Up to 21,000 Palestinian children missing in Gaza war: Save the Children

Ahram Online , Monday 24 Jun 2024

Save the Children Organization said that thousands of missing Palestinian children are believed to be trapped beneath the rubble of destroyed homes, detained by Israeli forces, buried in unmarked graves, or lost from their families.

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File photo- A man carries children injured in Israeli bombardment, at the al-Najjar hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 24, 2024. AFP

 

“It is nearly impossible to collect and verify information under the current conditions in Gaza,” the British aid group said in a statement, “but at least 17,000 children are believed to be unaccompanied and separated, and approximately 4,000 children are likely missing under the rubble, with an unknown number also in mass graves.”

“Others have been forcibly disappeared, including an unknown number detained and forcibly transferred out of Gaza, their whereabouts unknown to their families amidst reports of ill-treatment and torture," the group added. 

Jeremy Stoner, the group’s regional director for the Middle East, has called for an independent investigation and accountability.

“Families are tortured by the uncertainty of the whereabouts of their loved ones. No parent should have to dig through rubble or mass graves to try and find their child’s body. No child should be alone, unprotected in a war zone. No child should be detained or held hostage,” he said.

Living in hell
 

People in Gaza are in “a living hell” as the humanitarian situation has increasingly become dire amid Israeli restrictions on aid supplies, Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, warned.

“Children are dying of malnutrition and dehydration, while food and clean water wait in trucks,” Lazzarini told the agency’s advisory body.

UNRWA chief also called to push back against efforts by Israel to have the organization disbanded, Reuters reported.

“Israel has long been critical of the agency’s mandate. But it now seeks to end UNRWA’s operations, dismissing the agency’s status as a United Nations entity supported by an overwhelming majority of Member States,” Lazzarini added.

“If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system,” he clarified.

Lazzarini also noted that the agency, which has provided essential aid to Gazans throughout Israel's offensive, was "staggering under the weight of relentless attacks."

"In Gaza, the agency has paid a terrible price: 193 UNRWA personnel have been killed," he said as reported by Reuters.

"More than 180 installations have been damaged or destroyed, killing at least 500 people seeking the UN protection."

Lazzarini added that the agency was being subjected to a "concerted effort" to dismantle it, noting that UNRWA still lacked the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate.

Furthermore, he warned that the agency's ability to operate beyond August depends on member states disbursing planned funds and providing new contributions to the core budget.

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