United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday criticised Israel for targeting Palestinian children during its war on Gaza last summer, reiterating his demands for the Israeli government to take urgent measures to protect Palestinian children.
Speaking during a Security Council debate on children in armed conflict, Ban said: “Last year was one of the worst in recent memory for children in countries affected by conflict.” He said he is “deeply alarmed at the suffering of so many children as a result of Israeli military operations in Gaza last year.”
“I urge Israel to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect and prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protections afforded to schools and hospitals.”
More than 500 Palestinian children were killed during the Israeli aggression on Gaza last summer.
The UN chief’s statements indicate the failure of an Israeli media campaign against accusations it committed war crimes.
In a report, the United Nations held the Israeli army responsible for shooting at UN schools which were being used as makeshift homes for Palestinian civilians whose homes had been destroyed by the Israeli shelling.
However, the United Nations did not include Israel on its annual “list of shame” which includes countries that violate children’s rights during armed conflict, despite calls by non-governmental organisations following the war on the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli government claimed last week in a report that its soldiers did not “deliberately target civilians or buildings” and that its military operations in the Gaza Strip were “legitimate and legal”.
Ban’s statement came hours after Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, sent a letter to the secretary-general saying a report released that day on children and armed conflict focused disproportionately on Israel compared to other war zones.
“I am deeply concerned regarding the improper conduct – at every working level – of the office of… [Algerian legal expert Leila] Zerrougui in the process of drafting and producing the report,” Prosor said.
Ban defended his report, saying the content “should speak for itself”.
He said a debate is appropriate “but national interests should not cloud the objective at stake, which is protecting children.”