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‘Unprecedented scale’ of violations against children in Gaza, West Bank and Israel, UN report says

In World
June 11, 2024

More grave violations against children were committed in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel than anywhere else in the world last year, according to a UN report due to be published this week.

The report on children and armed conflict, which has been seen by the Guardian, verified more cases of war crimes against children in the occupied territories and Israel than anywhere else, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Nigeria and Sudan.

“Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory presents an unprecedented scale and intensity of grave violations against children,” the report said.

Related: UN adds Israel to list of states committing violations against children

The annual assessment – due to be presented to the UN general assembly later this week by the secretary general, António Guterres – lists Israel for the first time in an annex of state offenders responsible for violations of children’s rights, triggering outrage from the Israeli government.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, issued a statement that the UN had “added itself to the black list of history when it joined those who support the Hamas murderers”.

The report details only cases that UN investigators were able to verify, so it accounts for just part of the total number of deaths and injuries of children in the course of last year.

In all, the UN verified “8,009 grave violations against 4,360 children” in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank – more than twice the figures for the DRC, the next worst place for violence against children.

Of the total number of child victims verified, 4,247 were Palestinian, 113 were Israeli.

In all, 5,698 violations were attributed to Israeli armed and security forces, and 116 to Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Israeli settlers were judged responsible in 51 cases, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades was involved in 21.

Between 7 October and the end of December last year, the UN verified the killing of 2,051 Palestinian children, and said the process of attributing responsibility was ongoing, but the report noted: “Most incidents were caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas by Israeli armed and security forces.”

The report conceded it reflected only a partial picture of the situation in Gaza.

“Owing to severe access challenges, in particular in the Gaza Strip, the information presented herein does not represent the full scale of violations against children in this situation,” it said.

The report also found grave abuses by Israeli forces in the West Bank, with 126 Palestinian children killed and 906 detained. The UN verified five cases where soldiers used boys “to shield forces during law enforcement operations”.

In the course of 2023, in the run-up to the Hamas 7 October attack on Israel, the UN said Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s armed wings organised “summer camps”, in which children were exposed to “military content and activities”.

In the first three months of the war, the UN verified 23 separate cases of the denial of humanitarian access by Israeli authorities “related to denied coordination of humanitarian aid missions and prevention of access to medical care”.

In the course of the Israeli offensive in Gaza, the UN found “nearly all critical infrastructure, facilities and services have been attacked, including shelter sites, United Nations installations, schools, hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, grain mills and bakeries”.

“Children are at risk of famine, severe malnutrition and preventable death,” the UN report said.

“I am appalled by the dramatic increase and unprecedented scale and intensity of grave violations against children in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the occupied West Bank,” Guterres tells the general assembly in the report.

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