LONDON: Children’s charity Save The Children has called for an immediate end to all hostilities in Gaza and Israel as the number of children killed by Israeli bombardment reaches 31.
“Save the Children is urging the international community to use its influence with parties to the conflict to seek an urgent path to de-escalation as fatalities in Gaza and southern Israel continue to soar,” said a statement issued by the charity to Arab News on Friday.
“Save the Children can confirm that at least 31 schools and a health facility in Gaza have been damaged by Israeli airstrikes,” it said.
In total, 33 children have now died in the violence — 31 in Gaza, and another two in Israeli territory.
The total death toll from the fighting, which continues to escalate, has now reached 126, including 119 Palestinians and seven Israelis. Hundreds more Palestinians have also been injured in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Gaza-based Mazen Naim, a communications officer at Save the Children, told Arab News: “I’ve been talking to my family, consistently checking in with my friends and colleagues — the situation is very bad everywhere.
“The 2 million people living in Gaza do not feel safe at all in any way. There are explosions and airstrikes and attacks everywhere. There was houses that were hit, even some of them with people inside. Families were wiped out.”
Naim said that children will pay a “serious and lasting price” for the heaviest attack on Gaza in nearly a decade.
“Many children were alive yesterday that are not alive today. If this does not end, more children will be killed. If this continues, we could be looking at a huge humanitarian catastrophe,” he said.
Not only are dozens of children being harmed physically, he added, but the fighting is causing lasting mental distress to the Gaza Strip’s 800,000 children.
“Children are feeling fear, anxiety and sleeplessness. They are having nightmares at night — no one feels safe in any way, everyone is feeling like we could die at any moment.
“This might end soon, but they will still have nightmares for a long time. This will affect their personality, and their ability to cope and communicate. It will affect their education. Every time they will hear a loud noise — a door shutting, for example — they will have these memories brought back to them.”
Studies show that a large number of people still suffer from mental health issues rooted in previous violent flare-ups in Gaza and elsewhere, Naim said.
Densely populated Gaza has languished for over a decade under an Israeli blockade that has prevented the territory from developing its economy and has eroded critical infrastructure.
The healthcare system, in particular, suffers from a chronic lack of funding, a problem exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic and compounded by the sudden influx of seriously injured people.
“The health system in Gaza was actually suffering because of the 14-years blockade on Gaza, but also from a shortage of staff, shortage of medical supplies and the coronavirus crisis,” said Naim.
“And now with this conflict happening, there’s a shortage of hospital beds, a shortage of drugs, and nobody knows when more supplies can enter the territory.”