UN officials call for children's rights to be respected in Occupied Palestine

Twenty-six Palestinian children have been killed since March 30th

UN officials call for children's rights to be respected in Occupied Palestine

Hamid (8) looks out over the old city of Hebron from the roof of his house in the State of Palestine on July 12th 2018 | Image: UNICEF/Ahed Izhiman

The United Nations says children's rights continue to be violated in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Israel.

That is according to three leading UN officials in the region who have called on all parties responsible to take "concrete and immediate steps" to allow children to live "free of fear and to realise all their rights".

According to figures provided by UN agencies in the region, since the start of demonstrations at the border fence against Israel's long-standing blockade and deteriorating living conditions in Gaza on March 30th, 26 Palestinian children have been killed.

Twenty-one were shot during the demonstrations, and five others were killed by Israeli shelling, or outside the context of demonstrations.

In the same period, the UN says hundreds more children have been injured by live ammunition.

In a joint statement, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Jamie McGoldrick, the Head of the UN Human Rights office (OHCHR) in the OPT James Heenan, and the Special Representative for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the State of Palestine Genevieve Boutin say they are "deeply concerned" by continued reports of "children killed or seriously injured, some as young as 11" in Palestinian-administered areas.

Relatives of 11-year-old Palestinian Majdi al-Sutari mourn during his funeral in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on July 28th, 2018, who died of wounds after being shot by Israeli troops during protests along the border the previous day | Image: NurPhoto/SIPA USA/PA Images

They also denounce the fact that "children in Israel are exposed to fear, trauma, and grave injuries".

They say: "This month alone, seven Palestinian children were killed by live ammunition and shelling from Israel.

They add that two Israeli girls, aged 14 and 15, also reportedly sustained injuries from rockets and mortar shells indiscriminately launched by Palestinian armed groups towards Israel.

The statement stresses that "all over the Occupied Palestinian Territory, but particularly in the Gaza Strip" children are "robbed of every right".

"Families cope with four hours of electricity per day in the sweltering heat, clean drinking water is expensive and hard to find.

"The start of the school year in one month will be very difficult for tens of thousands of families who cannot afford basic school supplies," the UN officials say.

A young Palestinian seen throwing a stone during clashes at a protest against the transfer of the American embassy to Jerusalem and the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel | Image: Ahmad Hasaballah/Zuma Press/PA Images

In addition, they criticise the "too often cynical use of children in political rhetoric and propaganda on all sides" - citing last week's call by the organisers of the ‘Great March of Return’ for Palestinians to demonstrate under the banner of "the Friday of our Child Martyrs" and the reported exposure of children to violence.

"Children should never be the target of violence and must not be put at risk of violence, nor encouraged to participate in violence".

"We call on Israel, as well as the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas authorities in Gaza to put children’s rights ahead of any other considerations and to take immediate steps to alleviate their suffering.

"Respecting the rights of children and refraining from instrumentalising their plight should be a priority for all", they insist, stressing that the Israeli-Palestinian context is "not an exception", the statement adds.