Palestinian Death Toll Reaches 200 in One Week

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has implied that strikes against Palestine will continue in spite of global outrage about the mounting death toll. At least 200 Palestinians are reported to have been killed during week-long strikes on Gaza, with 59 of those victims being children. Another 1500 Palestinians have been injured. The Israeli government claims that its strikes only target Islamist group Hamas, however, such attacks have also flattened a health clinic, damaged the home of an aid worker, killed two doctors, killed a journalist, and destroyed the offices of various news organizations. 132 buildings in Gaza have been destroyed, and 2500 Palestinians have reportedly been left homeless. 


Twelve Israelis – including one five-year-old boy – have been killed amid the violence. Ten of those deaths were a result of Hamas firing rockets, and two occurred amid civil unrest. According to the Israeli Air Force, Hamas has fired over 3,300 rockets towards Israeli villages and towns. Hamas’ airstrikes were initially a retaliation to the forced eviction of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and raids on the Al Aqsa Mosque: the third holiest site in Islam.  


Palestinian journalist Yusef Abu Hussein was killed early on Wednesday morning after a missile struck his home in the Gaza Strip. Hussein was a broadcaster for the local Al-Aqsa radio station, which expressed its grief at the loss of a “son and employee,” organizing a vigil at al-Shifa Hospital. In a statement, the station declared: “We also document, in front of the world, this heinous crime committed by the Israeli enemy, including targeting civilians in their homes and attacking the press and media personnel,” adding: “Let us affirm that the Voice of Al-Aqsa Radio will continue to be a voice of truth that exposes the crimes of the Israeli occupation. We will remain a platform for Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian right until our people obtain their right to freedom and live in dignity.”


Eleven of the children killed by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza were reportedly involved in a program organized by the Norwegian Refugee Council that aimed to help children cope with trauma. The victims were aged 5 to 15, and one of those was the 13-year-old daughter of Dr. Ayman Aba al-Ouf: the head of the internal medicine department and COVID-19 response at l-Shifa Hospital. Dr al-Ouf was killed alongside his daughter (Tala) and son (Tawfik). Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the NRC stated: “We call on Israel to stop this madness: children must be protected. Their homes must not be targets. Schools must not be targets. Spare these children and their families.” Tala is remembered by a teacher as an “excellent student,” who was “interested in religious classes,” and “liked to read and memorize the Quran.” 


Sisters Yara and Rula al-Kawalek (aged 5 and 9 respectively) were also participants in this program. At least 13 members of the al-Kawalek family are thought to have been killed by an Israeli strike on al-Wahda street in central Gaza City. Several of these victims – many of which remain unnamed – were children, and amongst those is thought to be a 6 month-old baby. The two named sisters are remembered as polite and diligent students. 


The al-Hadidi family also suffered tremendous loss as a result of Israeli airstrikes. Three of Muhammad al-Hadidi’s four children were killed while celebrating Eid with family members in the Shati refugee camp outside Gaza City. When the rocket struck, Suhayb was aged 13, Yahya was 11, Abderrahman was 8, and Osama was 6. Only five-month-old Omar survived after being buried in rubble next to his deceased mother. Muhammad al-Hadidi recalls, “The kids put on their Eid clothes, took their toys and headed off to their uncle’s house to celebrate,” where they begged to stay the night. He added: “They were safe in their homes, they did not carry weapons, they did not fire rockets,” before asking: “What did they do to deserve this? We’re civilians.” Amid the wreckage left by the rocket lay children’s toys, a Monopoly board game, and unfinished plates of food.


Ibrahim al-Masry was 14 when he was killed while playing with his siblings in the front garden of their home in northern Gaza last week. Many members of the al-Masry family died as a result of an Israeli airstrike, including his brother Marwan. Their father, Youssef al-Masri, describes how the children would play in this same spot every evening before Iftar (the evening meal at which Muslims end their fast during Ramadan). He recalls, “We didn’t see it coming, we just heard two big explosions… Everyone was running in the street, children were bleeding, mothers were crying, blood was everywhere.” Ibrahim’s brother, who is also called Ibrahim, survived the attacks, and remembers how everyone was “laughing and having fun” before he saw his cousins suddenly  “set alight and torn into pieces”. 


Hamza Nassar was killed by an Israeli airstrike at the age of 12. He had reportedly gone out to buy some vegetables so that his mother could cook a meal to break their fast when an Israeli airplane launched a raid near the Abu al-Kas cemetery. Hamza is remembered as both kind and intelligent.


10-year-old Nadeen Abed al Lateef has made headlines after pleading with the global public to remember that “children are dying” as a result of Israeli airstrikes. Speaking to journalists, the young girl stated: “We’re just dying. We don’t even deserve this.” She pleaded, “The American people, stop giving, stop giving weapons to the occupiers. That’s the way that you can help us.” Nadeen was filmed while wearing a purple t-shirt and standing next to her six-year-old brother; she says that the fear caused by the violence makes her “want to cry.” Nadeen hopes to become a doctor, but it is currently impossible for her to receive an education; her school was shut down, and online lessons ceased as a result of the attacks and “occupiers.” Nadeen describes, “We are literally trying to live in rubbish but we can’t.” She added: “I’m living my life, if I get shot I don’t care, I’m still going to go study. My dream is to be a doctor and I will be a doctor. I don’t care if you shoot me or anything, I will be a doctor.”


Nadine Awad was a 16-year-old Arab citizen of Israel, who was killed alongside her father. Her mother, who was inside the car with her husband and daughter, sustained serious injuries. The Awad family lives in the city of Lod, where Arab and Jewish Israelis reside alongside one another. Her cousin remembers, “It happened so quickly,” explaining: “Even if we had wanted to run somewhere, we don’t have a safe room.” Nadine is remembered as a “talented girl,” who was determined to make an impact on society. Her principal recalls, “She was in 10th grade, studying in the biology-chemistry track. She had dreams of changing the world. She was such a special girl, such a talented girl. She wanted to conquer the world.” 


Ido Avigal has been named as the five-year-old boy killed by a Hamas rocket attack on the Israeli town of Sderot. He was reportedly killed inside a “fortified room” to which his mother brought him upon hearing the sound of rocket sirens. The metal plating used to protect the room was reportedly pierced by shrapnel; Idolater died in hospital of the injuries inflicted by this shrapnel. His mother and sister were also wounded. According to an IDF spokesperson, the boy’s death was caused by “a piece of the rocket that came in at a very specific angle, at a very specific speed, and at a very specific point.” Ido’s parents had previously spoken of how intelligent their son was, and his father had recently expressed his excitement to watch his son grow older: to see what he would be like even two years from now. Just a few months ago, Ido’s mother had compared him to a 50-year-old in the body of a small child, because of how bright he was. 


The Biden administration has recently come under heavy criticism for approving a $735 million sale of precision-guided weapons to Israel. Congress was first informed of the planned sale in April – prior to the violence escalating to such an extent as it has done over the last week – before the formal notification occurred on the fifth of May. After the formal notification, Congress has a 15-day window to object to the deal, although it is not expected to make use of this right. On Saturday the 15th of May, President Biden emphasized his belief that Israel is entitled to defend itself against rocket attacks. An official statement read: “The President reaffirmed his strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. He condemned these indiscriminate attacks against towns and cities across Israel.” On the 19th of May, Biden told Netanyahu that he expected a “significant de-escalation” in the violence, and called for a ceasefire. Netanyahu responded by saying that he was “determined to carry on” until “calm and security are restored to Israeli citizens.”