Palestinian child fatalities spike during Gaza protests

9 Oct

Israeli forces shot and killed 13-year-old Fares Hafez Abdel Aziz Sersawi on 5 October near the Gaza perimeter fence in Shujaiya. He sustained a gunshot wound to the chest and was later pronounced dead at Shifa hospital. [Defense for Children]

By Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, 6 October 2018

Three Palestinians, including a child, were shot and killed by Israeli occupation forces during Great March of Return protests in Gaza on Friday.

Faris Hafiz al-Sarsawi, 13, died after he was shot in the chest during mass protests east of Gaza City.

Mahmoud Akram Muhammad Abu Samaan, 23, was also fatally wounded by live fire to the chest east of Gaza City.

In Khan Younis, Muhammad Fathi Hussein Muhsin al-Raqab, 18, died after he was shot in the stomach by an Israeli army sniper.

Two Palestinians were killed in Gaza’s eastern and northern perimeters earlier in the week.

Ibrahim Ahmad Nassar al-Arouqi, 74, was standing in the street near his home in al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza when he was hit by a live bullet in his back late Tuesday afternoon. The incident took place outside the context of Gaza’s mass protests, according to the human rights group Al Mezan.

The gunshot that killed al-Arouqi came from one of the Israeli military watchtowers that surround Gaza, according to Al Mezan.

The following day, a child in Gaza was fatally injured when he was hit in the head with a tear gas canister fired by Israeli forces during protests near Erez checkpoint in northern Gaza.

Ahmad Samir Harb Abu Habil, 15, was around 300 meters from the Gaza-Israel boundary fence when he was struck by the projectile in his head, “lodging in his skull and causing extensive damage,” Defense for Children International Palestine stated.

A graphic video widely circulated on social media showed the injured child with tear gas pouring out of his head.

[See earlier report: https://kiaoragaza.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/boy/ ]

At least 45 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli forces or armed civilians so far this year, one per week on average – already treble the number slain during the whole of 2017.

More than 150 Palestinians have been killed during the Great March of Return protests since their launch on 30 March. Thirty-two of them were children, according to Al Mezan, in addition to four persons with disabilities, three paramedics and two journalists.

More than 10,500 protesters have been injured, nearly 6,000 of them by live fire – including almost 1,000 children.

Three volunteer paramedics were injured during Friday’s protests, including Muhammad Nidal Jumaa Abu Assi, 27, who was seriously injured after he was hit in the chest with live fire east of Khan Younis:

Tasnim Fathi Ahmad Hammad, 20, was hit in her right foot by a gas grenade and Muhammad Samir Muhammad al-Zaanin, 30, was hit in the head by a gas canister, both while on duty during protests in Jabaliya, northern Gaza.

Another volunteer paramedic, Nidal Fadal al-Khalidi, 27, was injured by a gas canister that hit his foot east of Gaza City.

Five journalists and media workers were injured while covering Friday’s protests, including correspondent Muhammad Issa, 21, hit by a live bullet in his foot.

Muhammad Hazim Sami al-Masri, 20, a photographer for the Shehab news agency, was hit with a gas canister in the head:

Nearly 120 paramedics and 120 journalists have been injured during the six months of Great March of Return protests, according to Al Mezan.

Israeli ministers threaten deadly violence

Israel had added to the number of snipers and other armed forces positioned along its boundary with Gaza ahead of Friday’s protests, during which some 20,000 Palestinians participated, according to Israeli sources.

Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted a warning to Hamas early Friday, stating that “We got through the High Holy Days just as we had planned, without a war erupting and while exacting a heavy price from the rioters on the Gaza border,” apparently referring to the seven protesters, including two children, killed the previous Friday.

“But the holidays are now behind us, and I tell the heads of Hamas: ‘Take that into account,’” Lieberman said.

Meanwhile the Israeli military said it was “prepared and ready for a variety of scenarios and considers the Hamas terror organization responsible for everything that happens in and from the Gaza Strip.”

Earlier this week Israeli education minister Naftali Bennett called for the execution of Palestinians launching burning kites and balloons from Gaza, even if they’re children.

“From the first moment, I asserted that we must shoot the kite launchers. As such, Lieberman’s restraint is a sign of weakness,” Bennett said, criticizing the defense minister, a political rival.

“Anyone who launches a balloon loaded with an explosive device is a terrorist to be liquidated and not an ‘innocent child.’ Because of weak policies like Lieberman’s, Hamas grows bolder each day.”

He added that “The time has come for an iron right-wing policy.”

Bennett’s comments echo those made months earlier by public security minister Gilad Erdan, who said of Palestinians launching burning kites: “Age doesn’t matter, they’re terrorists and the danger they create must be prevented.”

Erdan has also called for the assassination of Hamas commanders because of the kites.

In an unprecedented interview published by an Israeli newspaper on Friday, Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in Gaza, mocked Israel’s reaction to the kite and balloon tactic.

“Kites are not a weapon”

“Kites are not a weapon. At most, they set on fire some stubble. An extinguisher, and it’s over,” Sinwar stated, according to Yedioth Ahronoth.

“They are not a weapon, they are a message. Because they are just twine and paper and an oil-soaked rug, while each battery of the Iron Dome costs $100 million. Those kites say: you are immensely more powerful. But you will never win. Really. Never.”

During the lengthy interview with Italian journalist Francesca Borri, Sinwar said that any future large-scale confrontation between Hamas and Israel would result in a redeployment of the Israeli military in Gaza.

“For [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu a victory would be even worse than a defeat, because it would be the fourth war. It can’t end as the third one, which already ended as the second one, which already ended as the first one,” Sinwar said, referring to the massive military assaults in winter 2008-2009, November 2012 and summer 2014.

A redeployment in Gaza would undermine Israel’s objectives, Sinwar said: “They are trying their best to get rid of the Palestinians of the West Bank and keep a Jewish majority. I don’t think they want an additional two million Arabs [in Gaza]. No. War achieves nothing.”

Sinwar said that any long-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel would require a lifting of the siege on Gaza, which he described as “war through other means.”

Sinwar stated: “There’s no ceasefire under siege. But if we see Gaza returning to normalcy … if we see not only aid, but investments, development – because we are not beggars, we want to work, study, travel, like all of you, we want to live, and to stand on our own – if we start to see a difference, we can go on. And Hamas will do its best. But there is no security, no stability, neither here nor in the region, without freedom and justice. I don’t want the peace of the graveyard.”

Sinwar blamed the so-called international community for failed national reconciliation efforts between Hamas in Gaza and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which are in turn being blamed for stalled indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas brokered by the UN and Egypt.

“You warn Hamas: We’ll deal with you only if there is Fatah. Then you warn Fatah: We’ll deal with you only if there isn’t Hamas,” Sinwar said.

“The rift we have been so criticized for is also an effect of the blockade. Of your pressures that are sometimes nothing less than threats. With a national unity government, Ramallah would not get a penny anymore. It would go bankrupt.”

Subsidized occupation

Amid an unprecedented humanitarian funding crisis in Gaza, Sinwar also faulted donor states for subsidizing Israel’s responsibilities as the occupying power towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza:

“The Fourth Geneva Convention is clear: the cost of the occupation is to be on the shoulders of the occupier. It’s not your job to build roads and schools, and above all to rebuild what gets demolished. Otherwise, instead of opposing the occupation, you make it easier.”

Sinwar said that “we’ll seek justice” including through mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court – which is currently undertaking a preliminary examination into the human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza – even if it means that Palestinians may also face trial at The Hague.

“Under international law, we have all the right to resist the occupation. But the court is the court, of course. And it will work on whatever it will have to work on. And yet, its role is essential,” Sinwar said.

“Its role is essential for the victims as well, because only a trial allows a reconstruction of what happened, and in this way, its processing, somehow. When it comes to grief, no third party can replace victims. No political deal whatsoever can overcome their loss and move on. That’s up to the victims.”

Meanwhile in the past week it was reported that Qatar would finance the purchase of fuel for Gaza’s power plant.

The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the Qatari aid, “estimated to be tens of millions of dollars,” aims to double the current average of four hours of electricity per day.

However Hamas has reportedly accused the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah of thwarting the delivery of the fuel to Gaza.

Sources in Gaza told Haaretz that the Palestinian Authority “opposes the agreement because it bypasses Ramallah’s authority” and it would undercut the sanctions it has imposed on Gaza, where it seeks to regain control and prevent a total severing from the West Bank.

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