In a speech delivered on November 6, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared that “Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children”. While his comments garnered immediate media attention, they somehow still understated the reality for Palestinian children.
In Gaza, Israeli forces are killing Palestinian children at a previously unfathomable rate. Over the past 40 days, Israeli forces have murdered more than 5,000 children in Gaza – with an additional 1,800 children missing under the rubble of destroyed buildings, most of them presumed dead. That is more than 6,800 Palestinian children killed over a period of 40 days. That amounts to over 170 children killed each day.
In the West Bank, Israeli forces have killed 54 Palestinian children since October 7, according to documentation collected by Defence for Children International–Palestine (DCIP). This includes 38 Palestinian children killed in October alone, the highest number of Palestinian children killed in a single month since Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank began in 1967.
As in previous Israeli military offensives on Gaza, Israeli attacks the DCIP has investigated have been overwhelmingly indiscriminate and disproportionate. The Israeli army has targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure in densely populated civilian areas with wide-area-effect explosive weapons. In other words, every bomb the Israeli army drops on Gaza potentially constitutes a war crime.
Make no mistake, Guterres was sounding the alarm because he knows that Palestinian children are living and dying in an unrivaled moment. Israeli forces killed more children in the first month of the war than state and non-state actors did in other armed conflicts over the past two years combined, according to the UN chief’s own annual reports.
Nearly 50 percent of the 2.3 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip are children. This incredibly youthful population has experienced 16 years of Israeli siege, which amounts to collective punishment. Palestinian children have faced repeated Israeli military offensives where direct, indiscriminate, and disproportionate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure and systemic impunity have been the norm.
Guterres knows the death toll is expected to rise dramatically as Israeli authorities have cut off Palestinians in Gaza from food, water, electricity, medical supplies, and fuel, catapulting a captive civilian population into what he described as a “nightmare” that “is a crisis of humanity”.
Among Gaza’s population are an estimated 50,000 pregnant people. This means there are 160 deliveries on average taking place daily.
Pregnant people struggle to access essential health services as the healthcare system has collapsed. People in the postnatal period and babies in neonatal units are at grave risk due to dangerous fuel shortages as the Israeli authorities have prohibited the entry of fuel desperately needed to operate generators to run life-saving equipment.