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Israel Joins UN ‘List of Shame’ for Abuses Against Children in War

UN Chief Also Lists Palestinian Armed Groups, Russia, Sudanese Forces

People salvage belongings amid the rubble of a damaged building following strikes on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, November 12, 2023. © 2023 Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images

For the first time, the United Nations secretary-general added the Israeli armed forces to the “list of shame” of warring parties committing grave violations against children in armed conflict. Although long overdue, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ action was fully justified.

The UN had already attributed more than 8,700 child casualties to Israeli forces between 2015 and 2022. But in 2023, the scale of violations was apparently too large for the secretary-general to ignore.

His new report found Israeli forces responsible for 5,698 violations, including the killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals. He also noted over 23,000 reported but unverified grave violations by all sides against 3,900 Israeli children and 19,887 Palestinian children.

Guterres also added Palestinian armed groups to his list for the first time, including Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (116 violations) and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades (21 violations) for killing and maiming children and abductions.

This year’s report is grim reading. The UN verified 30,705 grave violations globally in 2023, an increase of 21 percent from the year before. The number of children killed or maimed increased by 35 percent over 2022. The report’s violations also include the recruitment and use of children as soldiers, sexual violence, abduction, attacks against schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access.

Two-thirds of the global total occurred in six countries: Israel/Palestine, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Nigeria, and Sudan. In Myanmar, for example, junta forces were responsible for the documented recruitment and use of 1,171 children, 10 times the number recorded in 2022. In Sudan, violations spiked as the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces committed widespread atrocities, notably in Darfur and Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.

This year’s list again includes Russia, which was first included last year for violations against children in Ukraine, including killing and maiming and attacks on hundreds of schools and hospitals. Retaining Russia on the list sends a message that even permanent UN Security Council members should be accountable for their abuses.

Listed parties may be subject to UN sanctions and must implement an action plan to end violations to be removed.

For years, human rights groups have called out the secretary-general for omitting some parties from the “list of shame” despite evidence of violations in UN reports. This year, Secretary-General Guterres has done the right thing. Now it’s up to the Security Council to hold those responsible to account and make clear that children are off-limits in armed conflict.

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