Children Gaza

People mourn as they receive the dead bodies of victims of an Israeli airstrike on February 12, 2024 in Rafah, Gaza.

(Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

"Are They 'Hamas'?" 12,300 Children Killed by Israeli Forces in Gaza

Gruesome new data shows that kids make up around 43% of the death toll from Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces have killed more than 12,300 Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip in just over four months, a staggering toll that's likely to grow as the Netanyahu government ramps up its assault on and prepares to invade the overcrowded city of Rafah.

New figures that Gaza health authorities provided to The Associated Press show that children make up roughly 43% of the total death toll in the Palestinian enclave since October 7. Women and children combined account for three-quarters of the death toll, according to the new data.

"Are they 'Hamas'?" Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch, asked in response to the numbers, referring to Israel's claim that it is targeting militants despite the massive and growing body of evidence to the contrary.

An Amnesty International report released Monday examining four recent Israeli airstrikes on Rafah. Amnesty said that "in all four attacks," it did not find "any indication that the residential buildings hit could be considered legitimate military objectives or that people in the buildings were military targets."

Virtually all of Gaza's 1 million-plus children have been traumatized in some way by Israel's monthslong war on the Gaza Strip: Around 17,000 have been separated from their families, more than 1,000 have had one or both of their legs amputated, and more than 610,000 are currently trapped in Rafah, a small city that was previously considered a relative safe zone for people fleeing Israeli bombs and bullets.

"Israel is erasing generations in Gaza and its soldiers are killing children in numbers competing with the cruelest of wars," Israeli journalist Gideon Levy wrote in a column last month. "This will not and cannot be forgotten. How can a people ever forget those who killed its children in such a manner? How can people of conscience around the world remain silent?"

"This is the gravest test of all. Will they uphold international law and children's right to life? Or will they stand by while the lives, bodies, and futures of more children are decimated?"

Children were among the dozens of Palestinians killed Monday in a wave of Israeli airstrikes conducted as the U.S.-armed Israel Defense Forces raided an apartment building to rescue two hostages.

Jason Lee, Save the Children's country director for the occupied Palestinian territory, said last week that "much of the international community has failed tests of their commitment to protect children so far."

"This is the gravest test of all," Lee said of Rafah. "Will they uphold international law and children's right to life? Or will they stand by while the lives, bodies, and futures of more children are decimated?"

The United Nations Children's Fund, known as UNICEF, similarly appealed to the international community to act to prevent catastrophe for children and others in Rafah.

"We need an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, and the safe and immediate release of all hostages—especially children—who have suffered so much," Catherine Russell, UNICEF's executive director, said Friday. "A humanitarian cease-fire will save lives. It will allow for the expansion of the humanitarian response, and help provide the best protection for children whose lives and futures are hanging in the balance."

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