Below are copies of articles about inadvertent deaths caused by unexploded bombs in Afghanistan and Gaza from two newspapers.
Miami Herald 11-23-01, pages 1A and 3A
“5 Palestinian Boys Killed by Shell Explosion in Gaza”
New York Times 11-23-01, pages 1A and 3A
“5 Palestinian Boys Die in Blast in Gaza”
Miami Herald 11-23-01, page 24A
“Unexploded Bombs a Peril to Children” (in Afghanistan).
New York Times 11-23-01, page B4
Same Afghanistan article)
5 Palestinian Schoolboys Killed by an Explosion in Gaza
By JAMES BENNET
KHAN YUNIS, Gaza Strip, Nov. 22 – Five Palestinian boys walking to school were killed today when a powerful explosive detonated beneath them at the crest of a sand dune here, near an Israeli settlement.
Among the boys, all related, were two pairs of brothers. They ranged in age from 6 to 14.
Palestinians said the boys were killed by an unexploded tank shell, a remnant of recent fighting here, but Israeli authorities said that a Palestinian explosive might be to blame. No one could prove who was responsible, so all that was certain was that the grinding conflict here had discarded five more children.
The deaths came as the Bush administration prepared to dispatch two envoys to Israel, on Sunday, in its first intensive drive for peace in the Middle East. In a speech to begin that effort, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell declared on Monday that the fighting was taking a “terrible toll on the future.”
He warned that “it would be a tragedy to sacrifice so many more potential presidents and prime ministers and peacemakers and poets to this cruel conflict.”
Early this afternoon, boys from this refugee camp were searching the dune and the adjacent fields of bright green pepper plants for the victims’ remains, which the blast scattered over a wide area.
“We are getting used to this,” said Salama Abu Ewaylis, 11, after he rushed up to display a charred bit of something, perhaps human remains. The children had piled up scraps of denim clothing at the edge of the field, down the slope from the blast site. As late as 4 this afternoon, one boy turned up at a hospital near here with what appeared to be human remains, wrapped in notebook paper. A medic ordered him to take it to the police, then sadly observed to a visitor that the children seemed to be losing their sensitivity to such horrors.
The dirt path the boys took to school led past greenhouses of tomatoes and spices, hooked left through the pepper fields, then climbed the dune, which is littered with garbage. After the explosion, human remains were found more than 50 feet away, on the second story of an uncompleted house. That structure is used by Palestinian gunmen to fire northward at a nearby Israeli military outpost and a settlement, Ganei Tal, Palestinians said. It is pocked with holes from the return fire.
Palestinians say the exchanges take place almost nightly and sometimes during the day. “All the time I was worried about my kids, because of the shooting,” said Zainab al-Astal, the mother of two of the boys – Muhammad, 14, who helped his father sell vegetables, and Akram, 6, who would not go to school without his big brother.
“They used to play soccer in the street,” she said, wearing a white head scarf and holding a tissue as she sat mourning with two dozen women at her home here. “I would ask them to come and play inside.” She said that her 3-year-old daughter, Islam, shakes and screams in the night whenever she hears shooting.
Mrs. Astal’s sister, Aysha al-Astal, dressed all in black, was seated across from her on a wicker mat. “Do you know how many boys have been killed in this intifada?” she asked. “These are all our children. The world should move. The world should do something. Why is the world silent?”
As of the middle of October, 164 Palestinians under the age of 18 had been killed in this conflict, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and more than 2,000 are believed to have been wounded. Some children have been shot while throwing stones, while others have been hit by stray fire.
Each side presents its slain children as the chief symbols of the monstrosity of the other. Israelis speak about Shalhevet Pass, a 10- month-old girl killed by Palestinian fire in Hebron in March. In the West Bank and Gaza, a poster found in many offices and stores shows the terrified face of Muhammad al-Durra, a 12-year-old trapped and then killed in a crossfire near here in the first days of the conflict. A videotape of him in his last moments was shown around the world.
The conflict, now almost 14 months old, suffuses the lives of children in camps like this one, a ramshackle aggregation of concrete homes with corrugated tin roofs held down by stones and cinderblocks. Three generations have lived in Khan Yunis as refugees from the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
Two other brothers killed today, Omar al-Astal, 13, and Anis al-Astal, 10, used to fill soda bottles with drinkable water from a well and take them to their uncle, Mahmoud al- Astal. Then they would watch Palestinian television with him. The images they saw were of the conflict.
“Those kids used to be very angry to see all these dead children,” their uncle said. Their sister, Enas, said that the brothers longed to be martyrs. Samara al-Astal, Muhammad’s sister, said the same of her brother.
The fifth boy to die today, a member of the same large clan, was also named Muhammad al-Astal. He was 12.
Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, called the deaths today “a continuation of the crimes the Israelis have committed against the Palestinian people.”
Col. Khal Abu al-Ula, a commander of Palestinian forces in the area, speaking of the source of the blast, said, “After an investigation by our forces and explosive expert, we can say that it is a tank shell which had not exploded.” He said that one of the boys might have kicked the shell. Palestinians in the area said that the most recent fighting took place on Tuesday night.
The Israeli Army said that it could not investigate the explosion because it occurred in Palestinian-controlled territory. Dore Gold, an adviser to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, emphasized that soldiers did not fire this morning toward the area of the blast. “Israel’s insistence on reaching an immediate cease-fire is motivated in part by its desire to prevent such tragedies from occurring, even tragedies that Israel itself did not cause,” he said.
The western half of Khan Yunis is bracketed by the Gush Qatif cluster of Israeli settlements, two of which are within sight of the dune where the boys died. Of those, Ganei Tal is only about a quarter-mile to the north, well within firing range. The army said that so far this month it has logged the following Palestinian attacks originating from the area of today’s explosion: 8 “shooting incidents,” 13 antitank rifle grenades fired, and 1 mortar shell launched.
A few Palestinians interviewed today said it was possible that other Palestinians planted the explosive in hopes of destroying an Israeli tank. But most angrily rejected that suggestion. Israeli tanks did not reach that particular spot, they said, and it was known to be a path used by children.
Ahmed al-Astal, 22, was tending to the tomatoes in his greenhouse this morning, about 50 yards from the blast site. “Suddenly, I heard this explosion,” he said. The ground shook, and shrapnel knifed into his right knee and thigh. Mr. Astal, who was interviewed at a hospital here, said he ran toward a nearby road, then collapsed.
Hamad Khalil, 25, heard the explosion and ran to the scene. As he approached, he said, he saw what he thought was “a doll or something.” When he got closer, he saw that it was a boy, his face covered with blood and one leg gone. The boy was still breathing, Mr. Khalil said, but by the time he returned with a blanket, he was dead.
Unexploded bombs a peril to children
BY AMY WALDMAN
GHALEH SHAFER, Afghanistan — Most children in Afghanistan, lacking toys, play with what they find. In this tiny, dusty village, they have been finding tiny bombs scattered by a cluster bomb.
Three children were injured this week, and one teenager was killed, when they picked up undetonated remnants of a bomb dropped by American planes about a month ago. The bomb’s initial impact killed 12 people, most from the same
extended family. The village mourned, thinking it had seen the worst.
But workers from the Organization for Mine and Afghan Rehabilitation knew better. They are reluctant veterans of detonating unexploded ordnance — thanks to the millions of landmines in this country — and they come each morning
to find and detonate the cluster bomb’s contents. An explosion sounds every few minutes, the signal that one more threat has been neutralized.
But the detonators are finding themselves in a race against children’s curiosity — and their hunger. The pieces of the bomb are yellow, the same color as the packages of food rations dropped by American planes this week.
So it was that 10-year-old Mohebolah Seraj went out to collect wood for his family, and thought he had happened upon a food packet too.
He picked it up and lost three fingers in an explosion. Doctors say he will probably lose his whole hand. “It wouldn’t matter if my daughter lost a hand,” his mother, Sardar Seraj, said weeping. “But my son was supposed to help support
She said that she cried and told them not to cut off her son’s whole hand. “But the doctors say it’s impossible not to.”
Seraj and her eight children are refugees from the drought-stricken Ghor province, and until recently lived in a nearby refugee camp. Now they live in one room in this village. Seraj said she is so poor that she cannot even afford a taxi to the
hospital in Herat, so she walks the two or three miles.
The hospital where her son is being cared for is a grim place, lacking power and basic sanitation. In one room lay Mohammed Ayoub, a 20-year-old who was in the house when the cluster bomb emptied its contents over the area. He lost a
leg and the sight in both eyes, and his face was severely disfigured. He moaned in agony.
Down the hall, sharing a room with several adults, lay two cousins, one 9, one 7, who were injured on Tuesday when they picked up an unexploded bomb while playing. Their grandmother nervously watched over them, but said she thought
they would be fine.
Hospital officials said that a 16-year-old had been decapitated on Wednesday after he picked up a piece of the bomb.
SCALE OF BOMB DAMAGE
Back in the village, the family members who survived the bomb’s initial explosion crowded in one room, refugees just feet from their own homes. One house was destroyed when the bomb fell; other homes that were damaged were deemed
unsafe to return to until the sappers finish their work.
Bashahmad Ahmadi, 25, who was at home when the bomb hit, saw three people die. “Suddenly I felt very hot, then I didn’t feel anything.” He has had surgery on his foot, but still walks with a crutch. His father, a teacher, was killed by
the bomb, as were the husbands of three of his mothers’ sisters. His mother has 10 children, and five grandchildren.
Crutch or not, he must now find a way to support them all.