UNICEF calls for the protection of children in Rafah
UNICEF said today it is deeply concerned about the impact on children of the ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip, particularly a missile strike Wednesday that claimed the lives of at least 10 Palestinians, many of them children.
"Palestinian children have a right to be protected against all acts of violence in the midst of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict," said David S. Bassiouni, UNICEF Special Representative in Jerusalem. "They have a right to a safe shelter, safe access to their schools and to health services," he said.
With the recent military actions in Rafah - and Wednesday's missile strike - at least 10 children have already lost their lives, including Asma and Ahmed, a 16 and 13-year-old girl and boy, respectively, shot in their home in Rafah on Tuesday morning. Many additional children have been injured and all are facing psychosocial distress.
The ongoing house demolitions in Rafah have left more 1,100 Palestinian people homeless in a 10 day period alone, out of which almost 600 are children. Between September 2000 and May 2004, more than 11,000 Palestinians have lost their homes.
UNICEF, jointly with other UN agencies, is assessing the impact of house demolitions on children and will support efforts to help restore normalcy to children's lives.
Since the start of the conflict, Israeli and Palestinian children have paid a very heavy price, UNICEF said. Over 660 children under age 18 have been killed, of which 560 were Palestinian and 104 were Israeli - including four Israeli sisters killed by militants in an attack in the Gaza Strip on May 2.
"UNICEF calls on the State of Israel to abide by its obligations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child by protecting children from direct exposure to violence, and providing those who have lost their homes with alternative housing," Bassiouni said. "The injudicious use of force where children are present can only bring about the deaths of innocent youngsters. We urge the Israeli authorities to reconsider the impact these incursions are having on Palestinian children."