Amidst the backdrop of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a grim reality looms large: the systematic targeting of Palestinian children by the Israeli regime. This disturbing pattern of violence has been repeatedly documented by human rights organisations and the United Nations, yet it continues unabated, leaving a trail of devastation and trauma.
The recent attacks on Gaza have brought the plight of Palestinian children into sharp focus. Israeli airstrikes have indiscriminately targeted homes, hospitals, and schools, leaving thousands of children dead, injured and displaced. The survivors bear the scars from these attacks as they grapple with the loss of loved ones, the destruction of their homes, and the constant fear of further violence.
According to a UN report quoting Gaza’s government media office, an estimated 5,500 children have been killed in the Gaza Strip since October 7 in widespread airstrikes by the Israeli military. Hundreds more are reported missing and may be trapped under the rubble. In the days after October 7, one child in Gaza was killed every 10 minutes during the Israeli bombing of the city.
Beyond the immediate casualties, the Israeli regime’s policies have had a profound and lasting impact on the physical and mental well-being of Palestinian children. They have no access to proper healthcare, education and psychological support.
A recent report in The Guardian quotes a Palestinian psychiatrist, saying that children have “started to develop serious trauma symptoms such as convulsions, bed-wetting, fear, aggressive behaviour, nervousness, and not leaving their parents’ sides”.
In addition to the attacks, the hostage exchange accord has shed light on Israel’s appalling practice of detaining Palestinian minors without charge or trial. These children are subjected to abuse, torture and mistreatment while in detention. Such actions violate international conventions and human rights. Similarly, detentions have a long-term impact on their mental and emotional well-being. The international community must condemn these actions and press for the immediate release of arbitrarily detained Palestinian minors.
According to a report published by Save the Children prior to the ongoing escalation, about 500-700 Palestinian children were detained by the Israeli military every year. Between 7 October and 3 November, 145 Palestinian children were detained by Israeli military authorities.
Palestinian children are the only children in the world who are systematically prosecuted in military courts. Denying children legal representation and family visitors, are both longstanding measures imposed by Israeli authorities, the report says.
Protecting the rights of children must remain the responsibility of the international community. The traditions of justice, equality, and respect for human rights compel nations to stand against such egregious violations. It is crucial for all nations to play an active role in holding those responsible for the targeting, abuse, and mistreatment of Palestinian children directly accountable for their actions.
International bodies, such as the United Nations and its affiliated agencies, should initiate thorough investigations into these violations. These investigations should aim to gather evidence, compile comprehensive reports, and determine legal avenues to bring perpetrators to justice. Additionally, the international community must exert diplomatic and economic pressure on Israel to cease the targeting and abuse of Palestinian children.