Save the Children is gravely concerned by the serious escalation of violence between Israel and Palestinian armed groups, which so far has claimed the lives of six Palestinian children and injured at least 96 more inside the Gaza strip. Three Israeli adults were injured when rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel. Since 5th August forty Palestinian families are known to have been displaced, seeking safety.
Save the Children’s Country Director for the occupied Palestinian territory, Jason Lee, said:
“Children should never be collateral damage and there is no possible justification for children to pay the price of this new escalation with their lives and safety. Children must never be killed or maimed. This is a grave violation against children and perpetrators should be held to account for their actions.
“Our research earlier this year painted an alarming picture of children’s mental health in Gaza. It found that after 15 years of blockade and multiple cycles of violence from all parties to the conflict, *four out of five children in the Gaza Strip report that they live with depression, grief and fear and caregivers reported that three out of five are self-harming. With every airstrike or rocket launched, children’s sense of safety is ripped away yet again, with a devastating psychological toll. *
“The only way to truly protect children’s lives and wellbeing is for all parties to halt this violence and do everything in their power to de-escalate the situation immediately, and to seek a lasting and sustainable peace.”
Children in the region are still bearing the physical and emotional scars from last year’s escalation that killed 67 Palestinian children and two Israeli children, and injured scores more. Fifteen years of land, air and sea blockade, and multiple military escalations have left four out of five children in the Gaza Strip reporting that they live with depression, grief and fear, a Save the Children study found this year.
13-year-old Ziad* described his experiences in the previous escalation: “I was helping my parents in the house and my siblings were preparing for Eid… All of a sudden, we were bombed and my siblings’ body parts were scattered everywhere.”
The humanitarian situation for children in Gaza is already dire and will only worsen with this most recent escalation. Since Israel closed two crossings into Gaza on 2 August, fuel for the Strip’s sole power plant has not been allowed to enter, leaving families with just two hours of electricity a day in the stifling summer heat. The continued operation of essential services such as emergency departments and intensive care in hospitals, water supply to homes, sewage pumps, and designated shelters for displaced children and families is now under threat.
Save the Children is calling for an immediate de-escalation of hostilities by all parties to the conflict, to protect children’s lives and to prevent a deepening of the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip. It is essential to allow the unimpeded entry of essential supplies and fuel, as well as the safe passage of aid workers to reach children with the life-saving support they require.
The protection of civilians must be the absolute priority of parties to the conflict. All parties must avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas, which threatens severe harm to civilians and poses unique risks to children.
Save the Children calls on all parties and the international community to support a just resolution to the conflict that is firmly rooted in international law, upholds equality and guarantees the safety of all children in the region. Only a negotiated agreement between all parties to the conflict will bring about a lasting peace and promote dignity and security for both Israelis and Palestinians - and ensure a better future for both Israeli and Palestinian children.
Notes to editors:
1 Gaza Ministry of Health
· The closure of the occupied Gaza Strip, in its current form, has been in place since June 2007, when Israel imposed a blockade on the area to isolate Gaza from the West Bank and Israel by controlling the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza. Israel controls Gaza’s airspace and territorial waters, as well as two of the three border crossing points; the third is controlled by Egypt.
· Egypt should also fulfil its third-state obligations under international humanitarian law to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance.
· While the Israeli occupation, including the ongoing blockade, remains the main driver of the crisis, the political division between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the de-facto authorities in Gaza must also be urgently addressed to alleviate the suffering of civilians in Gaza.