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The children of Gaza: a generation scarred by Israeli barbarism and siege

The children of Gaza are struggling to cope with the horrors they experienced during Israel's brutal attack, and to return to some semblance of normalcy.

Children struggling to cope

On August 24, nearly half a million Palestinian children in Gaza who were scheduled to start a new school year were unable to do so because of Israel's latest military assault on the occupied and besieged coastal strip, "Operation Protective Edge," which began on July 8 and killed more than 2100 people, including at least 1462 civilians.

With a fledgling ceasefire agreed to on August 26 taking hold, the children of Gaza are struggling to cope with the horrors they experienced during Israel's brutal attack, and to return to some semblance of normalcy.

The following fact sheet provides an overview of the impact that Israel's latest assault and its siege and blockade have had on the children of Gaza. For further reference, see our recently released fact sheet, Gaza Crisis Update (August 22).

Children killed and injured by Israel's latest assault

  • According to the United Nations, between July 7 and August 25 the Israeli military killed at least 495 Palestinian children in Gaza during “Operation Protective Edge.” The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights puts the number at 518, while the Palestinian Center for Human Rights puts it at 519. All three figures exceed the number of Palestinian children killed in the last two major Israeli assaults on Gaza combined, approximately 350 during “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008-9 and 35 in November 2012. The number of children killed also exceeds the total number of Israelis, civilians and soldiers, killed by Palestinians in the last decade.
  • According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, between July 7 and August 20, 3106 Palestinian children were injured by the Israeli military in Gaza.
  • Of the more than 3100 children wounded, the UN estimates that 1000 of them will suffer a permanent disability as a result of their injury.
  • Thousands of unexploded bombs and shells pose a danger to civilians returning to areas they fled from during the fighting, putting children at particular risk.

Children traumatized by Israel's latest assault

  • The UN estimates that 373,000 children require direct and specialized psychosocial support (PSS), while all of Gaza’s approximately 900,000 children have been affected by the war and need some level of psychosocial support. On July 28, UNICEF released a statement entitled “No safe place for children in Gaza.” In it, the head of the organization’s Gaza field office, Pernille Ironside, declared: “The physical and psychological toll that the violence is having on people is almost indescribable… We see children killed, injured, mutilated and burnt, in addition to being terrified to their core.”
  • Symptoms of trauma being evidenced by children include wetting of the bed, clinging to parents, and nightmares.
  • At least one Palestinian minor, a 16-year-old boy (now 17) named Ahmad Abu Raida, was held hostage for five days by invading Israeli soldiers and used as a human shield during their search for tunnels near his home near Khan Younis in southern Gaza, according to an investigation carried out by Defence for Children International - Palestine.
  • Most children six and older in Gaza have lived through three major Israeli military assaults during their short lifetimes: the first in the winter of 2008-9, and the second in November 2012.

Families devastated

  • According to the UN, between July 7 and August 22 at least 140 Palestinian families had three or more members killed in a single Israeli attack, for a total of 735 lives lost.
  • According to the UN, as many as 1500 children may have been orphaned by Israeli attacks that killed their parents.
  • The UN estimates that 6000 children will have a parent with a lifelong disability.

Homes and livelihoods destroyed, families struggling to survive

  • Since July 7, more than 100,000 people have been displaced by Israeli attacks that destroyed or severely damaged their homes. (Prior to Israel’s latest assault, there were 12,000 Palestinians still displaced from Israel’s 2008-09 attack on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead.)
  • Even before Israel’s recent onslaught destroyed thousands of homes and much of Gaza’s industry and civilian infrastructure, families were struggling under Israel’s siege, with 70% of the population receiving humanitarian aid and an official unemployment rate of 40.8% as of the first quarter of 2014.
  • According to UNICEF, eight out of 10 of Gaza’s approximately 900,000 children are dependent on humanitarian assistance.
  • Most children seven and younger in Gaza have lived their entire lives under Israel’s suffocating, illegal siege and blockade.

Additional obstacles to education for Gaza's children

  • On August 24, nearly half a million Palestinian children in Gaza who were scheduled to start a new school year were unable to do so because of ongoing Israeli attacks.
  • According to UNICEF, 244 schools were damaged during Israel’s latest assault and are in need of repair, including at least two kindergartens. According to the UN, at least 25 schools were severely damaged and can no longer be used.
  • Many of Gaza’s schools continue to serve as shelters for the more than 100,000 Palestinians made homeless by Israeli attacks since July 7. According to the UN: “Schools currently used as shelters will require varying degrees of rehabilitation in order to be ready for normal schooling. Initial repairs must also be carried out in war-damaged schools, and unexploded ordnance will need to be cleared to restore safety.”
  • Despite repairs made to infrastructure since the implementation of a ceasefire on August 26, most parts of Gaza still suffer electrical outages of up to 18 hours a day (up to 20 hours a day in Gaza City) hindering the ability of children to read indoors and at night, and to use computers.
  • Even before Israel’s latest assault, Palestinian children in Gaza faced severe, Israeli-imposed restrictions on their ability to receive an education. Although Israel does not specifically prohibit the importation of books into Gaza as part of its siege, doing so is extremely difficult, leading to a shortage of books on all subjects. At one point, Israel barred the importation of writing paper, notebooks, and pencils, leading to a shortage of the latter two. Additionally, since 2000 Israel has prevented students in Gaza from traveling to study at universities in the occupied West Bank, some of which offer fields of study and degrees not available in Gaza. According to a report from Haaretz newspaper, between 2000 and 2012 Israel let just three Gazans travel to study at universities in the West Bank, all of whom had received US government scholarships. (See here for fact sheet on Israel’s violations of Palestinian academic freedom and right to education.)

Update

United Nations spokesman Chris Gunness says an estimated 1,000 of the 3,000 children who were injured by Israel's assault on Gaza will suffer from a life-long disability.

Source: IMEU