Ramallah, October 16, 2023—More than 1,000 Palestinian children in Gaza have been killed by Israeli forces since October 7 as surviving children suffer untold physical and emotional consequences as a result of intensive Israeli bombardment and unprecedented internal displacement.
Israeli forces have killed a Palestinian child approximately every 15 minutes since the Israeli military unleashed a massive military offensive on the Gaza Strip on October 7 after Palestinian armed groups fired rockets toward Israel and breached the Israeli perimeter fence surrounding Gaza, launching attacks inside Israel. Israeli forces initiated a large-scale military operation dubbed Operation Iron Swords.
"The repercussions of this war will not only affect the victims we have lost, some of which are still trapped under the rubble of their homes, and not only the residential areas that have been completely destroyed, including our own homes, but the psychological impact on us civilians and our children will be catastrophic,” said Mohammad Abu Rukbeh, senior Gaza field researcher at DCIP.
The fatality and injury numbers provided by the Ministry of Health in Gaza only account for people admitted to hospitals, so at least an estimated additional 1,000 Palestinians are missing under the rubble of destroyed buildings, according to the Ministry of Interior, indicating the actual death toll is much higher.
Palestinian children who have so far survived the Israeli military’s intense bombing across the Gaza Strip are suffering in an increasingly dire humanmade humanitarian crisis, compounding existing mental and emotional traumas sustained from 16 years of siege and Israeli military offensives.
Since October 11 at 2 p.m. Gaza has experienced a full electricity blackout after Israeli authorities cut the electricity and fuel supply on October 7 and the Gaza Power Plant depleted its reserves, according to UN OCHA. The lack of electricity has exacerbated the existing food crisis as refrigeration is not possible and irrigation and agricultural activity has ground to a halt. Fuel reserves and backup generators at hospitals are not expected to last more than 24 hours.
Israeli authorities cut water supply to Gaza on October 9, and since then, all three water desalination plants in Gaza have been forced to cease operations, according to UN OCHA. The vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza have no access to clean drinking water, and some have resorted to drinking dirty well water, raising concerns for waterborne diseases. Even though Israeli authorities claimed to resume water supply to southern Gaza yesterday, there is no electricity to operate water pumps, Israeli airstrikes have damaged many water lines, and very little water in Gaza is drinkable in the first place.
The psychological toll on Palestinian children in Gaza is further underscored by the pre-existing challenges they faced prior to the recent series of Israeli military attacks.
- One in four was already in need of psychosocial support, according to UNICEF in 2018.
- More than half depend on some form of humanitarian assistance for survival, according to UNICEF in 2018.
- Four out of five children are living with depression, grief, and fear, according to a 2022 report from Save the Children.
The trauma experienced by Palestinian children in Gaza extends beyond personal suffering. Witnessing the deaths of other children compounds their distress, leaving indelible scars on their mental well-being. Entire families are being wiped out in the blink of an eye, shattering the very foundations of these households. Children, who once found comfort in the embrace of their families, are now left orphaned. The emotional repercussions for these children are profound, as they grapple not only with the pain of the current situation in their city but also with the daunting challenge of navigating life without the foundational support of their families.
Israeli airstrikes have destroyed two of the three main lines for mobile communication in the Gaza Strip, according to UN OCHA. The Palestinian Telecommunications Company (Paltel) is still able to provide minimal internet connectivity across Gaza, but fears connection will be completely lost if there is any additional damage to the lines.
“The State of Israel has no choice but to turn Gaza into a place that is temporarily or permanently impossible to live in,” reservist Major General Giora Eiland told Israeli media. “Creating a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a necessary means to achieve the goal. Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist.”
“Human animals must be treated as such. There will be no electricity and no water [in Gaza], there will only be destruction. You wanted hell, you will get hell,” said Major General Ghassan Alian, head of Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
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 group’s 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.