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Israel/Gaza Hostilities Take Horrific Toll on Children

UN Chief Should Add Israel and Palestinian Armed Groups to ‘List of Shame’

Palestinian children stand amid the rubble of destroyed buildings in Al-Bureij camp, Gaza, on October 29, 2023 following Israeli airstrikes. © 2023 Mohammed Talatene/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

An estimated 5,500 children have been killed in the Gaza Strip since October 7, according to Gaza’s government media office, amid widespread airstrikes by the Israeli military. Hundreds more are reported missing and may be trapped under the rubble. Since October 7, one child in Gaza has been killed every 10 minutes on average.

In the Hamas-led October 7 attack on Israel, at least 33 children were killed, and Palestinian armed groups abducted an estimated 40 children as hostages.

In the face of mounting violations against children, international rights advocates recently called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to immediately add Israeli forces, the al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’ armed wing), and Islamic Jihad to his “list of shame,” rather than wait until his regular annual report next year. The “list of shame” names governments and nongovernmental armed groups responsible for grave violations against children in armed conflict, including killing and maiming, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and denial of humanitarian access.

Guterres on November 6 said that “Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children.” In the occupied West Bank, Israeli security forces and settlers have killed an additional 53 Palestinian children since October 7.

Israeli airstrikes have hit schools, hospitals, and ambulances in Gaza, resulting in civilian casualties. At least 300 schools have been damaged and 183 teachers killed. The World Health Organization has reported that at least 553 people have been killed in 178 attacks on medical facilities in Gaza between October 7 and November 21, and that the majority of hospitals in Gaza are no longer functional.

Israel’s blockade of water, food, medical supplies, electricity and fuel, and denial of all but a trickle of humanitarian assistance into Gaza amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population that poses further grave risks to children.

Adding parties to the list will not immediately protect children, but is an important mechanism for accountability and requires parties to adopt concrete action plans to end their violations.

For years, the secretary-general has resisted adding Israel and Palestinian armed groups to his “list of shame.” Now, he really has no choice.


This dispatch has been updated to remove a comparison between child deaths reported in Gaza by Gaza’s government media office and global child deaths in armed conflict verified by the United Nations.

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