UN says 2 Palestinian mothers killed every hour in Israel-Gaza war: ‘this is not their conflict’

Women and children are the main victims in the Israel-Gaza war, with some 16,000 killed and an estimated two mothers losing their lives every hour since Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel, the United Nations agency promoting gender equality said on Friday.

As a result of the more than 100-day conflict, UN Women added, at least 3,000 women may have become widows and heads of households and at least 10,000 children may have lost their fathers.

In a report released on Friday, the agency pointed to gender inequality and the burden on women fleeing the fighting with children and being displaced again and again. Of the territory’s 2.3 million population, it said, 1.9 million are displaced and “close to one million are women and girls” seeking shelter and safety.

UN Women’s executive director, Sima Bahous, said this is “a cruel inversion” of fighting during the 15 years before the Hamas attack on October 7. Previously, she said, 67 per cent of all civilians killed in Gaza and the West Bank were men and less than 14 per cent were women.

She echoed UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and the immediate release of all hostages taken captive in Israel on October 7.

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“However much we mourn the situation of the women and girls of Gaza today, we will mourn further tomorrow without unrestricted humanitarian assistance and an end to the destruction and killing,” Bahous said in a statement accompanying the report.

“These women and girls are deprived of safety, medicine, healthcare, and shelter. They face imminent starvation and famine. Most of all they are deprived of hope and justice,” she said.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says nearly 25,000 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, 70 per cent of them women and children. The United Nations says more than a half million people in Gaza – a quarter of the population – are starving.

In Israel, around 1,200 people were killed during the October 7 attack by Hamas that sparked the war, and some 250 people were taken hostage by militants. More than 100 hostages are believed to still be held captive in Gaza.

Displaced Palestinian women gather on a sand dune above a makeshift camp on the Egyptian border, west of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 14. Photo: AFP

Bahous said UN Women had heard “shocking accounts of unconscionable sexual violence during the attacks” by Hamas, and she echoed UN calls for accountability, justice and support for all those affected.

Despite escalating hostilities in Gaza, the agency said women-led and women’s rights organisations continue to operate. It found that 83 October of women’s organisations surveyed in the Gaza Strip are at least partially operational, mainly focusing on the emergency response to the war.

But UN Women said its analysis of funding from last year’s flash appeal for Gaza found that just 0.09 per cent of funding went directly to national or local women’s rights organisations.

Bahous said there is a need for much more aid to get to Gaza, especially to women and children, and for an end to the war.

“This is a time for peace,” she said. “We owe this to all Israeli and Palestinian women and girls. This is not their conflict. They must no longer pay its price.”

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