UN rights chief decries ‘unconscionable’ killing of Palestinian children
Michelle Bachelet says 17 minors among the dead in recent Gaza fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad, many of whom IDF believes were killed by rocket misfires
GENEVA — The UN rights chief voiced alarm on Thursday at the number of Palestinian minors killed and wounded this month, and demanded those responsible be brought to account.
Last week saw three days of intense conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists in the densely populated coastal enclave of Gaza.
“Inflicting hurt on any child during the course of conflict is deeply disturbing,” Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement. “The killing and maiming of so many children this year is unconscionable.”
The Israeli air and artillery strikes targeted positions of the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad group, which fired more than 1,000 rockets toward Israel during the three days of fighting that ended Sunday night with an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire.
Her office said that 19 Palestinian minors had been killed in Gaza and the West Bank in the recent unrest, taking the total number this year to 37.
Seventeen minors were killed during the Gaza hostilities from August 5 to 7. Israel is said to believe that the majority of the children killed in Gaza died as a result of rocket misfires by Islamic Jihad.
The two minors in the West Bank were a 16-year-old killed in a gun battle with Israeli troops during a counterterror raid in Nablus and a 17-year-old who was fatally shot during clashes with IDF soldiers in the West Bank city of Hebron.
Hassin Jamal Taha, the teen from Nablus, was killed alongside Islam Subuh and Ibrahim Nabulsi, the latter a wanted commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Palestinian Islamic Jihad branded Nabulsi as a “commander” and Subuh and Taha as “mujahideen.” The terror group did not claim them as members.
The UN human rights office, OHCHR, said that among the 48 Palestinians killed in last week’s Gaza conflict, there were at least 22 civilians. They included the 17 children and four women.
Those killed during the latest violence include several terrorists, including two senior Islamic Jihad commanders, one of whom Israel said it targeted in order to foil an imminent attack.
The Israel Defense Forces delayed the strike on the other commander several times, as his apartment was close to a playground. The military published a video of it aborting the strike, in a bid to show its efforts to avoid harming civilians, even when confronted with the opportunity to hit a top-tier target.
As many as 16 people might have been killed by rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists that landed short inside Gaza.
Of the 360 Palestinians reported injured, nearly two-thirds were civilians, including 151 children, 58 women and 19 older people, OHCHR said.
“In a number of incidents, children were the majority of casualties,” Bachelet’s office said. “Launching an attack which may be expected to incidentally kill or injure civilians, or damage civilian objects, in disproportionate manner to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited,” she said.
“Such attacks must stop.”
Bachelet’s office said that, also in violation of international humanitarian law, Palestinian armed groups also launched hundreds of rockets and mortars in indiscriminate attacks, causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian objects in both Israel and Gaza.
Bachelet called for investigations into all incidents where any person was killed or injured.
“An almost total lack of accountability persists in the occupied Palestinian territory,” she said. “Whether for violations of international humanitarian law by all parties in hostilities in Gaza, or for recurring Israeli violations of international human rights law and the law of occupation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”