Israeli forces have killed more than 12,300 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip in just over four months, a frightening toll that is likely to rise as the Netanyahu government steps up its assault on the crowded city of Rafah and prepares for an invasion.
New figures presented by the Gaza Strip health authorities The Associated Press show that since October 7, children account for around 43% of the total fatalities in the Palestinian enclave. According to the new data, women and children together account for three quarters of deaths.
“Are they ‘Hamas’?” Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch, asked Reacting to the figures, he pointed to Israel’s claim that it is targeting militants, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
An Amnesty International report released Monday examines four recent Israeli airstrikes on Rafah. Amnesty said that “in all four attacks” it found no evidence that the residential buildings hit could be considered legitimate military targets or that the people in the buildings were military targets.
Nearly all of Gaza’s more than one million children have been traumatized in some way by Israel’s months-long war in Gaza: About 17,000 have been separated from their families, more than 1,000 have had one or both legs amputated and more than 610,000 are currently trapped in Rafah, one small town that was once considered a relatively safe zone for people fleeing Israeli bombs and bullets.
“Israel is wiping out generations in Gaza and its soldiers are killing scores of children, rivaling the cruelest wars,” Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote in a column last month. “This will not and cannot be forgotten. How can a people ever forget those who killed their children in this way? How can people of conscience around the world remain silent?”
“This is the most difficult test of all. Will they uphold international law and children’s right to life? Or will they watch as more children’s lives, bodies and futures are decimated?”
Children were among dozens of Palestinians killed in a wave of Israeli airstrikes on Monday as US-armed Israel Defense Forces raided a residential building to rescue two hostages.
Jason Lee, Save the Children’s country director for the occupied Palestinian territories, said last week that “much of the international community has so far failed the test of its commitment to protecting children.”
“This is the hardest test of all,” Lee said of Rafah. “Will they uphold international law and children’s right to life? Or will they watch as more children’s lives, bodies and futures are decimated?”
The United Nations Children’s Fund, known as UNICEF, also appealed to the international community to take action to prevent a catastrophe for children and others in Rafah.
“We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and the safe and immediate release of all hostages – especially children – who have suffered so much,” UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell said on Friday. “A humanitarian ceasefire will save lives. It will enable an expansion of humanitarian assistance and help ensure the best possible protection for children whose lives and futures are at stake.”