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UN calls for mental health support for children impacted by Gaza war

February 8, 2024 at 8:29 pm

An injured Palestinian child is brought to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital for treatment following the Israeli attacks on a building in Deir Al-Balah, Gaza on February 4, 2024. [Ali Jadallah – Anadolu Agency]

A United Nations committee appealed on Thursday for “massive psychosocial support” for children traumatised by violence in Gaza, the Occupied West Bank and Israel and said it would review Israel’s treatment of children later this year, Reuters reports.

Israel’s military offensive in Gaza, launched in the wake of a rampage by Hamas  in southern Israel on 7 October,  has displaced most of the Palestinian enclave’s 2.3 million people, left homes and infrastructure in ruins and caused acute shortages of food, water and medicine.

Children and women make up the bulk of the nearly 28,000 people killed during the offensive, according to the authorities in Gaza. In their 7 October attack in Israel, the militants killed about 1,200 people and took 253 hostages.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

“The rights of children living under the state of Israel’s effective control are being gravely violated at a level that has rarely been seen in recent history,” said Ann Skelton, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

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“We call for massive psychosocial support for children and families to relieve the traumatic and long-lasting impact of war, including Israeli children who were victims of, or witnesses to, the (Oct. 7) attacks and those whose family members have been taken hostage,” she told a news conference.

UNICEF said, last week, that nearly all children in Gaza were thought to require mental health support.

Skelton said the Committee “deeply regrets” that Israel had postponed its participation in a planned dialogue on child issues and that it was now scheduled to take place in September.

Israel’s diplomatic mission in Geneva said officials were focused on the war effort against Hamas, which made them “unable to dedicate the necessary resources to prepare and appear before the Committee in January.”

“It is regrettable, but sadly not surprising, that the CRC does not convey understanding for Israel’s request to postpone its review before the Committee, due to the state of the war,” the Permanent Mission of Israel in Geneva said in a statement.

Skelton also voiced concern for children living in the Occupied West Bank, which she said  are “facing arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings and violence committed by Occupying Forces and settlers”.

Israel’s military has said it operates against suspected militants in the West Bank.

The West Bank had already been experiencing the highest levels of unrest in decades during the months preceding the 7 October assault on Israel, but confrontations have increased sharply following the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.

READ: Gaza’s injured children face nightmares, trauma amid escalating Israel aggression