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Doctors say children have been targeted by Israeli snipers in Gaza

· 3 min read

Doctors say children have been targeted by Israeli snipers in Gaza

Dr Fozia Alvi was making her rounds of the intensive care unit on her final day at the battered European public hospital in southern Gaza when she stopped next to two young arrivals with facial injuries and breathing tubes in their windpipes.

Doctors say children have been targeted by Israeli snipers in Gaza

These Palestinian boys received life-saving surgery in the US. An Israeli airstrike killed them in their home.

“I asked the nurse, what’s the history? She said that they were brought in a couple of hours ago. They had sniper shots to the brain. They were seven or eight years old,” she said, the Guardian reported. 

The Canadian doctor’s heart sank. These were not the first children treated by Alvi who she was told were targeted by Israeli soldiers, and she knew the damage a single high-caliber bullet could do to a fragile young body.

“They were not able to talk, paraplegic. They were literally lying down as vegetables on those beds. They were not the only ones. I saw even small children with direct sniper shot wounds to the head as well as in the chest. They were not combatants, they were small children,” said Alvi.

Children account for more than one in three of the more than 32,000 people killed in Israel’s months-long assault on Gaza, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Tens of thousands more young people have suffered severe injuries, including amputations.

Nine doctors gave the Guardian accounts of working in Gaza hospitals this year, all but one of them foreign volunteers. Their common assessment was that most of the dead and wounded children they treated were hit by shrapnel or burned during Israel’s extensive bombardment of residential neighborhoods, in some cases wiping out entire families. Others were killed or injured by collapsing buildings with still more missing under the rubble.

But doctors also reported treating a steady stream of children, elderly people and others who were clearly not combatants with single bullet wounds to the head or chest.

Some of the physicians said that the types and locations of the wounds, and accounts of Palestinians who brought children to the hospital, led them to believe the victims were directly targeted by Israeli troops.

Other doctors said they did not know the circumstances of the shootings but that they were deeply troubled by the number of children who were severely wounded or killed by single gunshots, sometimes by high-caliber bullets causing extensive damage to young bodies.

In mid-February, a group of UN experts accused the Israeli military of targeting Palestinian civilians who are evidently not combatants, including children, as they sought shelter.

“We are shocked by reports of the deliberate targeting and extrajudicial killing of Palestinian women and children in places where they sought refuge, or while fleeing. Some of them were reportedly holding white pieces of cloth when they were killed by the Israeli army or affiliated forces,” the group said.

The Guardian shared descriptions and images of gunshot wounds suffered by eight children with military experts and forensic pathologists. They said it was difficult to conclusively determine the circumstances of the shootings based on the descriptions and photos alone, although in some of the cases they were able to identify ammunition used by the Israeli military.

Eyewitness accounts and video recordings appear to back up claims that Israeli soldiers have fired on civilians, including children, outside of combat with Hamas or other armed groups. In some cases, witnesses describe coming under fire while waving white flags.