The killing of two Palestinian children in the occupied Gaza Strip last month by Israeli forces was “a demonstration of Israel’s unremitting shoot-to-kill policy”, human rights NGO Al-Haq has stated.
The incident on 17 February left two dead – Salem Muhammad Sabbah, 17, and Abdullah Ayman Ermilat, 15 – and two others injured – Salim Mahmoud Abu Safra, 17, Ahmad Ibrahim Abu Harb, 16.
According to the findings of Al-Haq’s investigation, Israeli occupation forces “shot live ammunition and fired around ten mortar shells” at the four Palestinian children, as they “approached the Gaza Strip’s eastern fence” at around 9.30pm, east of Rafah.
The teens were intending to cross the fence in search of work. When they were 30-50 metres from the fence, “Salim and Ahmad were walking ahead of their two friends Salem and Abdullah when they heard sounds of movement nearby, followed by heavy shooting and explosions”.
Salim gave the following testimony to Al-Haq:
“I ran away quickly and my friend Ahmad Abu Harb fled with me. I did not see my friends Abdullah Ermilat and Salem Sabbah because of the darkness and did not know their fate. We ran towards the west as the heavy shooting continued and the sound of explosions were heard near us”.
Salim and Ahmad were both injured by shrapnel in their legs, abdomen and hand, but did not learn of the fate of Salem and Abdullah until the next morning.
“I found out from my father at around 9:00am the following day that my two friends, Salem Sabbah and Abdullah Ermilat, had been killed as a result of injuries sustained to the abdomen and various parts of their bodies”, Salim told Al-Haq.
“I was told that they were left bleeding to death near the border, that no ambulance was able to reach them all night”.
Al-Haq noted how, “as in numerous [other] cases”, Israel “is in breach of its obligation not to resort to excessive and lethal force against protected Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)”.
“Clearly”, Al-Haq added, “there is no necessity or consideration of proportionality established in shooting to kill unarmed civilian boys, notably Salem and Abdullah who were left bleeding to death without the provision of medical assistance for their injuries”.
“As such, the killings may fall within the purview of the preliminary examination by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the situation in Palestine since 13 June 2014”.