Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel has resulted in scores of deaths, with at least 614 children out of 1,900 killed in Gaza as of Friday evening. The Defense of Children in Palestine, an organization in the West Bank, has verified over 100 deaths of children in Palestine, with some families even resulting in death. Nearly half of Gaza’s population is under 18, and the rising death toll poses a children’s rights crisis in the region.
The Defense of Children in Palestine has tracked five deaths of children in the West Bank as of Saturday. Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP, attributed many deaths to the targeting of civilian areas by Israel without prior warning and feared more deaths among children in the West Bank. He also noted that “around the clock” children are being exposed to the sounds and sights of war, and that the region is already prone to mental health issues due to the 16-year blockade in Gaza.
The conflict in Gaza has negatively impacted the psychological well-being of children, with many lacking the resilience to cope due to previous bankruptcies. Human rights advocates argue that children’s rights violations by Israel in Gaza and the West Bank have been a longstanding issue.
The United Nations sets standards for children’s rights, including maintaining ties with parents, freedom of expression, and the right to be alive. The UN also maintains a “List of Shame” tracking grave violations against children during armed conflict, ranging from killing and maiming to sexual violence. Despite being one of the countries with the highest number of grave violations, Israel has avoided inclusion on this list, according to Human Rights Watch. Palestinian children are currently suffering from the wrongful actions of Israeli forces and settlers.
Palestinian armed groups have committed violations against children, and the UN secretary-general’s refusal to hold Israeli forces accountable for these violations puts many children at risk. Human Rights Watch director Akshaya Kumar believes Israel should be listed on the list, as it has been a source of shame for the UN for years. Abu Eqtaish argues that the US’s uncritical support for Israel will result in more civilian casualties and that it is the responsibility of all to protect civilians and children and put pressure on their governments to direct pressure on Israel to stop the war.