The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says children in the besieged Gaza Strip are the main victims of Israeli atrocities in the Palestinian sliver, amid an escalation of violence perpetrated by the Tel Aviv regime against some 1.8 million inhabitants of the coastal enclave.
“The escalating violence in Gaza has exacerbated the suffering of children whose lives have already been unbearably difficult for several years,” said Geert Cappelaere, the regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at UNICEF, in a statement on Friday.
He added that apart from the physical injuries children sustain in Israeli attacks, they are increasingly showing symptoms of severe distress and trauma.
According to figures provided by the UN agency, over the past five weeks, five children lost their lives and hundreds more were wounded in largely peaceful protest rallies held along the border with the occupied Palestinian territories. Furthermore, at least half of the total child population in Gaza depend on humanitarian assistance, and one in four needs psychosocial care.
Cappelaere also said minors “belong in schools, homes and playgrounds” and hence, they should “never be targeted.”
Late last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called on Israeli forces to curb the use of “lethal force against unarmed demonstrators” during protests, wondering “how children… can present a threat of imminent death or serious injury to heavily protected security force personnel.”
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics says 15 Palestinian minors have been killed by Israeli soldiers since the beginning of this year.
Nearly 50 Palestinians have lost their lives in clashes with Israeli forces during protests along the Gaza border since March 30. The Israeli regime has faced international criticism over its use of live fire.
The Palestinian rallies, known as the “Great March of Return,” will last until May 15, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), when Israel was created. Every year on May 15, Palestinians all over the world hold demonstrations to commemorate the day, which marks the anniversary of the forcible eviction of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland by Israelis in 1948.
The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007, causing a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty there.
In addition, the Israeli regime has imposed increasing power cuts and shortages in fuel in the sliver, hugely disrupting water and sanitation services. Medicines and health equipment are also in dire short supply, straining an already fragile health system.
Israel has also launched several wars on the Palestinian sliver, the last of which began in early July 2014 and ended in late August the same year. The Israeli military aggression killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians and injured over 11,100 others.