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UN adds Israel to blacklist for harming children in conflict zones

June 7, 2024 at 6:08 pm

Children injured in an Israeli airstrike on a school for displaced persons belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Nuseirat refugee camp is brought to al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital for treatment in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on June 06, 2024 [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency]

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has notified Israel’s Defence Attache in the United States, Major General Hidai Zilberman, of his decision to add Israel to the blacklist of countries and organisations harming children in conflict zones.

A report by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth revealed that despite extensive efforts by Israel to persuade Guterres to avoid this move, Tel Aviv will be listed in the report distributed to UN Security Council members next week, with a discussion scheduled for 26 June.

Israel fears that its inclusion could lead to an arms embargo. The annual report, authored by UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, will cover all of 2023, noting an increase in attacks due to the war on Gaza that began in October.

The report is based on data from UN organisations and field sources. Being blacklisted could significantly damage Israel’s reputation, as the report will be cited across various UN bodies, including the General Assembly, Security Council, International Court of Justice (ICJ) and International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

The blacklist also includes Afghanistan, Congo, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and groups such as Al-Qaeda, Daesh, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram. The upcoming report will refer to Israeli security forces without explicitly naming Israel or its military.

In practical terms, inclusion on the blacklist will result in specific reports on Israel by the Special Representative’s office, which will be presented to the Security Council.

The draft report received by Israel months ago includes criticisms such as the use of large-scale bombs in occupied areas, severe blockades on Gaza, attacks on critical infrastructure, attempts to recruit minors as informants and using children as human shields.

READ: Israel fears being blacklisted by UN over Gaza onslaught

It comes after Human Rights Watch (HRW) last year criticised Guterres for including Russia’s military forces on his “list of shame” while omitting Israel, which HRW argued also deserved a place on the list.

It stated that Israel’s exclusion sends a “mixed message” regarding the UN’s commitment to holding governments accountable. HRW also pointed out that while Israel has never been included on the list, other forces or groups with fewer violations have been.

Israel has continued its brutal offensive on Gaza since October, in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire.

Over 36,600 Palestinians have since been killed, the vast majority of them women and children, and over 83,000 others have been wounded. Nearly eight months into the Israeli war, vast swathes of Gaza are in ruins amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine.

Israel stands accused of genocide by South Africa at the International Court of Justice, which in its latest ruling has ordered Tel Aviv to immediately halt its operation in the southern city of Rafah, where over a million Palestinians had sought refuge from the war before it was invaded by Israeli forces on 6 May. The occupation state not only denies the genocide charge, but has also ignored the court’s rulings.