‘Not a normal war’: doctors say children have been targeted by Israeli snipers in Gaza

IDF says it ‘completely rejects’ charge that its soldiers deliberately fired on any of the thousands of civilians killed in Israeli offensive.

Dr Fozia Alvi was making her rounds of the intensive care unit on her final day at the battered European public hospital in southern Gaza when she stopped next to two young arrivals with facial injuries and breathing tubes in their windpipes. “I asked the nurse, what’s the history? She said that they were brought in a couple of hours ago. They had sniper shots to the brain. They were seven or eight years old,” she said.

The Canadian doctor’s heart sank. These were not the first children treated by Alvi who she was told were targeted by Israeli soldiers, and she knew the damage a single high-calibre bullet could do to a fragile young body. “They were not able to talk, paraplegic. They were literally lying down as vegetables on those beds. They were not the only ones. I saw even small children with direct sniper shot wounds to the head as well as in the chest. They were not combatants, they were small children,” said Alvi.

Children account for more than one in three of the more than 32,000 people killed in Israel’s months-long assault on Gaza, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Tens of thousands more young people have suffered severe injuries, including amputations.

Nine doctors gave the Guardian accounts of working in Gaza hospitals this year, all but one of them foreign volunteers. Their common assessment was that most of the dead and wounded children they treated were hit by shrapnel or burned during Israel’s extensive bombardment of residential neighbourhoods, in some cases wiping out entire families. Others were killed or injured by collapsing buildings with still more missing under the rubble.
But doctors also reported treating a steady stream of children, elderly people and others who were clearly not combatants with single bullet wounds to the head or chest.

Some of the physicians said that the types and locations of the wounds, and accounts of Palestinians who brought children to the hospital, led them to believe the victims were directly targeted by Israeli troops. Other doctors said they did not know the circumstances of the shootings but that they were deeply troubled by the number of children who were severely wounded or killed by single gunshots, sometimes by high-calibre bullets causing extensive damage to young bodies.

In mid-February, a group of UN experts accused the Israeli military of targeting Palestinian civilians who are evidently not combatants, including children, as they sought shelter. “We are shocked by reports of the deliberate targeting and extrajudicial killing of Palestinian women and children in places where they sought refuge, or while fleeing. Some of them were reportedly holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or affiliated forces,” the group said.

Eyewitness accounts and video recordings appear to back up claims that Israeli soldiers have fired on civilians, including children, outside of combat with Hamas or other armed groups. In some cases, witnesses describe coming under fire while waving white flags. Haaretz reported on Saturday that Israel routinely fires on civilians in areas its military has declared a “combat zone”.

Alvi, the Canadian physician, left Gaza in the third week of February as Israeli forces were threatening a ground assault against Rafah. Alvi founded the US-based charity Humanity Auxilium, which has worked with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, displaced Syrians and earthquake survivors in Turkey.

“This is not a normal war. The war in Ukraine has killed 500 kids in two years and the war in Gaza has killed over 10,000 in less than five months. We have seen wars before but this is something that is a dark stain on our shared humanity.”



Article URL : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/apr/02/gaza-palestinian-children-killed-idf-israel-war