The Israeli occupation army and paramilitary Jewish settlers have killed 545 Palestinian children and minors since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. 

Among these victims, 266 children were 14 or younger while the ages of the remaining 279 ranged from 15 to 18. Moreover, as many as 20,000 Palestinian children were injured, with nearly 1500 sustaining life-long disabilities. 

The total number of Palestinians killed by Israel during the current Intifada is around 2700, the vast majority of them civilians. 

Casualties

On the other hand, the number of Israelis killed by Palestinians during the same period is around 840 soldiers, settlers and civilians, including about 100 Israeli children and minors. 

Nearly 2500 Israelis were injured, mostly suffering from light wounds and shock. Many of the Israeli victims died in bombings inside Israel. 

In 2003, a total of 130 Palestinian children and minors were killed by Israeli troops and a further 22 have been killed in the first three months of this year. 

One of the latest Palestinian children to be killed by the Israeli army was six-year-old Khalid Mahir Walwil from the Balata refugee camp near Nablus.

He was shot in the back as he turned away from the window on the second floor of his house.

Khalid had reportedly stayed at home that day, too frightened to go to school because Israeli soldiers were "operating" in the area.

Targeting denied

Despite the facts, Israeli officials continue to vehemently deny that their army targets Palestinian children.

Amira Dotan, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, told Aljazeera.net it was inconceivable that the Israeli army targeted Palestinian civilians, let alone children.

Khalid Walwil was the latest
victim of the Israel's killings

"We are a democratic state, our government would be toppled if it was proven that our defence forces had indulged in targeting Palestinian civilians and children," she says.

"This sort of thing just doesn't happen in Israel."

When asked to explain the death of nearly 550 Palestinian children and minors by the Israeli army during the past 44 months, Dotan said the deaths were "accidental, collateral but not deliberate".

However, when further pressed to explain how the Israeli army decided to drop one-tonne bombs on apartment buildings in Gaza and carry out devastating air strikes targeting markets and crowded streets, killing scores of children and women, Dotan invoked the mantra of terror.

"Yes, we knew there were children, but we had to kill the terrorists."

Like other Israeli officials and spokespersons, Dotan believe that these actions were justified so as to protect Israeli lives.

"If we hadn't killed those Palestinian children, then the terrorist would have killed three or four times as many Israelis."

'Macabre reasoning'

Palestinian officials, including jurists and human rights activists, strongly reject and condemn this "macabre reasoning".  

"Killing knowingly is killing deliberately and premeditatedly. It is a war crime which no amount of verbal juggling can extenuate," said Hanna Issa, a prominent Palestinian legal expert and Director-General of the Palestinian Ministry of Justice.

"They know in advance that children are sleeping in the targeted building, none the less, they carry out the killing without batting an eyelash … and then they shed the crocodile tears and claim that the  killing was accidental or happened by mistake"

Hanna Issa, 
director-general, Palestinian Justice Ministry

"They are killing with malice aforethought … they know in advance that children are sleeping in the targeted building, none the less, they carry out the killing without batting an eyelash … and then they shed the crocodile tears and claim that the  killing was accidental or happened by mistake …there is no such thing as killing deliberately by mistake."

Stressing his point, Issa argued that Israel would never even contemplate bombing a building or a market or a crowded street if it knew that Israeli Jews were in the vicinity of the target.

He gave as an example an Israeli decision to call off an operation to assassinate Hamas founder and spiritual leader Shaikh Ahmad Yasin last year after it was found out that Israeli journalists were interviewing him.

"My question is would the Israeli army have cancelled the operation if the journalists had been Palestinians, not Israelis?"

Yasin was assassinated by Israel along with 10 other Palestinian civilians outside a Gaza mosque on 22 March.

Issa condemned all attacks on civilians, Israeli and Palestinian alike. "Murder is murder, period."

However, he added: "I don't believe that Israel stands on a higher moral ground just because Israeli soldiers are dressed in khaki and use F-16s, apache helicopters and flechette shells (deadly dart bombs) to kill and maim Palestinian children while Israeli civilians are killed by suicide bombers."

'Deliberate killings'

Since the outbreak of the Intifada, several human rights organisations have thoroughly investigated the circumstances of thousands of Palestinian civilian deaths, reaching the conclusion that the Israeli army "kills civilians knowingly and deliberately".

One of these organisations is Physicians for Human Rights-USA, which investigated the number of Palestinian deaths and injuries in the fist months of the Intifada.

A total of  266 children killed
were 14 or younger

It concluded that "the pattern of injuries seen in many victims did not reflect IDF use of firearms in life-threatening situations but rather indicated targeting solely for the purpose of wounding or killing".

In some cases, the killing of Palestinian youths by Israel assumes a brazen and dastardly nature.

Nearly two years ago, Chris Hedges, a Western journalist covering events in Gaza reported how Israeli soldiers lured Palestinian kids to walk towards them for the purpose of hunting them down with their machineguns.

What is more shocking though is that virtually none of these killings has been investigated by the Israeli army or justice system, underscoring the striking ease with which the Israeli army kills Palestinians.

Twelve and up

Some Israeli soldiers have admitted that the army gives them "carte blanche" to shoot and kill Palestinian above the age of 12.

The noted Israeli award-wining journalist Amira Hass interviewed an Israeli sniper nearly two years ago in which the soldier described the commands he received from his superiors:

"The blood of their children is not more precious than that of our children. Let them stop killing our civilians, and we will stop killing theirs"

Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi,
Hamas leader in Gaza

"Twelve and up, you are allowed to shoot. That's what they tell us," he said. "So," responded the reporter, "according to the IDF, the appropriate minimum age group at which to shoot is 12."

The soldier replied: "This is according to what the IDF says to its soldiers.
I do not know if this is what the IDF says to the media."

Many Palestinians are convinced that these atrocities fuel the fire of further attacks against Israel.

"The blood of their children is not more precious than that of our children,” said the new Hamas leader in Gaza, Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi. "Let them stop killing our civilians, and we will stop killing theirs."