More than 250 children in Gaza shot with live ammunition as protests escalate
Hundreds of children, some as young as eight years old, have been shot by live ammunition in the Gaza protests, an analysis by Save the Children has shown.
Out of more than 500 detailed injuries in children, at least 250 (some 50 percent) were hit with live bullets, according to data collected by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, which is also being used by the United Nations in its reporting.
The true number could be even higher. The Ministry have reported that so far 689 children have been injured, however the details of these injuries have not yet been revealed.
Almost 8,000 people, including almost 700 children, have been injured in protests since 30 March. This includes 4,150 people (52 per cent) who were hospitalized and 2,017 (25 per cent) were shot with live ammunition. There have been no reported injuries on the Israeli side but it has been reported that there have been Palestinian attempts to cross illegally cross into Israel. Protestors have also flown kites over the border wall, which have at times had flammable materials attached.
“All parties must ensure that children are protected in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and other relevant international law. We are deeply concerned by the high number of children who have been hit by live ammunition and we agree with the High Commissioner for Human Rights that this could suggest an excessive use of force and may amount to unlawful killing and maiming,” said Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s Country Director for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
“We support the UN Secretary General’s call for independent investigations to be carried out and any perpetrators to be held to account. We strongly urge all protests to remain peaceful, and call on all sides to tackle the long-term causes of this conflict and promote dignity and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Through MAAN Development Center, a partner NGO on the ground that provides psychological support and referral services to the injured, Save the Children has reached more than 200 children, including more than 125 of those who have been shot with live ammunition.
MAAN has prioritised the most severe cases and found that children have been repeatedly shot in the legs, arms and even chest, head, and neck, with dozens of new injuries happening every week.
Conditions in hospitals are rapidly deteriorating with children often being discharged early to make room for new patients expected to arrive in the next wave of protests.
“Gaza has been under an Israeli air, sea and land blockade for more than 10 years and has suffered three wars from which it has never fully recovered,” said Moorehead.
The stalled reconciliation process between the Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank and the de facto authority in Gaza have further deepened the economic and social distress of children and their families in Gaza, with power cuts across the strip and salary cuts of thousands of PA employees. A general reduction in donor assistance and the pending cuts to the UNRWA budget have compounded people’s woes.
“This has meant an already very difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza has gone from bad to worse with almost every aspect of life - from employment, education and electricity to health and sanitation – being negatively impacted,” said Moorehead.
“The result has been devastating for the children of Gaza – physically and psychologically. Many have been injured, and many more have seen their parents or loved ones either hurt at the protests, or suffering increasing hardship in their daily lives.
“Save the Children is deeply concerned at the prospect of further violence and we fear that even more children could be injured or lose their lives.
“Children and families are telling our staff that they are losing hope of conditions ever improving in Gaza. We’re calling for an urgent lifting of the Israeli blockade that has crippled the economy and for increased donor engagement to alleviate the urgent daily needs of almost two million people in Gaza.”
Notes to editors
Protests in Gaza are scheduled to culminate on 15 May when a general strike has been called in the Strip to mark Israeli Independence Day also known as the Nakba or “catastrophe” by Palestinians who found themselves displaced by the ensuing conflict.
Some 1.3 million of Gaza’s 1.9 million inhabitants are refugees or are descendant from those who were displaced by the fighting that broke out 70 years ago.
Save the Children is one of the largest non-governmental organisations working in Gaza, addressing the immediate humanitarian and long-term development needs of children and adults. We have over 30 years of experience on the ground and currently implement programs in the areas of education, child protection, livelihoods and economic opportunities, and psychosocial health. We also provide some water and sanitation services and work through partners to provide a range of other services.