"Every day they murder one or two Palestinian children on their way to school," Palestinian Deputy Foreign Minister Abd Allah Abd Allah said.

"It is becoming a gruesome daily routine and Israel, as you see, is interested more in concocting and inventing lies to justify the murder than in stopping it."

He told Aljazeera.net that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestinian people were increasingly frustrated by the international community's failure to force Israel to stop the killing of Palestinian children.

Abd Allah said: "I am afraid that much of the international community has reached the nadir of its morality. What else explains this deadly silence and indifference in the face of the daily killings of our children?

"I wonder how many of our children will have to be riddled by Israeli bullets before there is an awakening of the world's conscience."

Unequal contest

Abd Allah's remarks coincided with the killing by Israel of another Palestinian child in the northern West Bank town of Jenin.

Wherever they look, Palestinian
children see Israeli destruction

Palestinian sources and witnesses said Israeli soldiers manning armed personnel carriers opened fire on a group of children who reportedly had hurled stones at Israeli tanks.

An Israeli army spokesman said soldiers opened fire after "somebody" fired from the direction of the children.

A witness contested the Israeli account. "I was there, I saw no firing, I heard no firing. The only people who were firing were the Israeli occupation soldiers," Fadi Nazzal, a Palestinian from the nearby town of Kabatya, told Aljazeera.net.

He said the Israeli soldiers opened fire on children whose stone throwing had in no way put Israeli troops at risk.

Nazzal added: "The children were hurling stones from a long distance. The stones didn't hit the armoured vehicles. But even if stones were hurled at these huge tanks, would that justify executing children in this manner?"

Firing through fog

On Thursday 28 October, Israeli soldiers manning a watchtower opposite the Khan Yunus refugee camp, south of Gaza City, opened fire at children, killing eight-year-old Ranya Iyad Aram.

Even stone throwing can prove
fatal for Palestinian teenagers

Hospital sources said a stray bullet hit Aram in the neck, killing her on the spot.

The Israeli army admitted that soldiers were "firing through heavy fog" towards Palestinian neighbourhoods to forestall "possible" firing of mortar shells by Palestinian resistance fighters.

The army said: "The IDF opened machine-gun fire towards the Palestinian areas from which Palestinian regularly fire mortar fire. Apparently, one of the bullets hit the child. We are sorry about it."

'State terror'

PA minister Abd Allah Abd Allah says an army that fires heavy machine-gun fire through fog in civilian areas actually intends to kill civilians.

"I was there. I saw
no firing, I heard no firing. The only people who were firing
were the Israeli
occupation soldiers"

Fadi Nazzal,
Palestinian resident of Kabatya

"This is Israel's state terror. When troops open fire randomly on crowded streets and schools just because somebody had fired a mortar shell from these areas many days ago, it is murder, it is terror."

However, Israeli army spokesman Eitan Arusi rejected Abd Allah's view.

"We are the most moral army in the world. Look at what the Russians are doing in Chechnya, it is a huge carnage there. The Israeli Defence Forces are trying as much as humanly possible to avoid harming civilians," he said.

"Don't blame the soldiers, blame the terrorists who operate in the midst of Palestinian population centres."

People brutalised

Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Mushir al-Masri, dismissed what he called Arusi's "corrupt reasoning".

"The Palestinian resistance fighters happen to be in their own homes, towns, streets," he said.

"They are defending their children and women from this Nazi-like military occupation which is brutalising and savaging an entire people in ways unprecedented since the second world war."

Soaring child fatalities have now
caught the eye of Israeli judges 

Earlier this month, the Israeli army killed two girls, one in Rafah in southern Gaza and the other in central Gaza.

Since the beginning of October, as many as 33 Palestinian children and minors under 17 have been killed by the Israeli army. All in all, nearly 158 Palestinians, the bulk of them civilians, were killed in October.

During the same period, the Israeli army lost three soldiers.

The frequency of killing Palestinian children and civilians by the Israeli army has aroused suspicions within Israeli judicial circles over the credibility of the army's accounts and investigations into the deaths.

Distraction

Last week an Israeli officer who in October shot a 12-year-old Palestinian child in Rafah in southern Gaza 20 times to ascertain that she was dead, was arrested briefly on suspicion that he lied about the incident.

"They are trying to deceive the world,
and I must admit they are succeeding this is not a case of one or two or three or even 10
isolated cases of deliberate murder"

Abd Allah Abd Allah,
Palestinian Deputy Foreign Minister

PA official Abd Allah Abd Allah dismisses the arrest as "no more than a public-relations distraction from the real thing".

"They are trying to deceive the world, and I must admit they are succeeding. This is not a case of one or two or three or even 10 isolated cases of deliberate murder," he said.

"I am talking about a deliberate and systematic practice of targeting and murdering Palestinian children for the purpose of inflicting pain and suffering on our people. When murder occurs on a daily basis, it becomes policy and Israel's policy is to murder Palestinian children."