Geneva - SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties stated that children in the Gaza Strip are the primary victims of the Israeli aggression carried out by the army since October 8th. The aggression has targeted all vital sectors in the besieged region. The organization pointed out that the violations and assaults by the Israeli army have had the greatest impact in threatening the rights of Palestinian civilians, especially children, without any real international action to provide the full protection mandated by international laws and conventions.
In a statement issued today, Monday, coinciding with the "World Children's Day" observed on November 20th of each year, the organization highlighted that the multiple violations against children documented by human rights organizations and international bodies amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. These violations include deliberate killings, forced displacement of families, direct targeting of hospitals and civilian infrastructure, and the prevention of entry of medicines and medical supplies into the Gaza Strip. These actions have resulted in the death and injury of thousands of children since the beginning of the aggression on the Gaza Strip.
Figures announced by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip reveal a significant and dangerous increase in violations directed at children, with 5,500 children killed by Israeli raids out of 13,000 Palestinians killed since October 7, while more than 9,000 children were injured, half of them seriously in need of treatment abroad.
According to the statement by UNICEF, a Palestinian child in the Gaza Strip is being killed every ten minutes, as the Israeli army continues its ongoing air and ground attacks. Most of the killings and injuries to children occur inside their homes, with their mothers and families, as houses are directly targeted without any prior warning. Information provided by the Gaza Government Media Office indicates that more than 4,000 children are missing under the rubble. The Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported over 1,330 mass massacres of families in Gaza since the beginning of the Israeli occupation aggression.
On the healthcare front, the organization has observed a grave development that has contributed to the deepening violations against children in the Gaza Strip. This development involves the incursion of Israeli military forces into hospitals in the Gaza Strip, particularly Al-Shifa Hospital, which is one of the largest hospitals in the region, as well as Rantisi Children's Hospital and Al-Quds Hospital. Over the past few weeks, the Israeli occupying army has threatened the evacuation of these hospitals, shelled their surroundings, and targeted them with projectiles. They have also cut off electricity and prevented the entry of medical supplies and medications, including Red Cross vehicles carrying medicines. Upon invading the hospitals, the occupying forces have destroyed numerous equipment and departments and have threatened those present inside the hospitals, including displaced children and women. As a result, the displaced and medical staff currently reside in these hospitals under uncertain conditions due to the presence of the Israeli army.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza appealed to the international community to urgently save the lives of patients, especially children. Currently, there are around 35 newborn infants in critical condition, known as "Khadaj," facing the threat of death due to the lack of electricity and oxygen. The Ministry emphasized that this number has decreased after the deaths of four children, which occurred before the eyes of the international community without any action or pressure on the Israeli army. The current situation requires immediate intervention to ensure the necessary healthcare for children and protect them from existing threats.
The Ministry of Health also expressed concern about the risks facing pregnant women due to the lack of basic healthcare conditions for childbirth, coupled with the targeting of hospitals and the overcrowding of patients and injured individuals in those facilities. On a daily basis, approximately 180 Palestinian women give birth, and around 20% of them require special care that cannot be provided due to the ongoing Israeli aggression. The Ministry is deeply concerned about the well-being and safety of pregnant women in such circumstances.
At the shelter and adequate housing level, hundreds of thousands of children have been deprived of housing and are now living in the open after losing their homes either partially or completely. The indiscriminate Israeli shelling has led to the total destruction of approximately 10,000 residential buildings, including 43,000 units that were completely destroyed, as well as over 225,000 units that were partially destroyed. Reports indicate that the percentage of buildings that have been completely or partially destroyed or damaged currently stands at around 45% of the total buildings in the Gaza Strip. The scale of destruction is immense, and the impact on children and their access to safe and adequate housing is severe.
The figures released by the Government Media Office in Gaza indicate that more than 1.5 million people in Gaza have become displaced. Among them, 813,000 displaced individuals are seeking shelter in 154 UNRWA-run centers. These UNRWA shelters are accommodating far more people than their intended capacity.
The overcrowding has led to the spread of diseases, including acute respiratory infections and diarrhea, raising environmental and health concerns and affecting the agency's ability to ensure the provision of efficient and timely services. Local testimonies and appeals monitored by the organization through social media platforms from various organizations have shown that these areas are on the verge of explosion and famine due to Israel's closure of commercial crossings and restrictions on the entry of goods, humanitarian aid, and fuel through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing, except in very limited quantities.
The population and displaced individuals, including children, are suffering from a shortage of clean drinking water, food, and medical supplies. Hospitals in those areas have declared a state of extreme emergency and warned of an imminent humanitarian catastrophe due to the depletion of essential medicines and the high number of casualties and injuries. There is a fear of the spread of infectious and dangerous diseases due to the lack of sanitary conditions among the displaced population, especially children. The situation calls for urgent and immediate intervention to address the critical humanitarian needs and prevent further deterioration of the health and well-being of the affected population, particularly the children.
Psychologically, children in Gaza are suffering from psychological trauma and recurring panic attacks due to the bombings, witnessing killings, and daily injuries. This creates significant difficulty in the likelihood of recovery for children affected by psychological stress and repeated panic episodes. The recent war on Gaza was indeed the most intense among the wars waged by the occupying army on the Gaza Strip. According to studies conducted and published by Al Jazeera on October 17, 2023, the vast majority of children in Gaza have witnessed the bombing of their homes and entire residential neighborhoods. They have been forced, on numerous occasions, to stay confined inside their homes due to the conditions of war. More than half of them have witnessed the bodies of martyrs with their own eyes, and some have experienced periods of deprivation of water and food, among other shocking conditions and events that even adults find distressing.
According to measurements of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms using internationally recognized assessment tools, which include questions about symptoms such as distressing nightmares, intrusive memories, sleep difficulties, and others, it was found that 275 children met clear criteria and exhibited symptoms of the disorder more than others.
SAM emphasizes that what has been mentioned in its statement is only a small part of the magnitude and brutality of the violations suffered by civilians in the Gaza Strip, especially children. It expresses concern about the potential collapse of the remaining essential systems within the territory, given the continued unjustified and alarming silence from the international community, which adopts a spectator stance regarding the plight of children in the Gaza Strip.
"SAM" emphasizes that the situation experienced by children in the Gaza Strip, compared to their counterparts in other countries, reflects the true extent of the threat directed towards these children. It confirms that Palestinian childhood has been violated in multiple aspects, including the right to life, safety, and physical well-being. Additionally, there is a violation of Palestinian children's right to live among their family members, as many Palestinian children who survived the bombings have become orphaned, losing their parents and siblings in moments, due to the airstrikes. Moreover, there are violations of children's rights concerning nutrition, education, and healthcare, along with their need for psychological support due to the terrifying sounds and relentless airstrikes they have experienced.
The human rights organization states that the ongoing violations and attacks by the Israeli army constitute a serious and explicit violation of international legal principles that provide for the special protection of children, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, as well as the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Geneva Conventions (particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention), the Hague Rules of Armed Conflict, and the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. "SAM" confirms without a doubt that the Israeli army has violated all of these previous agreements, which poses a threat to international peace and security, a responsibility entrusted to the United Nations Security Council, which has not taken any effective and executive steps up to this moment.
The organization emphasizes that the continued negative role of the international community and its unethical and inhumane silence regarding the massacres against children and civilians in the Gaza Strip serves as a green light for the Israeli killing machine to intensify its crimes and violations. It affirms that the international community is also complicit in these crimes due to its silence and the stance of its governments, which grant Israel the right to kill innocent people under the pretext of self-defense.
In conclusion, "SAM" calls for the urgent action of the international community, including UN and international institutions, child protection organizations, to exert pressure on Israel to immediately cease its military attacks without any conditions. It also urges the opening of a safe international corridor to ensure the entry of humanitarian aid and medical supplies. At the same time, it calls on international judicial bodies, especially the International Criminal Court, to expedite their work and initiate an urgent investigation into the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Israeli army against children and civilians in the Gaza Strip. It further emphasizes the need to prosecute the leaders and soldiers of the Israeli army for the massacres they have committed, which are a stain on humanity.