Serious abuses against children highest in Israel and Palestinian territories, says UN

Report seen by The National attributes nearly 5,700 cases to Israeli forces and 116 to Hamas

Palestinian children wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip being treated in Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al Balah on Sunday. AP
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Israel, Gaza and the West Bank saw more serious abuses against children last year than any other region globally, a UN report reveals.

In his annual report on children and armed conflict, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres added Israel's armed and security forces as well as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, for the first time to the list of offenders who have killed and maimed children or carried out attacks on schools and hospitals.

Hamas’ surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7 and Israel’s extensive military retaliation in Gaza have resulted in a 155 per cent increase in grave violations against children, primarily due to the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas of Gaza, the 49-page report said.

The UN chief said he is “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, including East Jerusalem, despite my repeated calls for parties to implement measures to prevent grave violations.”

The report, seen by The National, attributed 5,698 violations to Israel's armed and security forces, 116 to Hamas, 51 to Israeli settlers, 21 to Palestinian Islamic Jihad and one to the Palestinian Authority.

There were 371 verified attacks on schools and hospitals last year, of which 340 were attributed to Israeli forces.

The report covers only cases verified by UN investigators, representing only a portion of the total child deaths and injuries last year.

Due to severe access restrictions, especially in Gaza, the UN noted that the data does not fully capture the scale of abuses against children.

It stated that more than 23,000 serious violations – 3,900 Israeli children and 19,887 Palestinian children – were reported and are still pending verification.

Throughout last year, including in the months before the October 7 Hamas attacks on southern Israel, the UN said militant group's armed wing and Palestinian Islamic Jihad “organised summer camps, including for children, exposing them to military content and activities”.

It added that three children reported that Israeli armed and security forces had “attempted to recruit them as informants”.

The UN also received reports of detention of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip “compounded by multiple forms of sexual violence”.

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the decision to add Israel to the global list of offenders who fail to protect children during war.

“Today, the UN added itself to the blacklist of history when it joined those who support the Hamas murderers,” his office said.

Mr Guterres's annual report to the UN Security Council on children and armed conflict covers the killing, maiming and sexual abuse of children, abduction or recruitment, denial of aid access and attacking schools and hospitals.

Updated: June 13, 2024, 3:37 AM