Creating new perspectives since 2009

Gaza: Grave violations against children must stop, says Save the Children CEO

February 20, 2024 at 4:03 pm

Palestinian children, holding empty pots, wait in line to receive hot meal prepared by volunteers for Palestinian families ,displaced to Southern Gaza due to Israeli attacks, in Rafah, Gaza on February 20, 2024 [Abed Rahim Khatib – Anadolu Agency]

Israel’s war against the Palestinians in Gaza now stands among the deadliest and most destructive in recent history and has led to a litany of grave violations against children being recorded, said the CEO of Save the Children today. The NGO is calling for all parties involved to be added to the list of perpetrators of grave violations against children in armed conflict.

“Children in Gaza have been killed and maimed by Israeli forces at an unprecedented rate and scale,” said Inger Ashing. “About 12,400 children have been killed and thousands more are ‘missing’, presumed buried under the rubble, their deaths unmarked.”

Ashing said that 100 Palestinian children have been killed in the occupied West Bank since the escalation started on 7 October. “Furthermore, thirty-three Israeli children were killed on 7 October, and children were abducted and held hostage in Gaza, causing severe emotional and mental distress.”

The NGO official pointed out that Israel’s destruction of schools and hospitals in Gaza has become the norm, not the exception, and children have suffered incalculable mental and physical harm. “Parents in Gaza have told us about symptoms of extreme emotional distress and trauma in their children, including a perpetual state of fear, disordered eating, bedwetting, hyper-vigilance and regression. An unknown number of children have been maimed, sustaining life-changing injuries, with most unable to get even the most basic treatment or pain management due to the obliterated health system.”

The UN Security Council has identified six grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict: killing and maiming of children; recruitment or use of children in armed forces and groups; rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; abduction of children; attacks against schools and hospitals; and denial of humanitarian aid. 

READ: Israel forces bomb hospital in Gaza’s Khan Yunis

The life-saving supplies upon which families across Gaza rely have either been drip-fed or systematically denied by Israel, added Ashing. “Concurrently, essential services have been decimated. Despite the horrifying and ever-rising number of children killed by direct hostilities, far more are likely to be killed by starvation and disease than by the bombardment.”

Describing the five months of the Israeli offensive as “catastrophic”, she noted that any expansion of military operations by Israel in Rafah would likely be the most fatal chapter yet for children and families alike. “Over half the population of Gaza, including more than 610,000 children, have been crammed into a sliver of land that cannot accommodate them nor sustain life. There is nowhere in over-crowded Rafah to shelter from bombs, and nowhere else that families can flee to. In short, children are trapped. In the event of an escalation in Rafah, there will unavoidably be a significant increase in grave violations against children, which have already been committed at an unparalleled rate.”

Those responsible must be held to account, insisted Save the Children’s CEO. “All parties to the conflict must be added to the list of perpetrators of grave violations against children in armed conflict and commit to implementing immediate actions to ensure the protection of children.” Accountability, she explained, is essential to acknowledge the serious wrongs done to children, to break the cycles of violence and prevent further violations, and to rebuild peaceful societies based on the rule of law.

“An incursion into Rafah would sign the death warrant for Gaza’s children,” concluded Ashing. “UN member states must not ignore their individual and collective responsibility to act and protect without delay. There must be a ceasefire now. There is no alternative.”

READ: WFP halts distribution in northern Gaza until safety improves