41 Palestinian children have been killed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) since October, Defense for Children International’s Palestine branch (DCIP) reported on Friday, March 4. All were killed as a “direct result of intensified violence,” DCIP said in a statement, and all but one was killed by Israeli military forces. The number includes 31 Palestinians under the age of 18 who allegedly carried out knife or gun attacks, as well as others shot dead during clashes.
The report does not include a two-year-old who was killed alongside her pregnant mother in their home during an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli authorities have yet to open “full and transparent investigations” into any of the deaths, and reportedly refused a number of autopsy requests from children’s families, DCIP said. The group also reported that the bodies of two children, identified as Masan Manasra and Motaz Oweisat, are still being held by the Israeli authorities.
DCIP criticized what it called Israel’s “shoot-to-kill” policy against Palestinian children. “International law requires that intentional lethal force be used only when absolutely unavoidable,” DCIP said. “Where individuals allegedly carry out a criminal act, they should be apprehended in accordance with international law and afforded due process of law.”
DCIP has launched investigations into a number of the deaths, including 14-year-old Haitham Ismail al-Baw. Haitham was shot and killed by Israeli forces on February 5 after the Israeli army said the youth was throwing Molotov cocktails at vehicles driving on Route 60. Haitham’s cousin, Wajdi, told DCIP that they were not throwing stones or any other objects at the time Haitham was shot twice. Palestinian doctors who examined Haitham’s body later that day told DCIP that one of the bullets struck his back, pierced through his lungs and chest, and exited from his mouth, killing the 14-year-old instantly. Wajdi, who was standing next to Haitham when he was killed, told DCIP that he was held in an interrogation center for several hours following the incident, where he faced physical abuse from Israeli interrogators. “The interrogator asked me through an interpreter what I was doing there in that area and I told him, ‘Nothing,’” Wajdi told DCIP. “So, he got up, grabbed my head, banged it against the wall, slapped me hard on my face, and pushed me out of the room.”
Wajdi told DCIP that the interrogators that the interrogator attempted to force him to confess that his cousin had been carrying a Molotov cocktail at the time of his death. The youth was then forced to sign a statement in Hebrew, which interrogators refused to translate, before being transferred to Ofer prison where he is still being held. DCIP reported Wajdi was one of at least 406 Palestinian children in Israeli custody, marking the highest level of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons in seven years.