For the past five days, Gaza has been pounded relentlessly by Israeli rocket attacks, air strikes and shelling. The Israeli Air Force has hit more than 1,000 targets in Gaza. Indiscriminate rocket fire by Palestinian armed groups towards Israeli communities in southern Israel has also intensified.
Eighty-eight Palestinians have been forced to their graves – 57 of whom were civilians, including 18 children and 12 women. More than 700 have been reported injured. Of those, 252 have been children. Three Israeli civilians have been killed, and more than 50 have been reported injured.
Condemning the hostilities between Israel and Gaza that began on Wednesday, UNICEF has called on all parties to “exercise the utmost restraint and to protect the rights and well-being of all children.”
“This must stop,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I strongly urge the parties to cooperate with all efforts led by Egypt to reach an immediate cease fire. Any further escalation will inevitably increase the suffering of the affected civilian populations and must be avoided.”
Children hit hard
On both sides of the border, the children are worst affected – scarred for the rest of their lives by the raining bullets and bombs. Terrified by the sounds of air raid sirens, children in southern Israel and Tel Aviv run into shelters several times a day to escape death. In Gaza, many sleep in the cold. Windows are left open for fear of injury from glass shards if windows are blown by explosions. Trapped by the six-year blockade and poverty, they have nowhere to go.
Five UNICEF emergency psycho-social teams are visiting hospitals and homes to speak with children and families who have been victim of, or have witnessed, extreme violence. But because of the tense security situation, most activity remains suspended in Gaza, and relief organizations are left struggling to reach families with limited resources.
Medical stocks are very low; medical supplies to treat severely injured patients are urgently needed. Plastic sheeting to seal broken windows, fuel to run generators for hospitals and water and sanitation facilities, and chlorine for water treatment plants are scarce.
Working against needless suffering
“Let us not forget that children across Gaza need support more than ever before. In this climate of uncertainty, and in light of its commitments to the Palestinian people, the UN and its agencies have a responsibility to mitigate a humanitarian crisis,” says UNICEF occupied Palestinian territory Special Representative Jean Gough.
“UNICEF is mandated to work against the needless death and suffering of children and women – irrespective of the political context they are living in. We have an urgent job to do, and we are completely committed to doing it.”
Story was published on 19th November 2012 here UNICEF.org