The Gaza Strip is now a graveyard for thousands of children, the United Nations said, as it warned of the prospect of more deaths from dehydration during Israel’s war against the besieged enclave.
The Israeli military has expanded its air and ground attacks on Gaza – including homes and hospitals – where brutal airstrikes have been taking place since the Palestinian group Hamas’ surprise offensive on October 7 that Israeli officials say killed 1,400 people in Israel.
More than 8,500 Palestinians, mostly children and women, have been killed, Gaza’s health ministry said.
“Our worst fears that the reported number of children murdered would first reach tens, then hundreds and finally thousands became reality in just a fortnight,” James Elder, a spokesperson for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said in a statement on Tuesday .
“The numbers are terrible; more than 3,450 children are reported to have been killed; Astonishingly, this is increasing significantly every day.”
“Gaza has become a graveyard for thousands of children. For everyone else it is hell.”
One Palestinian child is murdered every ten minutes.
Israel’s war on children
— Ghassan Abu Sitta (@GhassanAbuSitt1) October 31, 2023
Catherine Russell, executive director of UNICEF, also said that at least 6,300 children have been injured as a result of the Israeli attacks.
This means that an average of 420 Palestinian children are killed or injured every day in the Gaza Strip, she explained.
“These numbers should shock and shake us to our core,” Russell said.
The organization called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, with all border crossings into the Gaza Strip open for the safe, sustainable and unhindered access of humanitarian aid, including water, food, medical supplies and fuel.
‘What if there is no ceasefire, no water, no medicine and no release of kidnapped children? Then we rush towards even greater horrors that affect innocent children,” Elder said.
The spokesperson said that according to figures from health faculties in Gaza, about 940 children were missing.
Spokesperson Jens Laerke of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) added: “It is almost unbearable to think of children buried under the rubble, but [with] there is very little opportunity or opportunity to get them out.”
Threats that go beyond bombs
An Israeli blockade of the Strip has also cut off Gaza’s fuel, electricity and water supplies, and reduced aid deliveries to a trickle that is unable to meet the needs of the 2.3 million Palestinians there.
Elder said the threats to children “go beyond bombs,” stressing that water and trauma are among the other threats facing the besieged Palestinian enclave.
He warned that more than a million children in Gaza face a critical water crisis as Gaza’s daily water production is five percent of production capacity.
“So infant mortality from dehydration, and especially infant mortality from dehydration, is a growing threat,” he said.
On trauma, the spokesperson said: “When the fighting finally stops, the costs for children and their communities will be borne for generations.”
Elder highlighted that before the current conflict began, more than 800,000 children in Gaza – three-quarters of the entire child population – were identified as needing mental health and psychological support.
Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), said that almost 70 percent of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip in the past three weeks were children and women.
The number of children killed in Gaza since October 7 has surpassed the number of children killed annually in conflict zones around the world since 2019, he said.
“This cannot be ‘collateral damage,’” he said Monday evening, adding that there is no safe place in the blockaded area due to the heavy Israeli bombardment.