Israel-Gaza conflict: One in five Palestinians killed in crisis is a child

Four boys in the same family died in a bombing on Wednesday

As Israel’s continued air offensive against Gaza saw the Palestinian death toll rise above 200 on Wednesday, a leading human rights organisation has warned a fifth of those who have died in the nine-day conflict are children.

Save the Children has become the latest body to voice its concern over the Palestinian death toll, which rose to 211 on Wednesday afternoon when an Israeli airstrike killed four boys from the Bakr family on a coastal road near a beach in the Gaza Strip. A further seven adults and children were wounded.

Last week, five children from the same family died in a pre-dawn bombardment.

In light of the violence, the group predicts that at least 25,000 children will need psycho-social support to cope with the trauma they have experienced since violence in the region restarted last Tuesday.

The organisation warned in a statement on Wednesday that failing a ceasefire, a long-lasting agreement must be reached to ensure that “both Israeli and Palestinian children can live without fear for their survival" and that the death toll does not rise.

 

It added that the agreement must tackle the long-term causes of the conflict and “promote dignity and security for both Israelis and Palestinians."

“Everyone knows why this conflict is wrong,” said Save the Children's Co-Country Director David Hassell.

“The use of explosive weapons in built up residential areas, targeting of homes, and indiscriminate rocket attacks place children in harm’s way. It has been a dangerous and terrifying few days for children in both Gaza and Israel. It is unacceptable that in a conflict between adults, children should make up a fifth of the victims.”

Its psychosocial support teams have made home and hospital visits to hundreds of families, but some undisclosed areas are too risky to reach, it explained.

A relative of four boys killed in an airstrike grieves during their funeral in Gaza City (AFP) A relative of four boys killed in an airstrike grieves during their funeral in Gaza City (AFP)

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The warning came after the Israeli military re-launched its offensive in Gaza, after Hamas’ military wing rejected an Egyptian-brokered truce between the two sides.

One Israeli has so far died in the conflict - a civilian distributing food to soldiers in southern Israel on Tuesday evening - owing to Israel's Iron Dome air defense system intercepting incoming rockets.

Israel argues its offensive is targeting the homes of Hamas leaders and buildings allegedly used to store weapons and as meeting points for militants. But despite its claims, the international community, including many of Israel's allies, have expressed concerns about the growing civilian death toll in Gaza.

The UN said last week that 80 per cent of Palestinians killed in attacks are civilians, and not dangerous militants.

On Tuesday, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Hamas to accept the Egyptian-initiated ceasefire.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that Ban spoke with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Sunday and “appreciates and fully supports” the cease-fire initiative.

“He is deeply worried that the fighting has not stopped despite Israel's readiness to accept the cease-fire proposal and the Palestinian Authority's support,” Haq said.

Additional reporting by AP

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