Gaza Children Main Victims Of Israeli Atrocities Says Unicef

Palestinian children struggle to study in the open air after their school was bombed by Israeli forces
Palestinian children struggle to study in the open air after their school was bombed by Israeli forces

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) says children in the besieged Gaza Strip are the main victims of Israeli atrocities in the Palestinian territory, amid an escalation of violence perpetrated by the Tel Aviv regime against some 1.8 million inhabitants of the coastal enclave.

‘The escalating violence in Gaza has exacerbated the suffering of children whose lives have already been unbearably difficult for several years,’ said Geert Cappelaere, the regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at UNICEF, in a statement on Friday.

A UNICEF statement said: ‘Over the past five weeks, five children were killed and hundreds were injured in largely peaceful protests in Gaza. ‘Power cuts and shortages of fuel, medicine and equipment are straining an already fragile health system and complicating access to treatment for the injured. ‘In addition to physical injuries, children are showing signs of severe distress and trauma.

‘Yesterday, our UNICEF Special Representative visited a 14-year-old boy who suffered a gunshot wound, causing a severe injury close to his heart. ‘He is now home recovering after being in hospital for two weeks. ‘It is hard for him to be optimistic through the pain, but when he gets better, he wants to be a doctor, like the ones who helped him survive. ‘The escalating violence in Gaza has exacerbated the suffering of children whose lives have already been unbearably difficult for several years.

‘Half of all children depend on humanitarian assistance, and one in four needs psychosocial care. ‘Schools are overcrowded and operating on triple shifts, limiting children’s learning prospects. ‘The minimal power supply in Gaza has disrupted water and sanitation services, severely reducing the availability of drinking water – nine out of 10 families do not have regular access to safe water. ‘UNICEF continues its lifesaving assistance for children in health, water, sanitation, hygiene, education and protection. ‘UNICEF renews its calls for all those with influence to protect children and keep them out of harm’s way. ‘Children belong in schools, homes and playgrounds – they should never be targeted or encouraged to participate in violence.’

Late last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein called on Israeli forces to curb the use of ‘lethal force against unarmed demonstrators’ during protests.

He said: ‘The loss of life is deplorable, and the staggering number of injuries caused by live ammunition only confirms the sense that excessive force has been used against demonstrators – not once, not twice, but repeatedly.’

Al-Hussein added on April 28th four children were shot dead by Israeli forces, three of them killed by a bullet to the head or neck. Another 233 children were injured by live ammunition, some sustaining injuries causing lifelong disabilities including amputations. He said: ‘It is difficult to see how children, even those throwing stones, can present a threat of imminent death or serious injury to heavily protected security force personnel.’

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics says 15 Palestinian minors have been killed by Israeli soldiers since the beginning of this year.

Nearly 50 Palestinians have lost their lives in clashes with Israeli forces during protests along the Gaza border since March 30th. The Israeli regime has faced international criticism over its use of live fire.

The Palestinian rallies, known as the ‘Great March of Return,’ will last until May 15th, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of Nakba Day (Day of Catastrophe), when Israel was created. Every year on May 15th, Palestinians all over the world hold demonstrations to commemorate the day, which marks the anniversary of the forcible eviction of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland by Israelis in 1948.

Meanwhile, Palestinian civil society groups have accused the Giro d’Italia cycling race of covering up Israel’s war crimes in Gaza and its secret police’s repression against Giro protests. As the Giro d’Italia got underway in Jerusalem on Friday, Israeli forces were implementing a shoot-to-kill-or-maim policy, firing tear gas and live ammunition at Palestinian protesters in Gaza, wounding hundreds, 83 from live ammunition. Thousands have been injured since March 30th, many for life, including 21-year-old cyclist Alaa al-Daly, whose leg was amputated after being shot by Israeli snipers, ending his cycling career.

Elsewhere, Israel’s secret police was busy oppressing and threatening Palestinians engaged in protesting at the Giro d’Italia in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and within present-day Israel, despite race director Mauro Vegni’s assurances of no curbs on protests. Israeli secret police made threatening phone calls to Palestinian activists in the West Bank. An activist who received a phone call has given the following testimony:

‘They tried to pressure us by all means to prevent the protest but our response was clear.

‘We are planning legal, peaceful protest activities and do not need any permission from the police for them. We shall not ask (for any permission) as long as we are not required by law to do so. ‘I told them: “You are not partners in our decision-making, and we are not working with you to tell you what we decide. Your direct or indirect threats will not work”.’

The Israeli police will be closing down Palestinian towns along the Giro Stage 2 route for six full hours, according to a statement from the Tamra Popular Committee, a community grassroots organisation from the Palestinian town in the north of Israel.

Jewish towns in the same area will be closed for slightly over two hours, highlighting Israel’s racial discrimination against Palestinian citizens and what UN experts have described as its apartheid system. The Tamra Popular Committee condemned Giro’s sports-washing of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and asserted its right to peaceful protest.

The Giro route passes through tens of destroyed Palestinian villages and towns ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias and later the Israeli army during the 1948 Nakba. A key slogan raised by Palestinian refugees protesting at the Giro is, ‘Don’t trespass on our stolen land.’

In the occupied Palestinian West Bank, a group of Palestinian cyclists organised a peaceful protest ride from the city of Ramallah to Qalandia, where Israel’s sprawling military checkpoint and apartheid wall blocked their way.

Heavily armed Israeli forces detained one of the team leaders of Cycling Palestine, the organisers of the protest, for ‘trespassing,’ despite the event taking place on occupied Palestinian land. The day before the race started, Giro director Vegni claimed that there would be no restrictions placed on anyone and that ‘with regards to absolute freedom of expression, if anyone wants to protest they will do so.’

Sharaf Qutaifan of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel alleged: ‘To claim that somehow Israel’s well-oiled oppression machine would not be put into motion against Palestinians peacefully protesting at the Giro shows just how far the race organisers will go to sports-wash Israel’s record of violent human rights abuses.

‘Has Vegni not read about the dozens of Palestinians killed and thousands wounded, many for life, by Israel’s occupation forces in Gaza in the last few weeks? Did he really think Israeli forces would not crack down on Palestinians peacefully protesting the race? ‘As the race continues, in Israel and in Italy, together with supporters of our human rights, we will continue to shine a spotlight on Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights and to build our nonviolent resistance in pursuit of freedom, justice and equality.’

• The Palestinian Central Council (PCC), second in line to the top decision making body, the Palestinian National Council (PNC), is expected to convene after the holy month of Ramadan to start implementation of the PNC decisions, Jamal Muheisen, member of Fatah Central Committee, told Voice of Palestine radio on Saturday.

The PNC empowered the PCC in its last meeting that ended on Friday in Ramallah to carry out some of its work, including following up on Palestinian reconciliation. The PNC has also authorised the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to start taking actual steps to cut ties with Israel until the latter recognises the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.