20 February 2024 - occupied Palestinian territory

“GRAVE VIOLATIONS AGAINST CHILDREN MUST STOP”- Statement by Save the Children CEO Inger Ashing

inger ashing

Photo credit: Randa Ghazy/ Save the Children

GAZA, 20 February 2024 – The war in Gaza now stands among the deadliest and most destructive in recent history and has led to a litany of grave violations against children being recorded. After almost 5 months of brutal violence the impact on children is alarming and Save the Children is now calling for all parties to the conflict to be added to the list of perpetrators of grave violations against children in armed conflict.

Inger Ashing, Save the Children International’s Chief Executive Officer, said:

“Children in Gaza have been killed and maimed by Israeli forces at an unprecedented rate and scale. About 12,400 children have been killed and thousands more are ‘missing’, presumed buried under the rubble, their deaths unmarked.[1] A further 100 Palestinian children have been killed in the occupied West Bank since the escalation. Also33 Israeli children were killed in the 7 October attacks, and children were abducted and held hostage in Gaza, causing severe emotional and mental distress.

Destruction of schools and hospitals in Gaza has become the norm, not the exception,[2],[3] and children have suffered incalculable mental and physical harm. Parents in Gaza have told us about symptoms of extreme emotional distress and trauma in their children, including a perpetual state of fear, disordered eating, bedwetting, hyper-vigilance, and regression. An unknown number of children have been maimed, sustaining life-changing injuries, with most unable to get even the most basic treatment or pain management due to the obliterated health system.

The life-saving supplies upon which families across Gaza rely have either been drip-fed or systematically denied by Israel, while, concurrently, essential services have been decimated. Despite the horrifying and ever-rising number of children killed by direct hostilities, far more are likely to be killed by starvation and disease than by the bombardment.

As catastrophic as previous months of this war have proven, any expansion of military operations by Israel in Rafah would likely be the most fatal chapter yet for children and families alike. Over half the population of Gaza, including more than 610,000 children, have been crammed into a sliver of land that cannot accommodate them nor sustain life. There is nowhere in over-crowded Rafah to shelter from bombs, and nowhere else that families can flee to.  In short, children are trapped. In the event of an escalation in Rafah, there will unavoidably be a significant increase in grave violations against children, which have already been committed at an unparalleled rate.

Those responsible must be held to account. All parties to the conflict - including the Israeli Defense Forces, the Qassam Brigades (Hamas), and Islamic Jihad - must be added to the list of perpetrators of grave violations against children in armed conflict and commit to implementing immediate actions to ensure the protection of children. Accountability is essential to acknowledge the serious wrongs done to children, to break the cycles of violence and prevent further violations, and to rebuild peaceful societies based on the rule of law.

Ali*, who works for \ Save the Children partner, said: “Nobody is happy anymore. My children tell me, ‘We don’t want anything from the world, we just want to go home’.” But most cannot go home, as their homes have been destroyed.[4] Without an immediate ceasefire, many children will not be alive to return to whatever remains. Gaza’s children deserve – and have the right to expect - far more from the world.

An incursion into Rafah would sign the death warrant for Gaza’s children. Member states must not ignore their individual and collective responsibility to act and protect without delay. There must be a ceasefire now. There is no alternative.”


Note to editors

The six grave violations against children: the UN Security Council has identified six grave violations against children in situations of armed conflict: killing and maiming of children; recruitment or use of children in armed forces and groups; rape and other forms of sexual violence against children; abduction of children; attacks against schools and hospitals; and denial of humanitarian.

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[1] According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza X children have been killed since October 7 as of February 19th

[2] At least 55% of schools in Gaza will either need full reconstruction or major rehabilitation according to the Education Cluster.

[3] Insecurity Insight's latest report finds that at least 154 health workers have been killed, 227 arrested and health facilities damaged 155 times.  

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