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Saturday, July 20, 2024

2023 deadliest year for children in West Bank – UNICEF

Violence in the Palestinian territory has reached “unprecedented levels,” the United Nations body says

The UN’s agency for children, UNICEF, has deemed 2023 the deadliest year on record for young people living in the occupied West Bank, amid stepped-up Israeli police and military action stemming from the ongoing war in Gaza.

In a statement published on Thursday, UNICEF described a surge in “conflict-related violence” in the West Bank this year, noting that 83 children had been killed over the last 12 weeks – more than double the total figure for all of 2022.

Read more: Israel to discuss post-war Gaza plans

“Children living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have been experiencing grinding violence for many years, yet the intensity of that violence has dramatically increased since the horrific attacks of 7 October,” the agency added, referring to Hamas’ deadly terrorist attack on Israel earlier this year.

The UNICEF statement went on to decry “Grave violations against children, in particular killing and maiming,” urging all parties to protect children’s “most basic right simply to be alive.”

Read more: Casualties surpassed 21K as Israel advances in Gaza

In total, at least 124 Palestinian children have been killed in the West Bank so far this year, as well as six Israeli youths, the agency said. Over 576 have also suffered injuries in the territory.

Earlier this week, the UN Human Rights Office urged Israeli forces to end “unlawful killings” in the West Bank, where Israeli troops have maintained a military occupation since 1967. The human rights office pointed to a “sharp increase” in airstrikes on densely populated refugee camps, where children were among the victims, and suggested that Israeli soldiers have incited violence by settlers against local Palestinians.

The office also warned of a “rapidly deteriorating human rights situation” in the West Bank, demanding an “immediate end to the use of military weapons and means during law enforcement operations,” and an end to the “arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of Palestinians.”

Conditions in Gaza have also become dire since the latest war with Hamas kicked off, with Israeli airstrikes and ground operations leaving some 21,000 people dead and over 55,000 injured, according to local health officials. Many of the casualties are women and children. Hamas’ October 7 attack, meanwhile, killed around 1,200 in Israel, while more than 200 others were taken hostage by the militant group.