Wounded Palestinian children are taken care of, after an Israeli strike, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, at Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, June 9, 2024. Image Credit: REUTERS

Geneva: Children in Gaza accounted for nearly 40 per cent of minors killed in conflicts globally last year, according to an upcoming United Nations report on cases it says it has verified, casting blame on both Israel and Hamas for the surge in deaths.

The killing of more than 2,000 Palestinian and 40 Israeli children helped push violence against children to “extreme levels” in 2023, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in the report, which was reviewed by Bloomberg News and is scheduled to be released publicly later this month.

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Gaza’s government says that 15,694 children have been killed and 17,000 are without parents after 250 days of Israel’s war on Gaza.

The data only includes deaths that the UN can verify, it said, adding that it’s still making determinations on thousands of additionally reported Palestinian deaths in the first three months of the war. It’s also looking into reports of some 3,900 children hurt when Hamas, designated a terrorist group by the US and European Union, attacked Israel on October 7, starting the war.

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The death toll from the Israel-Hamas war, particularly in Gaza, has galvanized global efforts to halt the fighting, which mediators including the US, Qatar and Egypt have failed to achieve. Details of the deaths, including the accuracy of the count by the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry and whether it includes militants, have been controversial and difficult to confirm as the fighting continues.

The Israel-Hamas war “presents an unprecedented scale and intensity of grave violations against children, with hostilities leading to an increase in grave violations of 155 per cent,” Guterres wrote in the report. The UN said both the Israeli army and Hamas’s military wing, as well as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, are not doing enough to protect children in Gaza.

The UN notes the report “does not represent the full scale of violations against children, but provides United Nations-verified trends.”

Image Credit: Reuters

In order to vet reported violations, the UN relies on a monitoring and reporting mechanism that requires local monitors to independently verify claims.

The annual report by the UN looks at cases of violence against people under 18 years old in conflicts worldwide. This is the first time Israel and Hamas have been included in the so-called blacklist of actors that “commit grave violations” against children in the 20-plus years the report has been presented to the Security Council.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, who has been highly critical of the organization, said last week that including Israel in the report was an “immoral decision.”

Israel had expressed in the days before it was informed of the decision that it intended to cooperate with the UN on preventing violence against children, according to a senior UN official who asked not to be identified describing private discussions. Since then, it has gone silent on the matter, the person said. The Israeli mission to the UN didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The UN also blacklisted the Sudanese armed forces for killing and injuring children and for attacking schools and hospital. It also moved to do the same with the rival Rapid Support Forces for the same reasons, as well as for recruiting children and for carrying out sexual violence.

The UN verified the killings of some 500 children in Sudan last year. The UN official said the organization fears “tens of thousands” more instances of violence against children may emerge once experts are able to verify pending reports.