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‘Unprecedented scale’ of violations against children in Gaza, West Bank and Israel, says UN report

More serious violations against children were committed in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel last year than anywhere else in the world, according to a UN report due to be published this week.

The report on children and armed conflict, seen by the Guardian, confirmed more cases of war crimes against children in the occupied territories and Israel than anywhere else, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, Nigeria and Sudan.

“Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are demonstrating an unprecedented scale and intensity of serious violations against children,” the report said.

Related: The UN adds Israel to the list of states that commit violations against children

The annual review – which will be presented to the UN General Assembly later this week by Secretary-General António Guterres – lists Israel for the first time in an appendix of state offenders responsible for violations of the rights of the child, sparking outrage in the Israeli government.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying the UN had “added itself to the blacklist of history when it joined those who support the Hamas killers.”

The report only describes cases that UN investigators were able to verify, so it represents only part of the total number of deaths and injuries among children over the course of last year.

In total, the UN has verified “8,009 serious violations against 4,360 children” in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank – more than double the figures for the DRC, the second worst place for violence against children.

Of the total number of verified child victims, 4,247 were Palestinians and 113 were Israeli.

A total of 5,698 violations were attributed to Israeli military and security forces, and 116 to Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Israeli settlers were found responsible in 51 cases, and 21 involved the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Al-Quds Brigades.

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Between October 7 and the end of December last year, the UN verified the killing of 2,051 Palestinian children and said the process of attributing responsibility was ongoing, but the report noted: “Most incidents were caused by the use of explosives weapons in populated areas. by Israeli armed forces and security forces.”

The report admitted that it presented only a partial picture of the situation in Gaza.

“Due to serious access issues, particularly in the Gaza Strip, the information presented here does not represent the full extent of violations against children in this situation,” the report said.

The report also found serious abuses by Israeli forces in the West Bank, with 126 Palestinian children killed and 906 arrested. The UN has verified five cases in which soldiers used boys “to protect forces during law enforcement operations.”

During 2023, in the run-up to Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, the UN said the armed wings of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized “summer camps” in which children were exposed to “military content and activities” .

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In the first three months of the war, the UN verified 23 separate cases of denial of humanitarian access by Israeli authorities “related to the denied coordination of humanitarian aid missions and the prevention of access to medical care.”

In the course of the Israeli offensive in Gaza, the UN found that “nearly all critical infrastructure, facilities and services have been attacked, including shelters, United Nations installations, schools, hospitals, water and sanitation supplies, grain mills and bakeries.”

“Children are at risk of famine, severe malnutrition and preventable deaths,” the UN report said.

“I am shocked by the dramatic increase and unprecedented scale and intensity of serious violations against children in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the occupied West Bank,” Guterres told the General Assembly in the report.

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