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War Crimes Against Children PCHR investigation into Palestinian children killed by Israeli Forces in the Gaza Strip . 27 Dec. 2008 – 18 Jan. 2009

War Crimes Against Children: new report on the 313 children killed during Gaza offensive

new report released today reveals the true extent of child killings by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip during its 23 day offensive on Gaza between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) is publishing War Crimes Against Children in response to the unprecedented number of children killed by Israeli forces in its latest operation; a total of 313 children under the age of eighteen. Containing numerous eye witness testimonies, the report brings to light Israel’s widespread targeting of unarmed civilians, including children, throughout the offensive.

‘Operation Cast Lead’ was the biggest Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip in nearly 42 years of occupation. 1,414 Palestinians were killed, and PCHR investigations have found the overwhelming majority, 83 per cent, were civilians. One of the cases in the report is that of 18 month old Farah al-Helu, who was killed on 4 January. The al-Helu family had been told to evacuate their house in Zaytoun, eastern Gaza, but while they were attempting to flee, Israeli soldiers opened fire on them. Farah was shot in the stomach and bled to death two hours later.

War Crimes Against Children exposes the abject failure of Israeli authorities to uphold international humanitarian law, which provides protection for children in armed conflict and the lack of adequate precautions taken to distinguish between civilians and military targets. The report also details indiscriminate shelling of homes and schools where internally displaced people were sheltering, the psychological impact of the offensive, and the alarming scale of physical injuries inflicted on young people.

“We are calling for an independent full-scale investigation into all documented attacks on civilians during the offensive,” said Raji Sourani, director of PCHR. “Israel must be held fully accountable for the crimes it has perpetrated against Gaza’s civilian population, including alleged war crimes against children. We cannot allow the lives of these children to just be statistics in the history books of the Middle East.” 

PCHR is calling on the international community to urge Israel to respect and uphold the human rights of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “Urgent measures are needed in order to prevent further deaths,” added Mr Sourani.

The Centre is also recommending the urgent establishment of an independent committee to investigate the child killings. The committee must meet international standards of independence and transparency and publish its findings publicly.

Read the report in English.

For more information or to arrange an interview with eye witnesses included in this report, please contact PCHR’s press officer on 00972-5988-27697 or pchr@pchrgaza.org


Editor’s notes:

  1. War Crimes Against Children is released 14 May 2009.
  2. PCHR uses the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) definition of a ‘child’ as a boy or girl under the age of eighteen.
  3. In addition to the 313 children who lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces, seven Palestinian child combatants were also killed.
  4. A list of the names of all 313 children killed is included as an appendix to the report.
  5. PCHR was established in 1995 and is a non-governmental organisation based in Gaza City, dedicated to protecting human rights, promoting the rule of law and upholding democratic principles in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, is an affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists-Geneva, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network and the Arab Organization for Human Rights. PCHR received the 1996 French Republic Award on Human Rights and the 2002 Bruno Kreisky Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Area of Human Rights.