More children have now been killed in Gaza in the last three weeks than the total killed in conflicts around the world in every year since 2019, the nongovernmental organisation Save the Children has said.
Figures released by the NGO on Sunday, referencing Palestinian health authorities, show that at least 3,324 children have been killed in Gaza since October 7, while 36 have died in the West Bank.
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According to reports from the UN Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, a total of 2,985 children were killed across 24 countries in 2022, 2,515 in 2021, and 2,674 in 2020 across 22 countries, Save the Children said.
“One child’s death is one too many, but these are grave violations of epic proportions,” said Jason Lee, Save the Children’s country director for the occupied Palestinian territory. “A ceasefire is the only way to ensure their safety. The international community must put people before politics – every day spent debating is leaving children killed and injured. Children must be protected at all times, especially when they are seeking safety in schools and hospitals.”
The statement comes as Israel pushes forward with expanded ground operations inside Gaza as heavy aerial bombardment continues. On Friday, the entire Gaza Strip experienced a near-total communication blackout in what emerging accounts have described as a night of sheer terror and some of the heaviest fighting since the war began.
A further 1,000 children have been reported missing in Gaza and may be under the rubble. Children make up more than 40 percent of the more than 8,000 people confirmed to have been killed in Gaza. More than 6,000 children have been injured in Gaza since the war began.
Overall, at least 1,400 Israelis and foreign nationals have also been killed in Israel, mostly in the surprise attack by Hamas on October 7.
Israel has imposed a total siege on the Gaza Strip, tightening the blockade enforced since 2007, cutting all supplies of food, electricity, fuel and water, and only allowing small amounts of aid in through the Rafah crossing with Egypt since October 21.
The lack of electricity as well as the scarcity of fuel to power generators has forced hospitals to cut down on their operations and the health ministry declared Gaza’s health system in a state of “complete collapse”, further endangering the lives of children, including babies in need of energy-intensive neonatal intensive care.
Hospitals under threat
On Sunday, the Israeli military stepped up attacks close to al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City, after ordering its “immediate” evacuation.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) on Sunday said it has received “serious threats” from Israeli forces to “immediately evacuate” the al-Quds Hospital in the Tal al-Hawa area of Gaza City. Attacks in the vicinity of the hospital continued throughout the day.
Al Jazeera has spoken to the director of the hospital, who says there is no reason for Israel to be targeting the facility or the areas nearby.
“There’s no police presence in the hospital, no military presence, nothing at all. Just thousands of Palestinians here, many of whom have lost their homes. Thousands of others are seeking shelter in UNRWA schools,” he said.
“Israel is targeting every single building around al-Quds Hospital. Why is that? Nobody knows.”
The PRCS has reported that the hospital is currently providing care to hundreds of injured patients. Around 12,000 displaced civilians, with a majority being children and women, have also sought refuge in the hospital building.
“We reiterate – it’s impossible to evacuate hospitals full of patients without endangering their lives,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the World Health Organization (WHO), said on X.
Palestinians have blamed Israel for an explosion at al-Ahli Arab Hospital that killed nearly 500 people on October 17. Israel has denied being responsible.