn. When these two saw Ibrahim, they ran towards him. Muhammad ran d to his house in fear. Minutes later, Ibrahim returned to Sa'ad's house only to find them still on the ground burning and the two individuals gone. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 10851/2015)

Al-Haq condemns the continuing violation of Palestinians' right to life, carried out by both settlers and the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) in the OPT. Under international law, Israel must respect and protect the right to life of the occupied population, particularly children who are classified as a vulnerable group. The IOF must be guided by the  principles of necessity and proportionality, where lethal force should only be used in cases of "self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or injury".[1] Laith's autopsy indicates that he was shot with live ammunition from an M16 weapon as he was running away and had his back to the soldiers. Similarly, given the witness's account, Muhammad was shot while posing no threat to the soldiers in the buffer zone. Al-Haq calls on the Israeli occupying authorities to ensue prompt, impartial and effective investigations into the death of Muhammad and Laith, and ensure accountability for the perpetrators.

Al-Haq also condemns the killing of Ali and Sa'ad at the hands of Israeli settlers. This incident should be looked at within the wider framework of settlement expansion in the OPT which facilitates settler violence. Since the beginning of 2015, Al-Haq has documented countless incidents of settler violence, including the torching of houses, farmlands, mosques, churches, schools, and olive trees, in addition to assaults and attacks which involved the use of live ammunition against Palestinians.

The killing of Ali, Sa'ad, Muhammad, and Fadel must also be viewed collectively, where the killing of Palestinian civilians is an outcome of the prevailing climate of impunity granted to both Israeli soldiers and settlers. In light of this, Al-Haq urges the international community to act immediately to ensure protection for Palestinian civilians and end Israel's violations against them. Al-Haq also calls on states to abide by its obligations under international law, and work to end Israel’s settlement enterprise.

[1] Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, Principle 9