Schools closed and children too terrified to sleep as new round of violence hits Gaza
Ahmed*, 10 was injured in his leg after his home was hit by shelling in Gaza during the May 2021 escalation [Mohamed Nayef/ Save the Children]
GAZA, 11 May, 2023 – A new round of violence in the Gaza Strip spilling over into southern Israel is threatening children's safety and risks compounding an existing mental health crisis with parents reporting children are unable to sleep and fear for their lives, Save the Children said.
In the last three days, at least 25 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli airstrikes, including six children, and at least 76 wounded, according to Palestinian health officials . At least 400 rockets have been fired from Gaza in response to the airstrikes which Israel said were targeting the leaders of a militant group. 25 Israelis have sustained injuries[i].
The new round of violence comes two years after a similar escalation in violence resulted in the deaths of 67 Palestinian children and two Israeli children.
Children and their families trapped in blockaded Gaza are sheltering in their homes, with schools, universities, public and private facilities closed. Following rockets launched from Gaza into southern Israel, citizens living in towns along the Gaza perimeter fence have received instructions to evacuate or remain inside.
With the Israeli-controlled Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings closed, humanitarian personnel and essential goods such as medicines, food, and fuel cannot enter into Gaza.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the closure of the crossings has so far prevented 292 patients from accessing essential medical treatment in hospitals outside of Gaza, including 15 patients in need of urgent, potentially life-saving, treatment.[ii] In 2022, at least three children died due to the denial of permits to receive treatment in hospitals outside the Gaza Strip.[iii]
This is the sixth escalation of violence in 16 years for children in Gaza who live under a land, air, and sea blockade imposed by the government of Israel. Children make up 47% of Gaza’s population of two million, with over 800,000 having no experience of life without the blockade.
A 2022 Save the Children report found that 15 years of life under blockade had left four out of five children in the Gaza Strip reporting that they live with depression, grief and fear. The new escalation is likely to trigger traumatic memories for many children in Gaza who have endured rounds of death and destruction, suffered life-changing injuries, or lost loved ones in previous escalations.
Jason Lee, Save the Children's Country Director for the occupied Palestinian territory, said:
"It is an unimaginably difficult time for children in Gaza. Our research has clearly shown that most children were already suffering the consequences of 16 years of blockade and relentless cycles of violence. With every hour that passes without a ceasefire, children’s suffering is likely to be compounded – with potentially catastrophic consequences.
“The government of Israel must immediately open all crossings into Gaza to enable life-saving humanitarian assistance to those who need it, including access to specialist healthcare.
“Parents are telling us that children cannot sleep at night, that they are struggling to comfort them, not knowing if they'll be alive tomorrow. We urge the international community to use their influence to bring this situation back from the brink. There must be an immediate cessation of hostilities to protect all children."
Notes to Editors
[i] According to Barzilai Medical Centre in Ashkelon, 25 Israeli adults have sustained injuries, including 10 who received treatment for anxiety, and 15 who were lightly injured.
[ii] The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed that by closing Erez , Israeli authorities prevented 292 patients (mostly cancer patients) and their companions, in addition to 15 life-saving cases, from leaving Gaza to receive treatment in hospitals in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Israel.
[iii] According to the Mezan Center for Human Rights, four patients, including three children, have died between January-September 2022 due to the denial of necessary permits for them to receive treatment in hospitals outside the Gaza Strip.