Monday, March 4, 2024

2023 deadliest year for children in West Bank: UNICEF

More than 80 children have been killed in the past 12 weeks in the occupied West Bank, amid intensified military activities, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has reported.

That number is “more than double the number of children killed in all of 2022, amid increased military and law enforcement operations. More than 576 have been injured and others have reportedly been detained.” UNICEF said in a report issued Thursday.

Since the beginning of the year, the violence has claimed the lives of 124 Palestinian children and six Israeli children, UNICEF added.

“Many children report that fear has become a part of their daily life, with many scared even walking to school or playing outside due to the threat of shootings and other conflict-related violence,” the report noted, calling for adherence to “obligations under international human rights law and to protect children from conflict-related violence and protect their most basic right simply to be alive”.

The United Nations has called on Israel to end “unlawful killings” and settler violence in the occupied West Bank, warning of a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation during intensified Israeli raids.

In a report published on Thursday, the UN Human Rights Office detailed a “sharp increase” in air strikes and military incursions into densely populated refugee camps, resulting in deaths, injuries and widespread damage to civilian infrastructure in the occupied territory.

“The use of military tactics means and weapons in law enforcement contexts, the use of unnecessary or disproportionate force, and the enforcement of broad, arbitrary and discriminatory movement restrictions that affect Palestinians are extremely troubling,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a statement.

Violence across the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem has flared since Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip began on October 7. More than 21,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, most of them civilians, after about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas attacks in southern Israel.

Since then, the UN has verified the deaths of at least 300 Palestinians in the West Bank, including 79 children, the report said. Of these, 291 were killed by Israeli forces, eight by settlers and one was killed by either soldiers or settlers.

Nearly 4,800 Palestinians have been arrested since the war on Gaza began.

Since October 7, the UN has documented a “sharp rise in settler attacks”, including “shootings, burning of homes and vehicles, and uprooting of trees”.

“I call on Israel to take immediate, clear and effective steps to put an end to settler violence against the Palestinian population, to investigate all incidents of violence by settlers and Israeli Security Forces, to ensure effective protection of Palestinian communities against any form of forcible transfer,” Turk added.

“The dehumanisation of Palestinians that characterises many of the settlers’ actions is very disturbing and must cease immediately,” his statement read.

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