How are Palestinian children affected by the Israel-Hamas war?

The Israeli air strikes have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of children in Gaza, the total blockade poses further risks.

Palestinian children shelter in UN schools.
Displaced Palestinian children who fled their homes amid Israeli strikes sheltered in United Nations-run schools in Gaza [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

With warplanes carrying out air strikes and Israel’s announced total blockade of the Gaza Strip, residents have been stripped of access to many necessities, including food and water.

In response to the Hamas attack on Israel, Gazan neighbourhoods, including al-Karama and Rimal, have been bombarded and the civilian death toll, including hundreds of children, continues to rise.

Here is a look at how the war is affecting Palestinian children on the Gaza Strip:

How many Palestinian children were killed and injured?

On Wednesday, the death toll in Gaza reached at least 950 Palestinians, including 260 children, with the Palestinian Health Information Center reporting that 10 percent of the 3726 people injured were children.

According to the Defense for Children International (DCI), a Palestinian human rights organisation focused on child rights, since 2005, six major military offensives in Gaza have killed at least 1,000 Palestinian children.

“We know from previous experience that children will be terrified,” said Jason Lee, Save the Children’s country director for the occupied Palestinian territory, in a statement on Saturday.

Children and the blockade

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant announced a complete blockade of Gaza on Monday, justifying the move by describing Palestinians as “beastly people”.

This means that the supply of electricity, gas, food and water has been cut off in Gaza, which has already living under a land, sea and air blockade since 2007 with its borders controlled by Israel.

Since this blockade, Israel has launched five military attacks on Gaza, destroying homes.

Due to the blockade and lack of access to materials, reconstructing the homes has been slow and difficult, displacing the inhabitants.

Children are highly vulnerable to these conditions – lack of access to clean water, sanitation resources, and protection from weather extremes – causing a strain on their physical and mental health.

The lack of food in the complete blockade will also lead to a higher rate of food insecurity. DCI reported that children in Gaza have previously resorted to dangerous methods of collecting food or money for food, entering zones where they can be attacked by the Israeli military.

The lack of water and sanitation facilities in Gaza has previously resulted in children suffering from diseases including the flu and typhoid fever, according to DCI.

Frequent electricity deficits have exacerbated the issue of children being vulnerable to extreme heat and cold, DCI said in the report.

Mental health

According to a 2022 report by Save the Children, four out of five children in Gaza are living with depression, grief and fear, while more than half struggle with suicidal thoughts. Children there also experience trauma from witnessing the deaths of other children.

INTERACTIVE The mental health of Gaza's children

Education disrupted

Since the beginning of the Israeli air strikes, over 73,000 Palestinians left their homes to seek refuge in 64 schools run by UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

However, schools are no longer safe spaces and according to UNRWA, as at least four schools in Gaza have suffered damage from Israeli bombing.

On Tuesday, the Education Above All (EAA) Foundation’s Al Fakhoura school was destroyed amidst air strikes. The programme provided scholarships to Palestinian students in need. In a statement, EAA said that “collective punishment, reprisals, and attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are serious violations of international humanitarian law, and if deliberate they are war crimes.”

The students in Gaza also experience the constant fear of an Israeli incursion. The Ministry of Education has created training programs for teachers and students in schools near the Gaza borders to carry out evacuation drills in case of an attack.

INTERACTIVE - The besieged Gaza Strip nowhere to go-1696766807

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies