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1 in 5 of Gaza dead are children


BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip (AP) -- Sobbing and shaking, Ismail Abu Musallam leaned against the wall of a hospital Friday, waiting for three of his children to be prepared for burial. They were killed as they slept when an Israeli tank shell hit their home, burying 11-year-old Ahmed, 14-year-old Walaa and 16-year-old Mohammed under debris in their beds.

His personal tragedy is not unique: the U.N. says minors make up one-fifth of the 299 Palestinians killed in 11 days of intense Israeli bombardment of the densely populated Gaza Strip, where half the 1.7 million people are under age 18.

The Israeli military says it's doing its utmost to spare civilians by urging residents to leave areas that are about to be shelled or bombed as Hamas targets. It accuses the Islamic militants of using civilians as human shields by firing rockets from civilian areas.

But even if urged to evacuate, most Gazans have no safe place to go, rights activists say.

"If you are going to attack civilian structures in densely populated areas, of course you are going to see children killed," said Bill Van Esveld, a researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Seventy-one of those killed since fighting began on July 8 were under 18, according to an Associated Press count based on information provided by Palestinian health official Ashraf al-Kidra. Forty-eight of the victims were under the age of 13.

Many of the children were killed in their own homes.

Early Friday, a 5-month-old baby boy was hit by shrapnel from a missile strike near his family compound in the southern town of Rafah. A day earlier, two brothers and a cousin were killed by shrapnel while feeding pigeons on the roof of their home.

One deadly incident drew particular outrage. Four cousins, aged 9 to 11, had been playing on the beach near Gaza City's harbor on Wednesday when a missile fired from an Israeli gunboat hit a nearby shack. The boys fled, but were killed in a second missile strike.

The images of small, bloodied bodies lying face down in the sand triggered harsh international criticism, including from U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon who said Israel must "do far more to stop civilian casualties."

The Israeli military said Hamas operatives were the target, and promised to investigate.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a military spokesman, said Friday that "Israel's efforts to try to minimize civilian casualties are unprecedented in the Western world," referring to its system of delivering evacuation warnings through text messages, automated calls and leaflets dropped from planes.

He said more than a dozen attacks were aborted when civilians were spotted in the area.

"Unfortunately, the Hamas infrastructure placed itself intentionally between the civilian population," he said.

In recent days, Israel repeatedly urged people living near the border with Israel to leave their homes. As it later turned out, this was in part in preparation for the ground offensive Israel launched late Thursday, sending in thousands of troops.

Border areas, including the northern town of Beit Lahiya, came under heavy shelling attack. Across Gaza, the heavy thuds of tank fire could be heard through the night from Thursday to Friday, often just seconds apart.

Like many in Beit Lahiya, Abu Musallam decided to remain in his apartment with his wife and seven children even as their neighborhood came under intense artillery fire.

Eventually, the children went to sleep. The oldest, Mohammed, was in one room, and little Ahmed and his sister Walaa in another, the 40-year-old carpenter said.

At some point in the night, a tank shell hit the apartment, burying the three children under debris. Abu Musallam said he had to call for help to pull them from the wreckage. They were taken to a local hospital where each was wrapped in a white shroud and placed in the morgue's refrigerator. Ahmed's face was blackened from soot.

Surrounded at the hospital by a throng of relatives and his 15-year-old son Omar, the bereaved father fought back tears Friday, as he spoke about his children. He said Mohammed had worked with him in his carpentry workshop and that Ahmed was a kind boy.

The sadness then turned to anger.

"We are with the resistance," he said, referring to Hamas militants who helped provoke the Israeli assault by firing more than 1,500 rockets at Israel in close to two weeks. "Three children died and I can offer another three just to give Palestine its freedom."

Nearby, young boys hanging outside the hospital tried to sound street-wise and unfazed by the death around them.

Fourteen-year-old Yousef Aliyan said he had walked from his nearby home to watch dead and wounded being brought to the hospital. He's not afraid, he said.

"This is not the first time we came under shelling attack," he said. "I'm used to it."


Alhlou reported from Jerusalem.

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kiick23 July 18 2014 at 9:56 AM

You are either with Israel a democratic society or you are with Hamas a government on America's terrorist list.
There is no middle ground. When there is a choice to stand with the civilized man or the barbaric savage choose civilization each and every time.

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36 replies
daniel@dealticker.ca July 18 2014 at 10:18 AM

Given the extreme negative tone of the article towards Israel, it's obvious the biased views of the authors.

The loss of a 4 year old's life is truly the most tragic outcome of this conflict. And there are many many more innocent children dying on both sides of the conflict. If it wasn't for the Iron Dome, you would see pictures of dead Israeli children from the missile attacks.

But the real question is, why was that child in the line of fire in the first place? Unfortunate circumstance or purposely placed there as human shields, in the line of fire by their OWN PARENTS?

Did you know that Hamas is using a school that is supported by the UNITED NATIONS as a Storage depot for missiles? So what is Israel to do to neutralize the threat of another 1000 rockets being fired at it? What do you do when the storage depot is a school and the HQ of operations is a basement of the only hospital in Gaza?

What do you do when Hamas doesn't value the life of their own people?

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19 replies
kent_hern July 18 2014 at 9:52 AM

May God bless and protect Israel forever.

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17 replies
sugarcreekchile July 18 2014 at 10:16 AM

"Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded with defiance to the Israeli escalation: 'Netanyahu is killing our children and will pay the price. The ground invasion doesn't frighten us and the occupation army will sink in Gaza's mud.'."

Who is he kidding? The cowards of Hamas are killing Gaza's children since they use the civilian population as human shields, tell residents to ignore Israel's warnings to leave and to stay in areas they know will be targeted and refuse to agree to a ceasefire. Hamas knows it's outgunned by Israel. The Israeli military won't be sinking in Gaza's mud; too many Hamas pigs are already wallowing in it.

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15 replies
donrahilly July 18 2014 at 9:53 AM

When the Palestinian government and people allow these unprovoked attacks to take place they are complicit in the outcome. Let Israel stop the terrorists once and for all.

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4 replies
qqq146 July 18 2014 at 9:56 AM

It is too bad that Israel won't finish the job this fighting, destruction, and senseless loss of life will continue maybe until the end of time. God bless Israel, they should take over their land and capture, kill and or force Hamas from being the power in the Gaza strip!!!

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6 replies
tomkota July 18 2014 at 10:29 AM

Obams should be taking a lesson on how to control our boaders from Israel.
say your sorry to no one do what ever your have to do

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5 replies
cwmktng July 18 2014 at 10:47 AM

President Barack Obama offered strong praise for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an opinion piece published Tuesday in an Israeli newspaper, but had little to say about the other key player in the crisis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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19 replies
notapclib July 19 2014 at 10:07 AM

All of this whining by the left about Israel taking the measures needed to protect their citizens is ridiculous... the story the far left loons should be telling is: If demented sand fleas poke a hornets nest enough times - eventually they are going to get stung. And if they poke it one too many times they will experience the wrath of the entire hive.

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rcalley1 July 18 2014 at 9:53 AM

Wipe Hamas off the face of the earth, Kill them all, do not leave one stone unturned. This push all of the debris into the sea and make Gaza again part of Israel. The Palistenians are squatters, this in not their land. This specific land was given to Israel by GOD ALMIGHTY long before there was an Ala!

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6 replies
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