The latest death in Al 'Amari, brings the total number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli mines, UXOs or booby-trapped devices to 11 during the year 2002. On many occasions DCI/PS has warned the international community of the dangerous threat presented to Palestinian children by Israel's random shelling of residential areas. DCI/PS research on the magnitude and effects of the problem of landmines and UXO in the West Bank and Gaza Strip reveals that tens of Palestinians fall victim to landmines and UXO each year, with an estimated 2,500 injured or killed since 1967. This incident once again indicates the tragic consequences of the international community refusal to take action against Israel's continuing attacks on the Palestinian civilian population.
The death of Ahmad marks a chilling statistic demonstrating the complete disregard in which Palestinian children's life is held by Israeli soldiers. Ahmad is the 105th Palestinian child to be killed by Israeli forces this year in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This number exceeds the total number of children killed in the entire year of 2001, and is equal to the number of children killed in the year 2000. In the year 2000, 105 children were killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers, in 2001 this figure was 98. Thus Israeli forces are killing Palestinian children at a rapidly increasing rate. Every year since 1990, Palestinian children have made up over 20% of total Palestinian deaths in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Examination of statistics on children killed over the last three years reveals two further alarming trends:
1) Israeli forces are killing significantly younger children. In the first seven months of the year 2002, 48% of Palestinian children killed were aged 12 years and under. This number exceeds the proportion in the year 2001, both relatively (48% compared to 34%) and also in quantitative terms (50 children compared to 33 children). It should be stressed that the figures for the year 2002 cover the first seven months of the year while those for 2001 include the whole 12-month period.
An examination of data concerning children killed between 0-8 years shows a further disturbing trend. The number of children killed in this age group has been increasing on an annual basis, with 7 deaths documented in 2000, 12 in 2001, and 28 in the first 7 months of 2002. In addition, the percentage this age group of children represents is increasing within the context of total number of children killed annually. In 2000, deaths of Palestinian children 0-8 years constituted 6.6% of total children killed (7/105). In 2001 the percentage increased to 12.2% (12/98). In the first 7 months of the year 2002, deaths in this age group constituted 26.6% (28/105) of total child deaths. Thus, in the span of two years, the percentage of children in this age group that have been killed has increased by over 400%.
2) Israeli forces are killing Palestinian children using an increasing level of force. In 2002, nearly one half of the children killed sustained multiple fatal injuries to more than one part of the body (47%) as compared to one-third of children in 2001. In other words, the level of deadly force used by Israeli soldiers in 2002 has increased dramatically.
The circumstances surrounding the deaths of Palestinian children indicate that these deaths are overwhelmingly a result of indiscriminate measures of collective punishment including the arbitrary use of heavy fire-power against the civilian population. The Israeli government perpetuates a popular myth that explains Palestinian child deaths as resulting from children being accidentally caught in "cross fire" between Palestinian and Israeli forces. The facts indicate exactly the opposite, almost every Palestinian child killed in the year 2002 died in circumstances where there was no exchange of fire. The majority of children were killed when Israeli forces randomly opened fire or shelled civilian neighborhoods in Palestinian towns and villages. In addition, six children died when they were denied medical treatment due to the closure imposed on Palestinian areas. Other leading causes of death include landmines and UXOs (11 child deaths) or being killed during assassination attempts (6 child deaths).
The level of violence to which Palestinian children have been subject by Israeli soldiers during the recent sieges demonstrates a systematic pattern of physical and mental abuse that will have a long-term effect on the psycho-social development of Palestinian children. Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are widespread, and all Palestinian children's organizations report that this is a major issue that they have been forced to address over the last period.
DCI/PS reiterates that the underlying cause of Palestinian child deaths is the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Currently around 700,000 Palestinians are living under house arrest as a result of the curfews imposed on Palestinian residents since 18 June 2002. The full meaning of this must be stressed - hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are currently imprisoned in their homes on an almost permanent basis while Israeli forces open fire with heavy artillery and arbitrarily shell these homes and residential areas. It is blindingly obvious that such a situation will inevitably lead to further child deaths and that the only solution is the complete end to the Israeli occupation.