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More than 20,000 Palestinian children missing or dead in Gaza

More than 20,000 Palestinian children missing or dead in Gaza
3 min read
24 June, 2024
Israel has waged indiscriminate attacks on the population of Gaza which has killed and injured thousands of children while leaving others as orphans.
Save the Children has called on the UK government to do all in its power to protect children in Gaza [GETTY]

Some 21,000 Palestinian children are considered missing in Gaza, a leading children's charity said on Monday as Israel's brutal offensive kills thousands of children and leaves many more orphaned.

Save the Children estimates that 17,000 children in Gaza have been separated from their parents and left unaccompanied while 4,000 are believed to be dead under the rubble of the besieged territory.

In eight months of war, Israel's sea, land and air attacks have laid waste to swathes of the enclave, killed at least 37,600 people and made the majority of the 2.3 million population homeless.

The UN estimates that 10,000 people are believed to be buried under the rubble in Gaza with 40 percent of these believed to be children.

Humanitarians have warned for months that Gaza's children are among the most vulnerable, with thousands facing malnutrition, disease and long-term psychological damage.

The British charity is calling on the UK government to immediately halt the transfer of weapons, parts and ammunition to Israel and armed Palestinian groups.

The aid agency said its teams in Gaza called for an urgent response to protect separated and unaccompanied children as the security situation continues to bring danger.

A Save the Children child protection specialist said: "Every day we find more unaccompanied children and every day it is harder to support them."

"Neighbours and extended family members who have taken in lone children are struggling to meet their basic needs, such as shelter, food, and water. Many are with strangers - or completely alone - increasing the risk of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect."

Only one month into the war, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that Gaza was becoming "a graveyard for children".

"Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children. Hundreds of girls and boys are reportedly being killed or injured every day," Guterres said.

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At that point, Gaza's health authorities said the death toll was around 10,000.

The charity also warned that an "unknown number" of children had been detained by Israel and transferred out of Gaza.

In February, the UN Human Rights office said they had received accounts of Palestinian women and girls being arbitrarily executed in Gaza and have been subject to sexual assault by male Israeli army officers.

The human rights experts noted that they had heard "disturbing reports of at least one female infant forcibly transferred by the Israeli army into Israel, and of children being separated from their parents, whose whereabouts remain unknown".

In the occupied West Bank, 250 children are currently detained by Israel alongside reports of ill-treatment, according to Palestinian NGO Addameer. Families have reported being left in the dark about their child’s whereabouts and visits have been restricted since October.

Last month, the UN added Israel to an international 'list of shame' for countries that harm children in armed conflicts. The UN chief said he was shocked by the "unprecedented number of children killed and maimed by the Israeli army and security forces in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem."

The UN attributed the deaths of 8,700 Palestinian children to Israel from 2015 to 2022. The Gaza war will see that figure skyrocket.