November 20, marks World Children’s Day, presenting an opportunity to spotlight the plight of Gaza children who have tragically become primary targets in Israel’s ongoing and widely condemned massacre. Alarmingly, despite global outcry, a prevailing sense of astonishment persists as international organizations continue to falter in halting this egregious “crime against humanity”.
Simultaneously commemorating World Children’s Day, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has somberly disclosed the harrowing news of two additional schools being struck by Israel amidst the escalating conflict in Gaza. Reports from the United Nations Population Fund paint a distressing picture, revealing that a staggering 70% of the 13,000 lives lost in the Gaza war thus far have been those of Palestinian women and children.
Further disheartening estimations indicate that since October 7, over 5,000 children have succumbed to Israeli shelling and fire in Gaza, with many more enduring the profound trauma of losing their caregivers and facing displacement and destitution.
Equally distressing is the confirmation from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) that over 400 children suffer injuries or lose their lives daily due to relentless Israeli assaults on Gaza. Compounded by the decimation of crucial infrastructure, particularly the vital healthcare facilities, the resulting dearth of essential medical provisions accentuates the plight of war-affected children.
For those who have managed to evade the fatal consequences of the conflict, the relentless hardships they endure include homelessness, scarcity of potable water and adequate sustenance, detention, disabilities, physical and psychological ailments, as well as systemic neglect.
Furthermore, a poignant reckoning beckons, accounting for the untold number of unborn infants imperiled by the ravages of war, those born prematurely due to the dire conditions, grappling with enduring deficiencies, or tragically succumbing to the absence of accessible medical services.
The roster of victimized youth in Gaza is compounded further by those deprived of their right to education. In a cruelly consistent tactic, Israel’s military campaigns, including the present conflict in Gaza, have ruthlessly targeted schools and medical facilities, exacting a devastating toll on innocent children.
As civilians sought refuge within UN-affiliated schools to escape the onslaught, the wanton destruction of 88 educational institutions by Israel during the current conflict stands as a haunting testament to the relentless brutality. Tragically, the bombing of al-Fakhora school in Jabalia camp on November 18 claimed over 200 lives, including those within UNRWA-affiliated schools in northern Gaza.
In the wake of the bombing of al-Ahli Hospital on October 17, a distressing pattern of targeted destruction has emerged, laying waste to hundreds of educational and medical centers, water and food production and distribution facilities, with children bearing the brunt of these distressing losses. The chilling scenes captured prior to the bombing of Al-Ahli Hospital encapsulated the carefree innocence of children at play, cruelly juxtaposed against the horrors that befell them.
Regrettably, not even the global outcry following the tragic massacre at al-Ahli hospital succeeded in curbing Israel’s relentless onslaught in Gaza, instead enshrining such atrocities as a distressingly commonplace occurrence in times of conflict.
In a chilling escalation of brutality, Israel’s recent targeting of an Indonesian hospital in Gaza resulted in the tragic loss of Palestinian lives, including innocent children, underscoring the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe.
While November 20 signifies the anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 and the subsequent ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, known as World Children’s Day, the sanctity of these fundamental rights, encompassing life, education, healthcare, shelter, protection from violence and torture, is being systematically eroded for the children of Gaza.
Should these innocent children survive the present conflict, they face the grim prospect of enduring a lifetime overshadowed by the denial of these basic rights, perennial fear, and the enduring trauma of war and terror.