Ramallah, July 28, 2014—The child death toll in Gaza approached 200 this week in ongoing Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip, despite intensified efforts from the US and the UN to reach a ceasefire. The deaths come as each side unilaterally announced a series of humanitarian ceasefires over the weekend, all of which have been punctuated by intermittent violence.
“Israel is an occupying power that is attacking and destroying an occupied Palestinian civilian population, said Rifat Kassis, executive director of DCI-Palestine. “These civilian deaths are not collateral damage: they are war crimes.”
Ceasefires in recent days have facilitated the recovery of many more bodies, as aid workers gained access to areas that had seen intense shelling. Thirteen deaths confirmed by DCI-Palestine brought the total number of children killed to 136, with a further 64 cases under investigation.
A further two deaths from the bloodiest day of the conflict, Sunday, July 20, were confirmed. Mohammad Ayman Salah al-Sha’er, 5, from the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, was killed when his home was targeted in an Israeli airstrike. He died along with his 8-year-old cousin Heba, who was also at home at the time of the strike.
On July 21, a drone missile landed close to the home of the al-Yazaji family in Gaza City, creating a blast that knocked 4-year-old Yasmin Nayef Hatem al-Yazaji and her 2-year-old brother, Hatem Zein, off their balcony on the fourth floor, killing them both. Their grandparents also died, while their brother Anas, 4, and 16-year-old uncle, Wasim, sustained shrapnel wounds. They had all been praying together.
DCI-Palestine confirmed two more deaths from July 22, when two sisters died in the central Gaza town of Wadi as-Salqa. The al-Remahi family had fled their home and were sheltering with friends when the front yard of the house was targeted, killing both Iman Ibrahim Ayesh Al-Remahi, 16, and Ibtihal Ibrahim Ayesh Al-Remahi, 4, instantly. Their older brother, Yousef, also died in the attack. Several other family members sustained injuries, including an 8-month-old baby.
Three deaths were confirmed from July 23, two taking place in Khan Younis, where Mohammad Akram Ahmad Abu Shaqra, 16, and his cousin Abdul-Rahman Ibrahim Ahmad Abu Shaqra,17, were killed when two drone missiles hit them as they traveled home in a taxi. In central Gaza’s Bureij refugee camp, Rawan Ayman Soud Swaidan, 9, died as she prepared to return home with her family, which they had previously evacuated. As the family of 10 got into the car, the area was targeted by a drone missile, killing Rawan and injuring six of her family members.
On July 24, 3-year-old Ibrahim Yasser Mohammad Sheikh Omar, from Gaza City, was killed as he lay in Mohammad Dura Hospital, where he was recovering from septicemia. The intensive care unit, where he had been placed, was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike, and Ibrahim died instantly.
Three deaths were confirmed on July 25, at Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza. Nour Mohammad Salameh Abu Dabagh, 12, Mohammad Anwar Suleiman Darazin, 3, and Abdul-Karim Anwar Suleiman Darazin, 4, all died when a drone missile landed in front of the family home, scattering shrapnel that fatally wounded all three children.
The high number of deaths resulting from the Israeli ground invasion, now in its third week, has led to increasingly strident calls from the international community to end the violence. Temporary pauses in attacks, however, have failed, with each side accusing the other of breaking ceasefire agreements. As Eid al-Fitr, the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, began, hopes remained that a ceasefire would be reached, with the UN releasing a strongly-worded statement on the urgency of achieving an immediate end to fire from both sides.
The US, too, has been placing pressure on the Israeli government to end its operation, with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, attempting to forge a ceasefire agreement between the two parties over the weekend.
“Beyond demanding an immediate ceasefire, the international community must also demand an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza and challenge systemic impunity by investigating the actions of the Israeli government,” said Kassis.
Despite the pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested over the past week that the ground invasion will expand still further. Disagreements over conditions for an end to the conflict between Hamas and the Israelis have so far rendered a ceasefire impossible.