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UN: Israel Committed at Least 5,700 “Grave Violations” Against Children in 2023

Israel was the single largest contributor of grave violations against children across the globe last year.

A displaced Palestinian boy is splashing his face with water in front of his tent during a heatwave in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, on June 11, 2024.

The UN has added Israeli forces to a list of global violators of children’s rights, citing Israel’s “unprecedented” scale of violence against Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank.

In the UN secretary-general’s annual Children and Armed Conflict report, released Thursday, the UN office finds that 2023 saw the highest level of violations against children ever recorded in a single year, due in part to rising violence in Palestine, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, among others.

The largest single contributor to the nearly 33,000 grave violations against children identified by the UN last year was Israel, with at least 5,700 verified violations attributed to Israeli forces, as well as nearly 7,900 violations against Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza overall, 2,051 of which are still unattributed.

This includes the killings of 2,267 Palestinian children that the UN was able to verify, and an additional 2,051 killings just between October and December in Gaza, with “most” caused by Israeli forces, the report said.

In total, just last year, the UN identified 19,887 reports of Palestinian children being killed or maimed, with some reports still yet to be verified. Notably, the UN has acknowledged that this is likely not a full accounting due to “severe access challenges” in Gaza.

The UN also verified several dozen grave violations against children by Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades, and 136 violations against Israeli children, largely during the October 7 attack.

“The conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory presents an unprecedented scale and intensity of grave violations against children,” the report says.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres lists Israel as a violator of children’s rights as part of the report.

“In Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Israeli armed and security forces have been listed for the killing and maiming of children, and for attacks on schools and hospitals,” the report says. “[T]he last quarter of 2023 exposed an extreme rise in violations, particularly against children in the Gaza Strip, in particular the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects, including in highly populated areas, which resulted in a large number of child casualties.”

While denial of humanitarian access is not a violation able to be listed on the register of children’s rights violators, the report urges Israel to abide by international law and to stop blocking humanitarian aid from entering Gaza.

“Children are at risk of famine, severe malnutrition and preventable death,” the report says.

The report follows another set of analyses released by the UN on Wednesday finding that the scale of Israel’s collective punishment on Palestinians in Gaza between October and December of 2023 amounted to crimes against humanity — considered among the gravest violations of international law. This includes the crime of extermination, or the intentional massacre of a group of people.

Indeed, Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza has been particularly brutal on children. According to official death counts, Israel has killed over 15,000 children since October — an average of 60 children a day. The true number is likely higher, as government-reported death counts don’t include the thousands of people presumed dead under the rubble, or those dying due to reasons like starvation or dehydration.

Meanwhile, Palestinian children who have survived thus far are facing horror after horror. Roughly 3,000 children have lost limbs since October, doctors in Gaza have reported, while Israel’s assault has orphaned at least 19,000 children.

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