|Palestinian doctors despair at rising toll of children shot dead by
Israeli army snipers
As the carnage in Rafah escalates, bullet wounds belie the official Israeli line on killings of young teenagers
Chris McGreal in Rafah
Thursday May 20, 2004 "The Guardian" -- The tiny hole buried under Asma Mughayar's thick black hair, just above her right ear, is an illusion, according to the Israeli army. So is her family's insistance that Asma, 16, and her younger brother Ahmed, were both shot through the head by an Israeli soldier as they fed their pigeons and collected the laundry from the roof of their home in Rafah refugee camp
But their corpses tell a different story, as do the bodies of other children brought to Rafah's hospital and makeshift mortuaries even before yesterday's carnage, in which Israeli tanks and helicopters fired on a peaceful protest by Palestinians in the camp, killing 10 demonstrators, according to Palestinian paramedics.
Israel disputes the Mughayar family's account: that soldiers shot the children on Tuesday. Hours after their death, Israeli officials blamed the Palestinians, telling reporters that Asma and Ahmed had been killed in a "work accident" - a euphemism for bomb-makers blowing themselves up - or by Palestinian fighters who had left a landmine in the street.
"A preliminary investigation indicates they were killed by a bomb intended to be used against soldiers. It was set outside a building by Palestinians to hit an Israeli vehicle. This is probably what happened," a military spokesman said yesterday.
Dr Ali Moussa, head of Rafah hospital, is as furious at the claim as he is at Israel's assertion that almost all the 20 or more people killed during the army's seizure of the Tel al-Sultan district of the Rafah refugee camp were armed men.
"They are liars, liars, liars, because these children have bullet wounds to the head. There is no doubt about it," he says.
Dr Ahmed Abu Nkaria, who pronounced the Mughayar children dead, insists on proving the manner of their killing. He pulls Asma's body from the mortuary's refrigeration unit and fumbles through the teenager's hair to reveal the hole where the bullet entered above one ear and ripped a much larger wound as it emerged above the other.
"The Israeli propaganda is that they were killed in a work accident. These are the kinds of lies they tell all the time," he says. "They say all the dead are fighters. They say they do not deliberately kill children, but about a quarter of the dead from the first day of shooting are children. The evidence is here in the morgue. Does this girl look as if she was blown up by a bomb?"
Asma's body lies in the hospital mortuary unburied, like all the other dead from Tel al-Sultan, because their relatives are trapped in their homes by a curfew. Her 13-year-old brother's corpse is a short drive away in the cold-storage room of an Israeli-owned flower-growing company.
Ahmed lies with 14 other bodies. Some are wrapped in the flags of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, but Ahmed is swaddled only in the white sheet wrapped around him in the ambulance. He was a small boy who could not easily be mistaken for a man.
Dr Nkaria rolls the child over to show a tiny round hole in his forehead, just above his fringe. There is a much larger hole at the back of the head where the bullet came out. Neither Asma nor Ahmed show signs of any other injuries, particularly of the kind that might be expected from a blast, such as shrapnel spread across the body, burns, or mutilation.
"This is what the Israelis claim is a 'work accident'," Dr Nkaria says.
He points to the corpse of another youth in the cold-store."This is Ibrahim Alqun. He is 14 years old. He was shot in the back of the head. The bullet came out of his right eye," he says. The child's face is badly mutilated by the wound.
The bodies of the children continued to pile up in the mortuary yesterday.
Saber Abu Libda, 13, was shot dead by Israeli soldiers after he left his home in Tel al-Sultan in the morning to find water for his family.
Dr Nkaria's finger probes a tiny hole in the small child's back which masks the devastation done to his heart as the bullet shot through it.
"No one can say this child was a fighter. Look at the size of him and look where they shoot him - in the back, not coming to attack someone," the doctor says.
Saber stepped out of the door with his 16-year-old brother Yousef. He too was shot, but has survived so far, with critical chest injuries.
A third brother, Ayub, ran out to save his younger siblings and was also cut down by the snipers.
"My brothers only went out for water," Ayub says.
"We heard the gunshots and I went to their rescue. They were both lying there bleeding and I was shot in the arm.
"We tried to pull Yousef to the house, but we couldn't and he lay there bleeding for half an hour until the ambulance came."
Other children are luckier. Twelve-year-old Ahmed Hussein looked out of his window in Tel al-Sultan on Tuesday afternoon. A sniper's bullet hit him in the shoulder. The bullet passed through a fleshy part and hit his aunt in the hand.
"I thought the Israelis had withdrawn. I went to the window to see. I wanted to get out of the house and they shot me," he says in his hospital bed.
Copyright: The Guardian.