Gaza injured child
Israeli Military Has Killed 1 Child in Gaza Every 15 Minutes: Rights Group
(Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Human Rights Watch Says Countless More Children Will Die If Israel Doesn't End Gaza Siege

"Every hour that this blockade continues costs lives."

Human Rights Watch warned in a report published Wednesday that Israel's total siege of the Gaza Strip has put more than a million children at "grave risk," depriving them of access to basic necessities and leaving hospitals without sufficient fuel to treat scores of Israeli airstrike victims.

The group released its report after Israelagreed to allow limited quantities of food, water, and medicine to reach southern Gaza via the Egyptian border, a slight crack in the complete blockade that was imposed on October 9. The desperately needed aid is expected to begin arriving in southern Gaza as soon as Friday.

But HRW argued that the aid agreement "falls short of meeting the needs of Gaza's population" because it excludes people in northern Gaza who are unable or unwilling to comply with Israel's evacuation order. The deal also won't restore Gaza's electricity supply or allow fuel into the territory, leaving hospitals in a state of crisis as they rely on dwindling diesel generators.

Gaza's lone cancer hospital is among the facilities at risk of shutting down imminently if Israel doesn't lift the siege, which HRW described as "part of the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution that Israeli authorities are committing against Palestinians."

Dr. Midhat Abbad, director general of health in Gaza, told HRW that more than 60% of patients in the occupied enclave are children.

One intern emergency room doctor at Gaza's Al Aqsa Hospital provided HRW with a harrowing account of the impossible choices medical professionals are being forced to make as Israel continues its relentless assault and keeps its blockade intact, denying healthcare facilities critical supplies—including ventilators and painkillers.

"Yesterday, in the intensive care unit, it was full, and all ventilators were in use," the intern said on October 15. "A child came in with head trauma who needed a ventilator. They had to choose between two children, who would die. He [the doctor] made a decision that one child was more promising to treat, so we were forced to switch the ventilator, and the other child died."

HRW also relayed an account from a doctor at Al Shifa Hospital who said ICU medics were forced to remove an adult patient from a ventilator to treat a 10-year-old child due to supply shortages.

Bill Van Esveld, HRW's associate children's rights director, said in a statement that "Israel's bombardment and unlawful total blockade of Gaza mean that countless wounded and sick children, among many other civilians, will die for want of medical care."

"U.S. President Joe Biden... should press Israeli officials to completely lift the unlawful blockade and ensure the entire civilian population has prompt access to water, food, fuel, and electricity," said Van Esveld. "Israel has cut off the most basic goods necessary for survival in Gaza, where there are more than a million children at risk."

Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have killed more than 1,000 children— roughly one every 15 minutes—since October 7, the day the bombing campaign began following a deadly Hamas attack.

It's unclear how many deaths in Gaza are attributable to the siege, but HRW made clear Wednesday that it is having disastrous impacts across the Palestinian territory.

"Public health officials said the lack of water, contamination of areas by sewage, and many bodies that cannot be safely stored in morgues could trigger an infectious disease outbreak," the group said. "More than 5,500 pregnant women in the Gaza Strip are expected to deliver within the next month, but face 'compromised functionality of health facilities' and lack of 'lifesaving supplies,' the United Nations Population Fund said on October 13."

"The sick and wounded, including children and pregnant women, have not been allowed to cross Rafah into Egypt or the Erez crossing into Israel to receive treatment," HRW added.

Omar Shakir, HRW's Israel and Palestine director, wrote on social media Thursday that "by cutting off most basic goods/services necessary for survival, Israel is putting lives of 1 million+ kids in Gaza at risk and committing a war crime."

"States must urgently act—every hour that this blockade continues costs lives," Shakir added.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.