Israelis Kill More Palestinian Children

The Israeli army Wednesday suspended a platoon commander after claims he emptied an ammunition clip into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl from close range after she had already been shot.

The officer was not charged but came under investigation after fellow soldiers said he engaged in an illegal practice known as “verifying a kill”, which is another way of saying execution. The girl, who died, was shot 15 times, Palestinian doctors said.

Meanwhile, in a nearby Palestinian refugee camp, a 10-year-old girl died Wednesday after being shot in the chest Tuesday while sitting at her desk in a school. The army said it fired at the camp in response to mortar fire from the area of the school. However the U.N. aid agency denied the army claim, saying the camp was quiet at the time.

In other developments Wednesday, the army expanded its 2-week-old offensive in northern the Gaza Strip, with tanks moving deeper into the town of Beit Lahiya in an attempt to stop what it claims is Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli border towns.

However, some observers have expressed doubt as to the origin of the attacks with some Palestinians even claiming that Israel is staging the rocket attacks as a pretext for further incursions into the Gaza.

The offensive was triggered by what the Israelis claimed was a Palestinian rocket attack Sept. 29 that killed two Israeli preschoolers. Since then, 102 Palestinians have been killed in northern Gaza, including 18 under the age of 16.

In four years of fighting, about 400 Palestinians under age 16 have been killed by army fire, according to an Associated Press count. Many were killed while throwing stones at soldiers, others while in their homes, walking to school or observing clashes.

The shooting that prompted the suspension of the platoon commander took place on Oct. 5 near the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza. At the time, 13-year-old Iyman Hams was walking south of the camp. Her relatives said she was on her way to school when soldiers shot her from a nearby outpost.

The army said she had come close to the outpost, and was in a zone off-limits to Palestinians. Soldiers from the outpost suspected she was trying to plant a bomb after she dropped her school bag, and they opened fire.

Several soldiers from the outpost have since told Israeli media that after the girl collapsed, the platoon commander ran toward her and fired a volley from his automatic rifle from close range. Under open-fire regulations, soldiers may only shoot when their lives are in danger.

In the past four years, Israel’s military police has investigated only a small number of soldiers in the killings of Palestinians. Investigations generally take months, and only a small number of soldiers have actually gone to trial.

In the Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza, a 10-year-old Palestinian girl, Ghadeer Mokheimer, died of injuries she sustained Tuesday while sitting at her desk in a U.N.-run elementary school.

The army said soldiers fired toward the U.N. compound after mortar shells were launched from there at Jewish settlements and army outposts. UNRWA denied the claim, saying the camp was quiet and that no mortars were fired from within U.N. grounds.

Peter Hansen, the UNRWA chief, said it was the second time in several weeks that an elementary student was killed while in school.

“That two young children have been shot and killed, sitting at their desks in UNRWA schools in the last month is horrific by anyone’s standards. Schools should be havens of peace,” he said in a statement.

Relations have been particularly tense between UNRWA and Israel after the military claimed earlier this month that a U.N. ambulance was used to transport a rocket. The army has since withdrawn the claim, saying it misinterpreted video footage taken from an unmanned Israeli aircraft, or drone.

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