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Gaza's children are living in hell or buried beneath rubble

'One Palestinian child is killed every 10 minutes': Israel has turned Gaza into a graveyard for thousands of children
5 min read
02 November, 2023
Gaza's children are bearing the brunt of Israel's bombs. Over 4,000 children have been killed by Israeli attacks since October 7. While the West continues to debate proportionality, Gaza's children will continue to die.

More than 4,000 children in Gaza have already been killed since Israel’s deadliest assault began on October 7.

That number continues to grow at an alarming rate and while the Western leaders of the world, including UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and US President Biden, vehemently condemn Hamas and incorrectly back claims of Israeli babies being beheaded, little to nothing has been said about the children living through this genocide in Gaza.

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Of the 10,812 people killed in Gaza since October 7, around 40% of them have been children.

With children making up 50% of the Palestinian population in Gaza it was inevitable that they would bear the brunt of Israel’s aggressions.

Earlier last month Israeli forces unleashed unprecedented attacks in Gaza, which included airstrikes over hospitals and schools, the use of white phosphorus and cutting off water and electricity supply within the Gaza region.

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This has left families and children in Palestine devastated, and with blockades put up for aid intervention it is likely that if the bombs don’t kill them, the lack of water and food will.

The UN also reported that a third of hospitals across the Gaza Strip are no longer operational due to electricity cuts and a “total siege” by the Government of Israel blocking entry of goods such as fuel and medicine.

According to Medicins Sans Frontiers/Doctors without Borders, resulting anaesthesia shortages have meant amputating children without pain relief.

James Elder, a spokesperson for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) explained: “More than one million children of Gaza have a water crisis. Gaza’s water production capacity is a mere 5% of its usual daily output. Child deaths – particularly infants – to dehydration are a growing threat.” 

Nesma, a member of UNICEF, who lives and works in Gaza has two children – four-year-old Talia, and seven-year-old Zain. “It breaks my heart to see children around me strive for a cup of clean water and cannot find it,” she said to The New Arab. “Zain keeps asking for regular water.”

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The statistics speak for themselves – since October 7, approximately 420 children have been killed every day. 

The death toll is likely to be higher as hundreds of children in Gaza are also missing, believed to be buried under rubble of bombed buildings.

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More than 6,000 children have also been injured by Israel’s attacks, suffering from lost limbs and shrapnel wounds. Yet there is little to no medical care available, following Israel’s bombing of hospitals and siege stopping access to critical medical supplies.

“Our gravest fears about the reported numbers of children killed becoming dozens, then hundreds, and ultimately thousands were realised in just a fortnight,” added James Elder.

“The numbers are appalling; reportedly more than 3,450 children killed; staggeringly this rises significantly every day.”

Save the Children Country Director in the occupied Palestinian territory, Jason Lee, added, “Three weeks of violence have ripped children from families and torn through their lives at an unimaginable rate. The numbers are harrowing and with violence not only continuing but expanding in Gaza right now, many more children remain at grave risk.”

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For the children who do survive these attacks, the future looks bleak as they face untold physical and emotional trauma, PTSD and the reality of being orphaned.

According to UNICEF, a 2018 report found that one in four Palestinian children needed psychological support. Another report by Save the Children found that four out of five Palestinian children are living with depression, grief, and fear.

Another 2021 report by the Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor found that 91% of children in Palestine were diagnosed with PTSD. 

The targeting and killing of children are not something new for the IDF. In 2014 Israeli naval forces targeted and killed four Palestinian boys while they played on a Gaza City beach, according to documentation collected by DCIP.

An Israeli gunboat first struck a container near the harbour, killing Ismail Mohammad Bakr, 9. A second explosion struck the other boys as they ran to safety, killing Ahed Itaf Bakr, 9, Zakaria Ahed Bakr, 10, and Mohammad Ramez Bakr, 11.

Four other boys sustained serious injuries in the attack.

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Nesma’s youngest child, four-year-old Talia has started to show severe symptoms of stress and fear and is now self-harming, such as ripping her hair off and scratching her thighs until they bleed. 

“I don’t have the luxury to think about my children’s mental health,” says Nesma. “I keep telling myself, ‘Nesma, keep them alive.’ And when all of this ends, I will provide them with mental support and medical care.”

The number of child deaths continues to grow yet the UK and US governments vehemently refuse to call for a ceasefire – something Elder believes is the only way forward: “We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. All access crossings into Gaza must be opened for safe, sustained and unimpeded access to humanitarian aid, including water, food, medical supplies, and fuel.

“And if there is no ceasefire, no water, no medicine, and no release of abducted children? Then we hurtle towards even greater horrors afflicting innocent children.”

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Lee, who also calls on the UK government to demand a ceasefire says: "One child’s death is one too many, but these are grave violations of epic proportions.

"A ceasefire is the only way to ensure their safety. The international community must put people before politics – every day spent debating is leaving children killed and injured. Children must be protected at all times, especially when they are seeking safety in schools and hospitals."

Sami Rahman is a freelance writer based in London

Follow her on Twitter: @bysamirahman