Relatives carry the body of 8-month-old Ahmed Barhom during a funeral

Relatives carry the body of 8-month-old Ahmed Barhom during a funeral for members of the same family killed in Israel's bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6, 2023.

(Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel Bombs Pediatric Hospital as Death Toll of Children in Gaza Surpasses 4,000

"These children are not worthless casualties," said one advocate. "These children are as precious as any innocent children. They don't just deserve to not die. They deserve to live free."

As journalists in Gaza reported that the Israel Defense Forces bombed the cancer ward of a pediatric hospital in Gaza City on Sunday, advocates for a cease-fire in the blockaded enclave pleaded with powerful Western countries allied with Israel—including the United States—to take action to stop the bombardment that has now killed more than 4,000 children in one month.

Local news outlets Palestinian Hadath, Mayadeen, Haya Jadeeda, and Quds Network reported that the third floor of al-Rantisi Pediatric Hospital had been hit by an Israeli airstrike, while Reutersreported that eight people had been killed in the attack.

The Daily Beast reported late last month that medical providers in the ward, which is called the Dr.Musa and Suhaila Nasir Pediatric Cancer Department and is the first and only children's oncology department in Gaza, feared a possible bombing of the hospital, where at least 10 children were receiving in-patient treatment and could not be evacuated when Israeli officials threatened northern Gaza with imminent airstrikes.

"It's an impossible situation," said Dr. Zeena Salman, an American pediatric oncologist who has volunteered at the hospital, told The Daily Beast. "There's a number of patients who are not stable enough to transfer to another hospital. And there may not be enough resources in the hospital."

Al-Rantisi Hospital has also been providing shelter to around 1,000 civilians since Israel's total siege in Gaza began last month.

On Sunday, United Nations agencies representing children, women, refugees, and health services issued a joint call warning that "women, children and newborns in Gaza are disproportionately bearing the burden" of Israel's attack on the enclave, which it commenced on October 7 after Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 200 hostage.

While claiming to be targeting Hamas, the IDF has killed more than 10,000 Palestinians since October 7 as it has bombed hospitals, schools, and refugee camps—all while blaming Hamas for civilian casualties by saying the group is using Palestinian people as "human shields."

"The idea that 'they were being shielded by children so we murdered the children too' is so absent of morality, it's outrageous," said author Gabrielle Alexa Noel last week in response to an MSNBC segment in which anchor Joy Ann Reid also condemned the claim.

The death toll in Gaza, said Khaled Engindy of the Middle East Institute, is now the equivalent of "killing 1.5 million Americans, including 600,000 children, in the U.S. in under a month."

Toby Fricker, spokesperson for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), toldThe Guardian that while it can take time to verify the number of dead children and adults in Gaza as hundreds go missing under rubble after bombings, "the numbers are obviously catastrophic."

"Verification doesn't occur in real time, which is why we say 'reportedly killed,' but, generally speaking, in all conflicts we substantiate initial estimates and in Gaza they have tended to be pretty consistent," said Fricker, rebuking claims perpetuated by U.S. President Joe Biden recently that Gaza's health authorities, which are controlled by Hamas, release inaccurate casualty counts.

The U.N. agencies warned that with roughly 50,000 pregnant people in Gaza, children born during the war will be among the most at risk if the U.S. and other countries supporting Israel's siege don't join the growing call for a cease-fire. One hundred and thirty premature babies living in incubators are also at risk.

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell also warned last week that for the children who survive the fighting in both Gaza and Israel, the consequences of the trauma they are living through, including the loss of their parents and, in some cases, their entire family will have consequences that "could last a lifetime."

One UNICEF aid worker stationed in Gaza said last week that her children, aged seven and four, have been "begging for drinkable water and showing signs of severe psychological distress and fear."

"Since the seventh of this month, my mission in life has become to keep them alive," the worker, Nesma, told the agency. "I don't have the luxury to think about my children's mental health. As a humanitarian worker, I feel absolutely helpless as I cannot provide for my kids with the basic needs of life, let alone the children of Gaza. I keep telling myself, 'Nesma, keep them alive.' And when all of this ends, I will provide them with mental support and medical care."

Sharing the sounds of constant airstrikes on social media, UNICEF said people in areas not experiencing conflict "can choose to turn off this sound. Children in conflicts can't."

On Sunday, Dr. Omar Suleiman of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research posted a video of two young children desperately searching for their family members after a bombing at Bureij Refugee Camp when they were reunited with their younger brother, who tearfully told a bystander, "I need my mother."

"These children are not worthless casualties," said Suleiman. "These children are as precious as any innocent children. They don't just deserve to not die. They deserve to live free."

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