World Children’s Day 2023: The Crisis for Children in Gaza

On November 20, we observe World Children’s Day. On this day we commemorate the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and recognise the right for all kids to be free, happy and safe. This year we highlight the shocking violations of children’s rights happening in the conflict between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Since violence broke out between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in early October, hundreds of thousands of children have suffered. The 7 October attacks on Israel by Palestinian armed groups killed at least 31 children. Another 30 were taken hostage.

As a father and a grandfather, it is very hard for me that they took my family from me in this way and have not provided me with any information about them. I miss them so much. Every day that passes becomes more difficult.

Moshe Lotem, whose daughter Hagar is being held hostage in Gaza

Hundreds of Children Killed or Injured Every Day in the Occupied Gaza Strip

Israel’s assault on the occupied Gaza Strip – beginning with an aerial bombardment and then a ground invasion – has had a truly devastating impact on the children of Gaza. As of 20 November, the fighting has killed 4,710 children and injured many thousands more.

The Israeli Defence Force has repeatedly violated international law in their assault by attacking homes, hospitals and refugee camps. Raids of Al-Shifa hospital, alongside the cutting off of fuel, have left 36 premature babies without incubators. At least seven of those babies are reported to have died.

To lose my son, to lose my house, to sleep on the floor of a classroom? My children are wetting themselves, of panic, of fear, of cold. We have nothing to do with this. What fault did we commit? I raised my child, my entire life, for what? To see him die while buying bread.

Ziyad Hamad

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres summed up the situation with a heartbreaking image when he said Gaza is becoming “a graveyard for children.”

Millions of Children Feel the Psychological Impacts of Conflict

Even children who aren’t physically harmed are left with the psychological trauma of conflict. They’re experiencing things no child should ever have to deal with: the constant threat of bombs and bullets; losing their homes; exposure to extreme violence and seeing those they love hurt or killed. This is a reality for every child in Gaza, and the emotional toll will be felt for generations.

Children in Gaza have already endured repeated cycles of conflict, death and destruction. A 16 year old in Gaza will have witnessed six wars in their life.

Humanitarian Organisations’ Open Letter to Antonio Guterres

On 16 November, 18 representatives of leading humanitarian organisations penned an open letter to Guterres urging him to protect the children of Israel and the OPT. Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard was among them. The letter included statistics that put into stark relief the level of harm this conflict has caused to children:

“The number of children killed in Gaza in the three weeks following October 7 exceeded the total number of children recorded as killed annually in global conflict zones since 2019.”

The letter stated that Israeli attacks had damaged 278 educational facilities and 120 health facilities and deliberately blocked access to humanitarian aid. These actions put children’s lives at risk, and may amount to war crimes.

Children Have Suffered in Israel/OPT for Decades

The violation of children’s rights in Israel and the OPT began long before 7 October. Children have been killed, injured and traumatised in countless rounds of violence between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups. And they’ve been oppressed, displaced, and segregated by the State of Israel’s ongoing violations of human rights, especially by its cruel apartheid regime.

Only a Ceasefire Can Stop the Catastrophic Harm to Children

The assault on children in Gaza must stop now. They didn’t start this conflict and they can’t end it. They’re relying on us to take action against the injustice and violence that’s being inflicted on them.

The UN has backed a resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow essential aid to reach the children of Gaza. While aid is desperately needed and must be allowed, this isn’t enough.
Until we have a ceasefire, the children of Gaza will continue to be killed, maimed, and traumatised. Email Penny Wong today and join the more than 1 million people worldwide who have called for an immediate ceasefire.