RAMALLAH: The number of children reported killed in Gaza in just three weeks has surpassed the annual number of children killed across the world’s conflict zones since 2019, Save the Children said on Sunday.
Since October 7, more than 3257 children have been reported killed, including at least 3195 in Gaza, 33 in the West Bank, and 29 in Israel, according to the Ministries of Health in Gaza and Israel respectively. The number of children reported killed in just three weeks in Gaza is more than the number killed in armed conflict globally – across more than 20 countries – over the course of a whole year, for the last three years.
Children make up more than 40 per cent of the 7703 people killed in Gaza, and more than a third of all fatalities across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. With a further 1000 children reported missing in Gaza assumed buried under the rubble, the death toll is likely much higher.
On Friday, Israeli forces announced “expanded ground operations” in the Gaza Strip, with Save the Children warning it will bring more deaths, injuries and distress while calling for an immediate ceasefire.
“Three weeks of violence have ripped children from families and torn through their lives at an unimaginable rate. The numbers are harrowing and with violence not only continuing but expanding in Gaza right now, many more children remain at grave risk,” Save the Children Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory Jason Lee, said. “One child’s death is one too many, but these are grave violations of epic proportions. A ceasefire is the only way to ensure their safety. The international community must put people before politics – every day spent debating is leaving children killed and injured. Children must be protected at all times, especially when they are seeking safety in schools and hospitals.”
It is reported that at least 6360 children in Gaza have also been injured, as well as at least 180 children in the West Bank, and at least 74 children in Israel. More than 200 individuals, including children, remain hostages inside Gaza.
The risk of children dying from injuries has never been higher, with the UN reporting that a third of hospitals across the Gaza Strip are no longer operational due to electricity cuts and a “total siege” by the Government of Israel blocking entry of goods such as fuel and medicine. According to Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders), resulting anaesthesia shortages have meant amputating children without pain relief.
Save the Children is gravely concerned that the unfolding expanded ground operation in Gaza by Israeli forces will unavoidably result in more child casualties, with children’s bodies particularly vulnerable to the explosive weaponry.
Save the Children calls for an immediate ceasefire. We call on all parties to the conflict to take immediate steps to protect the lives of children, and on the international community to support those efforts, as is their obligation.
Hospitals are Hanging on By a Thread
Meanwhile, the United Nations News reported that Gaza hospitals are hanging on by a thread.
The vicinities of Shifa and Al Quds hospitals in Gaza City and of the Indonesian hospital in northern Gaza have been bombarded over the weekend, the UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordination Office OCHA said.
“This followed renewed calls by the Israeli military to evacuate these facilities immediately,” OCHA added.
“Palestinian and Israeli civilians have suffered enough”, UN relief chief Martin Griffiths wrote on social platform X on Monday. He revealed that he is in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and “will be discussing with the leadership of both parties how we can ramp up the humanitarian response”.
“My plea to all parties is: free the hostages. Protect civilians, wherever they are. Allow the delivery of aid swiftly, safely and at scale. Respect international humanitarian law,” he wrote.
Evacuation remains ‘impossible’
According to OCHA, some 117,000 displaced people are sheltering in the 10 hospitals still operational in Gaza City and elsewhere in northern Gaza, which have received “repeated evacuation orders” in recent days.
UN health agency WHO reiterated overnight on social platform X that “evacuation of hospitals is impossible without endangering patients’ lives”.
Humanitarians keep working
Emergency C-sections are being performed without anaesthesia amid shortages of medical supplies and power, and doctors are sometimes left delivering the premature babies of dying mothers, UN sexual and reproductive health agency UNFPA said, citing harrowing testimony from Shifa Hospital staff.
The UN Agency for Palestine Refugees, UNRWA, said on Monday that its aid workers in Gaza “keep going”, providing assistance to over 600,000 people who have sought safety in UN Palestine Refugee Relief Organisation (UNRWA) shelters, now more than three times over capacity.
“They are the face of humanity during one of its darkest hours,” UNRWA said.
The agency held a memorial service on Sunday for 59 of its personnel killed in the conflict so far and UN chief António Guterres stressed his “gratitude, solidarity and full support” to colleagues working to save lives in Gaza while risking their own.
The death toll keeps rising
As of Sunday evening the death toll in Gaza since 7 October passed the 8,000 mark, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza.
OCHA also said that Palestinian armed groups’ indiscriminate rocket firing towards Israeli cities and towns continued over the past 24 hours, with no fatalities reported.
According to the Israeli authorities, 239 Israelis and foreign nationals, including some 30 children, remain captive in Gaza and 40 people are still reported missing following Hamas’ terror attacks on Israel on 7 October which killed 1,400 people.
The UN has repeatedly called for the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages. Guterres repeated on Sunday that “there is no justification, ever, for the killing, injuring and abduction of civilians”.