Gaza has become a 'graveyard' for children, UN says

Gaza has become a ‘graveyard’ for children, UN says

U.N. relief chief Martin Griffiths, who visited Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, spoke by phone to Gaza families from East Jerusalem on Tuesday and said what they have endured since the start of Israeli retaliation to the deadly Hamas attacks of October 7 is “more than devastating”.

“When an eight-year-old tells you she doesn’t want to die, it’s hard not to feel helpless,” he wrote on the social platform X.

Families of hostages “live in agony”

On Monday, Mr. Griffiths met in Jerusalem with family members of some of the more than 230 hostages held in Gaza since October 7, around 30 of whom are believed to be children.

The UN humanitarian chief said that for several weeks, these families “have been living in agony, not knowing whether their loved ones are dead or alive”, and that he could not “begin to imagine” what they are going through.

The United Nations has repeatedly called for the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages.

The idea of ​​children buried under rubble is unbearable

According to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, more than 3,450 children have been killed in Gaza, James Elder, spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday. .

Another 1,000 children are missing and may be trapped or dead under the rubble, awaiting rescue or recovery, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said it was “unbearable to think of children buried under rubble with very little possibility of getting them out.”

Decades of trauma ahead

“The threats go beyond bombs and mortars,” said James Elder of UNICEF. Infant deaths due to dehydration pose “a growing threat” in the enclave, as Gaza’s water production is only 5% of the required volume, due to the non-operation of desalination plants, which are either damaged or lacking fuel.

When the fighting finally stops, children will continue to pay the price for decades due to the terrible trauma suffered by survivors, he said.

Elder cited the example of the four-year-old daughter of a UNICEF worker in Gaza who began self-harming due to daily stress and fear, while her mother told her colleagues : “I don’t have the luxury of thinking about my children’s mental health – I just have to keep them alive.”

A humanitarian ceasefire is essential

Mr. Elder reiterated his calls, “on behalf of the 1.1 million children in Gaza who are living this nightmare”, for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the opening of all points of contact. access to enable the sustainable delivery of humanitarian aid.

“If we had a 72-hour ceasefire, it would mean that a thousand children would be safe again this time,” he said.

On Monday, 26 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies entered the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, OCHA’s Jens Laerke said, hoping more trucks would enter on Tuesday.

This brings the total number of trucks authorized to pass through the crossing point between October 21 and 30 to 143.

OCHA stressed that while the increase in the volume of aid entering Gaza over the past two days is welcome, “current quantities represent only a fraction of what is needed to prevent further deterioration of the situation.” already dire humanitarian situation, including civil unrest.” Before the escalation, nearly 500 trucks, both commercial and humanitarian, entered the enclave each working day, including around fifty fuel trucks.

In a briefing to the United Nations Security Council on Monday, OCHA spoke of the urgency of replenishing fuel stocks, “essential to supply the most essential services, including hospitals and water desalination plants.” water, and to deliver humanitarian aid inside the Gaza Strip.

Attacks on health care

The health disaster in the enclave is aggravated by attacks on health services. The United Nations health agency (WHO) said it had recorded 82 such attacks in Gaza.

OCHA warned that the surrounding areas of two hospitals in Gaza City and northern Gaza were reportedly bombed for the second consecutive day on Monday, prompting OCHA to express concern to the Security Council about the allegations of “military installations in close proximity to hospitals and the demand by Israeli authorities to evacuate hospitals, including Al Quds and Shifa”.

In response to a question about the allegations, UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) spokesperson Liz Throssell reiterated on Tuesday that hospitals are protected buildings under international humanitarian law.

If proven, the use of human shields in hospitals would constitute a war crime, she said. However, “whatever the actions of one party, for example the use of hospitals for military purposes, the other party must respect international humanitarian rules on the conduct of hostilities, which grant special protection to medical units at any time,” she insisted.

When medical units lose their special protection because they are used outside their humanitarian function to commit acts harmful to the enemy, and when a warning to cease this harmful use has not been followed, “any attack must nevertheless respect the principles of precaution in attack and proportionality,” explained Ms Throssell.