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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 21:07 GMT 22:07 UK
Children 'bear brunt' of Mid-East conflict
Funeral of 16 and 18-year-old sisters killed in Tel Aviv disco bombing
Some suicide bombs have deliberately targeted the young
The human rights organisation Amnesty International has accused both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of targeting children.

"Children are increasingly bearing the brunt of this conflict," the London-based organisation says in a report published on Monday.

Muhammad al-Durah and his father
It is almost two years since the world saw Muhammad die
"Both the Israeli Defence Force and Palestinian armed groups show an utter disregard for the lives of children and other civilians," it adds.

The report says more than 250 Palestinians under 18 years of age, and over 70 young Israelis have been killed during the two-year Palestinian uprising.

In the latest incidentd on Monday, a teenage Palestinian boy was killed by machine-gun fire in the West Bank city of Nablus as Israeli tanks moved into a refugee camp.

A second boy and an Israeli soldier were killed in a fight between Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen that raged on after nightfall in central Nablus.

Moments of horror

The report comes just before the second anniversary of the death of Muhammad al-Durrah - the 12-year-old boy who was killed in a hail of bullets beside his father.

He was the first child to die in the intifada. His final moments were captured on television and provoked outrage around the world.

The report cites four cases which embody the fate of children caught up in the conflict:

  • Sami Fathi Abu Jazzar died on the eve of his 12th birthday after being shot in the head by a live bullet when Israeli soldiers fired into crowd of mainly primary school children. Six other children were also injured.

  • Two-month-old Dina Matar and 18-month-old Ayman Matar were among the nine children and eight others killed in Gaza in July this year, when Israel bombed a densely populated area with the aim of killing Hamas military leader, Salah Shehada.

  • Twenty-one people died outside the Dolphinarium night club in Tel Aviv in June 2001 when a suicide bomber blew himself up. Twelve of them were under 18, among them were 14-year-old Maria Tagilchev and 15-year-old Keren Dorfman.

  • In March this year, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives next to a group of women waiting with their children outside a synagogue. Among them were children of the Nehmad family: two sisters, Shiraz, 6, and Liran, 2, and their four cousins, Lidor, Oriah Ilan, Shaul and Avraham Eliahu.

Crime, but no punishment

The report urges both sides to act against those responsible.


The Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority must act swiftly and firmly to investigate the killing of each and every child

Amnesty International
It says the Israeli army did not punish soldiers who responded to stone-throwing children with "unlawful and excessive use of lethal force" at demonstrations.

Palestinian leaders have also failed to rein in suicide bombers who deliberately target children and other civilians, the report says.

"Both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority must act swiftly and firmly to investigate the killing of each and every child and ensure that all those responsible... are brought to justice," Amnesty said.

It also called for international observers in the region, saying their presence might "have saved the lives of Israeli and Palestinian children as well as other civilians".

Israel rejects the need for international observers.

Palestinian cabinet minister Saeb Erekat told Reuters news agency that he blamed the "tragic death of Palestinian and Israeli children on the Israeli occupation, which is evil in itself".

Israeli officials said it was wrong to compare their army, using force to quell demonstrations, with bombers who deliberately target civilians.

"We are defending ourselves and it is unavoidable that people get killed in self-defence," cabinet minister Yitzhak Levy told Israeli television.

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The BBC's Orla Guerin
"The young have nowhere to hide"

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