The endless suffering of children in bombed-out Gaza

Gaza, Palestine. An injured Palestinian boy caresses his lifeless sister in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital in Deir Al-Balah, in the aftermath of Israeli bombardments in the central Gaza Strip. Following the 7th October Hamas’ violent attack in southern Israel, which according to Tel Aviv left 1,140 people dead, and around 240 being taken hostage, the Israeli government declared war on Hamas and expressed its overt aim to destroy the Palestinian organization. On the same night Israeli forces launched a military offensive in the besieged Gaza Strip, with incessant and fierce bombardment with high explosives over the entire narrow and overcrowded coastal strip, home to 2.3 million Palestinians. The enormity of the scale of the retaliatory strikes was immediately apparent in the widespread and indiscriminate flattening of high-rise housing blocks and densely-packed residential areas, in the destruction of civilian infrastructure, and the immediate large number of casualties, with children making a very large proportion of the victims. Many perceived the strikes as collective punishment against Palestinians, with analysts pointing out the actual impossibility of destroying Hamas, while highlighting the dire consequences in terms of casualties and destruction on Palestinians in Gaza. Israel would argue that civilians were used as human shields by Hamas – whom from the beginning of the Israeli assault on Gaza had been joined in the fight by militants from all the other Palestinian factions.
Entire Palestinians families were immediately wiped out in Gaza. Several UNRWA schools and buildings in which Palestinians were taking refuge have been bombed, leading to the further displacement of exhausted Palestinians already compelled to leave the north of Gaza following an Israeli ground invasion, and unable to find any safe areas, not even along the prescribed route. Hospitals and health facilities have also been systematically targeted, with catastrophic consequences for medics, for the wounded, and the large number of persons taking shelter in and around the structures. From the beginning of the war, relentless attacks on health care facilities have resulted in the breakdown of most of Gaza’s healthcare system, already weakened by the 16-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, with only 30% of health facilities being left partially operational. The war, compounded by a nearly full blockade on fuel, water, food, and medical supplies, has unleashed a major humanitarian crisis in the coastal strip, with the lack of water and food further threatening Palestinians in Gaza with starvation and dehydration.
As the Israeli assault on Gaza continues, the human cost for Palestinians and in particular for Palestinian children keeps raising exponentially. Despite all conflicts and crises being extremely detrimental to children, UNICEF Spokesperson James Elder has referred to the war on Gaza as “a war on children”, since the casualty rate on children in Gaza is double that of other crises and conflicts in the last 20 years. According to UNICEF, in bombed-out Gaza a Palestinian child is killed every 15 minutes, while more than 10 children per day lose one or both of their legs. A generation of child amputees is emerging in Gaza, where the lack of medical supplies means that amputations have been carried out without anaesthetics, and no medical resources are available for the complex follow-up care. Many children have lost parents or even the entire family. A new acronym has been created in Gaza: WCNSF, meaning wounded child and no surviving family.
Indiscriminate killing, repeated forced displacement, denial of access to healthcare, and lack of aid, continue unabated in Gaza even after the International Cort of Justice (ICJ)’s ordering to Israel to take provisional measures to prevent genocidal acts and to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza. Despite repeated assurances from Israel that this war is being waged on combatants alone, the indiscriminate violence, the profound devastation, and the extensive damage inflicted upon the Palestinians contradict Israel’s assumption, while highlighting the immense despair, suffering, and deprivation of Gazans.

Written by: IMAGESLIVE Editorial Staff