40 kids killed in year of Gaza border protests: UN - GulfToday

40 kids killed in year of Gaza border protests: UN


Palestinians search for their belongings amid the rubble building destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on Wednesday. Associated Press

AMMAN: Around 40 children have been killed and many injured in one year of demonstrations along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, the UN said on Thursday, calling for an “urgent de-escalation.”

Thousands of Palestinians have gathered at least weekly along the border in protests that have led to deadly clashes with the Israeli military.

Demonstrators are calling for Israel to lift its crippling decade-long blockade of Gaza, while also demanding refugees be allowed to return to homes their families fled in the late 1940s during the creation of the Jewish state.

Around 40 children have been killed in the protests and “nearly 3,000 others have been hospitalised with injuries, many leading to life-long disabilities,” the UN children’s agency (Unicef) said.

“Unicef reiterates its outrage at the very high numbers of children who have been killed and injured as a result of armed conflict 2018,” said UNICEF’s Middle East director Geert Cappelaere.

He called on both sides to “ensure children are not targeted.”

“Exploiting children’s lack of sense of purpose and vulnerabilities or enlisting them into violence are violations of children’s rights.” In total, 258 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since the protests began, most during border clashes.

The UNICEF statement follows another severe flare-up this week between Hamas and Israel, with a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip that sparked retaliatory air strikes.

A mass border protest planned for Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the demonstrations has raised fears of further tensions.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian volunteer medic was killed by Israeli forces during clashes in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, the Palestinian health ministry said.

Sajid Muzher, 17, was killed in the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem in the southern West Bank, the ministry said.

He was shot by Israeli forces while volunteering as a medic, a ministry spokesman told reporters.

In a statement, Palestinian health minister Jawad Awad said the “occupation’s killing of a volunteer medic by shooting him in the stomach is a war crime.”

The Palestinian Medical Relief Society confirmed he was working with them, saying in a statement he was shot while trying to treat a person wounded in clashes.

The World Health Organisation “strongly condemned” the killing in a statement, saying the man was killed while providing care to the injured.

“We are saddened by this tragic loss. Health workers provide critical care and save lives. Their protection must be ensured,” said Gerald Rockenschaub, head of the WHO office for the West Bank and Gaza.

Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch country director, told media that if confirmed the death “would mark at least the fourth clearly identifiable Palestinian medic gunned down by Israeli forces in the last year.”

“Routine unlawful killings by Israeli forces and full impunity in Israel highlight the need for the International Criminal Court to open a formal probe into serious crimes committed in Palestine,” he said.

Separately, Egyptian mediators headed to Israel on Thursday to discuss a proposal for a new cease-fire plan between between Israel and Hamas following a fresh round of fighting this week.

Three Hamas officials familiar with the negotiations said the Egyptians offered the organisation a series of measures to ease the Egyptian-Israeli blockade on Gaza.

They said this would include an expanded fishing zone for Palestinian anglers off the Mediterranean coast, increasing imports and exports in and out of Gaza, increased electricity from Israel and increased movement of people through Gaza’s border crossings.

In exchange, Hamas would have to pledge to halt rocket fire and keep protests along the Israeli border under control and far from the separation fence.

The officials say the deal would only take effect after a planned mass demonstration along the Israeli border on Saturday - a likely sticking point with the Israelis.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were ongoing. One of the officials described the atmosphere as positive.