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B'Tselem: Israel killed 2 children in bed due to refusal to change policy

March 30, 2016 10:31 P.M. (Updated: April 3, 2016 12:14 P.M.)
A Palestinian holds the body of a boy killed in an Israeli air strike at a morgue in the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, on July 9, 2014. (AFP/Mahmud Hams, File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli rights group B’Tselem on Wednesday placed blame for the deaths of two Palestinian children killed in the Gaza Strip earlier this month wholly on the shoulders of Israeli decision makers who failed to make policy changes after countless similar cases.

“Despite repeated civilian fatalities and casualties, Israel refuses to change its policy and continues to adopt a distorted and far-reaching interpretation of the provisions of international humanitarian law in order to justify its position,” B’Tselem said in a statement.

“This policy is unlawful and immoral,” the group added.

B’Tselem released the report after meeting with Salman Abu Khussa, the father of six-year-old Israa and her 9-year-old brother Yasin, who were both killed in an Israeli airstrike on March 12.

Salman told B’Tselem: “At about 2:30 a.m. I woke up and felt as if an earthquake was shaking the house. As soon as I opened my eyes I felt the dust, and then came debris and sand and I couldn’t see anything.

“I heard the children shouting in the next room. I ran over immediately and saw them lying in their beds, covered in blood,” Salman said. His six children sleeping in the room at the time were rushed the the hospital.

“Yasin was in very bad shape, “ Salman continued. “After a few minutes he was pronounced dead of a serious head injury.” Israa died hours later from excessive bleeding in her brain.

Israeli forces had launched airstrikes targeting a training camp belonging to Hamas’ military wing after a rocket was fired from the besieged enclave. No members of the military wing were injured in the attack.

B’Tselem said the Israeli army spokesperson failed to mention that the attack also hit the Abu Khussa home -- located around 50 meters from the military base -- which was struck by a block of stone or concrete that went through their roof after flying from the force of the blast.

The family was living in a makeshift shack they had resided in since their home was destroyed during Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2014.

B’Tselem said that while Israel is bound to do everything in its power to avoid injury to civilians, its “longstanding policy of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip reflects decision makers’ inconceivable disregard for the lives of the people living there.”

The UN reported last year that Israel killed more Palestinian civilians during the 2014 conflict in Gaza than in any other year since 1967, with over 1,400 civilians including at least 513 children killed during the offensive.

A two-year-old Palestinian and her pregnant mother were also killed in October when an Israeli airstrike caused their home to collapse.

Referring to the attack that killed the Abu Khussa children, B’Tselem said: “If there was in fact any justification for such an attack, other than its symbolic value, the military should have ensured that only the facility itself would be hit, and that civilians living in the vicinity -- whose presence was or ought to have been known to those planning the strike -- would come to no harm.

“Having failed to do so, the decision makers in both the military and political echelons bear liability for the children’s death,” the group added.

The condemnation of Israeli military protocol comes after outrage erupted last week when an Israeli soldier shot a Palestinian in the head, despite the fact that he had been lying incapacitated on the pavement for minutes prior.

The incident after being caught on tape brought heavy criticism that Israel’s policy of impunity towards Israeli military forces leads to regular and excessive use of force against Palestinians who are killed while posing no threat.

Israel in a rare move launched a probe shortly after the man's death and international bodies including the US and UN have demanded an investigation into the soldier's conduct, while many right wing Israelis have come out in defense of his actions.
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