JERUSALEM – After a 17-year-old was killed in the Gaza conflict this month – one of 69 children killed in the fighting between Israel and the militants – an activist group claimed him as a member, without however, say whether he had been killed during the fighting.
The teenager, Khaled al-Qanu, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the northern part of the Gaza Strip on May 13, according to a statement by the militant group, the Mujahedin Brigades. It is against international law to use minors in armed conflict.
Mr al-Qanou was among those featured in a New York Times article about all the children killed in the recent conflict, but details of his death had not been confirmed at that time.
While the Mujahedin Brigades said in a statement that Mr. al-Qanu was killed “in the battle of the sword of Jerusalem”, the name Gaza militants gave to the last war, they did not indicate. explicitly if he was taking part in the fighting when he died. In 2018, the Mujahedin Brigades were placed on a US blacklist that punishes the financing of terrorist groups.
Momen Aziz, an official with the political wing of the Mujahedin Movement, a coordination group comprising the Brigades, declined to say whether Mr. al-Qanou had been killed in the fighting.
The Mujahedin Brigades said Mr. al-Qanou was 20 years old, but official health records and his family members indicate he was 17, born on January 10, 2004.
The IDF did not immediately respond to a request for comment that it was deliberately targeting Mr. al-Qanou.
Mr al-Qanou’s older brother Osama said his brother joined the Mujahedin Brigades earlier this year after members of the group pressured him for months to join their ranks, offering support. money and access to weapons.
“They exploited him,” said Osama al-Qanou, who added that his family did not support him becoming a member of the group.
Human rights experts condemn the use of children in armed conflict, stressing that recruiting them to fight is a violation of international law.
“Whatever the situation, it is downright illegal for armed groups to recruit and deploy a child under the age of 18, even if they cite a volunteer without citation,” said Eric Goldstein, acting executive director of the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa division. “They should be with their families, not there as fighters.”
Mr. al-Qanou added that his family were so deeply opposed to his brother joining the Mujahedin brigades that they refused to allow members of the group to pay their respects in the mourners’ tent they erected. after his death.
“We kicked them out in front of everyone,” he said.