Ramallah, October 13, 2023—At least 583 Palestinian children have been killed by the Israeli military offensive on Gaza, representing one-third of the total death toll, with casualty count rapidly rising as Israeli authorities seal Palestinians in Gaza off from food, fuel, electricity, water, and medical supplies.
“Israeli officials’ statements combined with widespread and systematic attacks carried out by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip raise extreme concern that this is now a campaign of genocide against the Palestinian people,” said Brad Parker, attorney and senior policy adviser at Defense for Children International - Palestine. “Israeli military assaults have reached an intensity where they are seemingly intended to deliberately kill large numbers of Palestinians in Gaza, and combined with Israeli total closure policies, show the aim is to destroy Palestinian life in Gaza.”
The Israeli military issued an evacuation order late Thursday night giving the 1.1 million Palestinians living in northern Gaza 24 hours to evacuate to the south. The Israeli evacuation order caused mass panic in Gaza as families attempt to flee to the south, even though there is no safe route or destination amid destroyed roads and continued Israeli airstrikes and shelling. Many families are fleeing on foot, while others remain in the north as Israeli authorities have given no indication that Palestinians who flee will be allowed to return. Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN Secretary General, called for the order to be rescinded to avoid “what could transform what is already a tragedy into a calamitous situation.”
“Israeli forces have made clear their plans to commit genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, ordering more than a million people to move miles away in less than a day—clearly an impossible task,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “The international community, led by the U.S. and European Union, are actively enabling the Israeli military to carry out a second Nakba and eradicate the Palestinian people.”
“My four children are eating one meal a day: sandwiches. There is no water, no electricity, no internet, no fuel in all of Gaza,” said Mohammad Abu Rukbeh, senior Gaza field researcher at DCIP. “I am carrying my children on foot because they are too paralyzed in fear to walk as we search for somewhere safe. There is no safe place in Gaza as Israeli forces rain down bombs in every direction, every hour of the day. We are isolated people facing the fiercest war machines.”
Israeli forces unleashed a massive military offensive on the Gaza Strip on Saturday after Palestinian armed groups fired rockets toward Israel and breached the Israeli perimeter fence surrounding Gaza early on October 7, launching attacks inside Israel. Israeli forces initiated a large-scale military operation dubbed Operation Iron Swords.
At least 1,799 Palestinians, including at least 583 children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Saturday morning, and another 7,388 are injured, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza. DCIP is working to document additional attacks and killings. Israeli forces have shot and killed eight Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank since October 7, including 13-year-old Amir Rafat Mahmoud Mlaitat.
Out of the 583 Palestinian children killed, DCIP has so far independently documented and verified the killings of 105 Palestinian children in direct Israeli attacks between October 7 and 11. Intensive Israeli bombardment throughout the Gaza Strip, lack of electricity, Israeli airstrikes on telecommunications infrastructure, and the unprecedented rate of daily child fatalities has resulted in a lag between documented child fatalities by DCIP and the overall total child fatalities published regularly by the Ministry of Health in Gaza.
Over 423,378 people in the Gaza strip have fled their homes as mass displacement escalates with intensifying Israeli attacks, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA). More than 262,000 internally displaced Palestinians are sheltering in 102 United Nations schools and premises throughout the Gaza Strip, while over 153,000 Palestinians, whose homes have been destroyed or damaged, are hosted by relatives and neighbors, according to UN OCHA.
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said in a video statement on Monday that Israeli authorities would cut electricity and block the entry of food and fuel as part of “a complete siege” on the Gaza Strip. Israel authorities stopped supplying electricity to the Gaza Strip on October 7, and the Gaza Power Plant shut down on October 11, according to UN OCHA. Israeli authorities also cut off Gaza’s water supply on October 8.
Israeli airstrikes have destroyed two of the three main lines for mobile communication in the Gaza Strip, according to UN OCHA. Israeli airstrikes have also damaged five water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities in the central and northern Gaza Strip, impacting water access to at least 500,000 people. Sewage lines in the northern Gaza Strip have been damaged by Israeli airstrikes, leading to the accumulation of sewage and solid waste in the streets of Beit Lahia.
More than 1,300 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian armed group attacks since October 7, according to news media reports.
Under international law, genocide is prohibited and constitutes the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group, in whole or in part. Genocide can result from killing or by creating conditions of life that are so unbearable it brings about the groups destruction.
International humanitarian law prohibits indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and requires all parties to an armed conflict to distinguish between military targets, civilians, and civilian objects. Deploying explosive weapons in densely-populated civilian areas constitutes indiscriminate attacks and carrying out direct attacks against civilians or civilian objects amounts to war crimes.
Israeli authorities have imposed a closure policy against the Gaza Strip since 2007 by strictly controlling and limiting the entry and exit of individuals; maintaining harsh restrictions on imports including food, construction materials, fuel, and other essential items; as well as prohibiting exports. Israel continues to maintain complete control over the Gaza Strip’s borders, airspace, and territorial waters.