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Gaza: ‘Double-digit’ number of children reported killed overnight

Children are being treated in a temporary field hospital in Mouraj, a neighbourhood in the south of the Gaza Strip.
© WHO/Christopher Black
Children are being treated in a temporary field hospital in Mouraj, a neighbourhood in the south of the Gaza Strip.

Gaza: ‘Double-digit’ number of children reported killed overnight

Peace and Security

Intense hostilities in Gaza continued on Tuesday between Hamas fighters and Israeli forces with a “double-digit number of children killed overnight” and ongoing aid delivery obstacles that are responsible for near-famine conditions, UN humanitarians said.

The continuing violence came despite an immediate ceasefire call for the remainder of Ramadan from the Security Council on Monday, prompting urgent appeals from UN aid agencies for the resolution to be respected immediately, to prevent more people dying.

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Speaking from Rafah in southern Gaza, UN Children’s Fund spokesperson James Elder said that 13,750 children have now been killed according to Gaza’s health authorities, amid Israeli airstrikes and bombardment launched in response to Hamas-led terror attacks on Israel on 7 October.

Citing reports of “a double-digit number of children killed overnight”, Mr. Elder noted that this had happened “only hours after the (Security Council) resolution was passed”. 

Khan Younis flattened

The southern Gazan city of Khan Younis “barely exists anymore”, the UNICEF spokesperson added, before describing the “utter annihilation” of constant Israeli bombardment which has left an unreported number of children and families buried under the rubble of their homes. 

“In my 20 years with the UN I have never seen such devastation, it’s just chaos, ruin, debris and rubble every single direction, everywhere I look,” he said, reporting on his latest aid mission to the north.

Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis – “such a critical place for children with the wounds of war” - is now no longer even operational, the UNICEF official reported, adding that only one-third of Gaza’s hospitals are “partially functional” now. 

North in crisis 

Further north, where a UN World Food Programme (WFP) aid mission secured the passage of 38 trucks carrying relief supplies on Monday - for the first time in five days – Mr. Elder described seeing people making “that universal signal of hand to mouth, desperately asking and seeking for food”.

This is despite the fact that hundreds of trucks containing lifesaving humanitarian aid remain over the border in Egypt, UN agencies have pointed out.

Citing respected food insecurity analysis published recently warning of Gaza’s “catastrophic decline into imminent famine”, the UNICEF official also noted that the agency’s own data indicated that one in three children under two years old now suffer from acute malnutrition. Before the conflict, fewer than one in 100 children under five were malnourished, Mr. Elder said.

“This speaks to utter deprivation, this speaks to the devastation of things children rely on – water and health systems – but it also speaks to what the numbers speak to, which is a lethal lack of food and nutrition aid still not getting to the north.”

Before the war, around 500 commercial and humanitarian trucks reached the enclave every day, but the average today is around one-third of that number but there have also been periods of “weeks where nothing got into the north”, the UNICEF official added.

Health crisis

Echoing deep concerns about the desperate scenes unfolding in Gaza, UN World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Tarik Jazarevic reported that most patients at Al Amal hospital in the south have now left the facility.

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Media reports indicated that an evacuation order for the facility was issued by the Israeli military, amid intense hostilities in the west of Khan Younis. The situation is also believed to be dire in northern Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital which was also the target of an Israeli military raid, but WHO does not have access there, Mr. Jasarevic said.

“You have health workers dying, you have hospitals that are under siege, you have people who are looking for shelter in these places and if you can’t get a shelter at a hospital where else can you go?” he told journalists in Geneva.

Media reports indicated airstrikes overnight into Tuesday near the southernmost city of Rafah where some 1.5 million people now shelter, many after being uprooted from their homes elsewhere in the enclave.

The UN aid coordination office, OCHA, also urged Israel to lift its ban on aid deliveries to the north by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, echoing earlier calls by the UN Secretary-General.

“We need to dispel this notion that their obligation of getting aid in somehow stops with getting a few trucks - a fraction of what is needed - across the border and then once it’s in there as I have seen reported, then it’s not our problem any more, it’s the UN humanitarian agencies’ problem. That is not correct.”

He added: “You cannot claim to adhere to these international provisions of law when you block UNRWA food convoys, when you just last week denied five missions to the north, when we have now reports of Israeli attacks on warehouses and the police that are supposed to help secure this aid inside Gaza.”