Palestinian children
A group of five Palestinian children ages 8 to 13 were gathering wild vegetables near the illegal Jewish settlement of Havat Maon on March 10, 2021 when they were arrested by Israeli troops.
(Photo: Nasser Nawaj'ah/B'Tselem/Twitter)

UN Chief Ripped for Leaving Israel Off Child-Killing 'List of Shame'

"From 2015-2020, the U.N. attributed over 6,700 child casualties to Israeli forces. He has just verified 975 more in 2022," said one human rights campaigner. "Yet he still omits Israel."

Human rights defenders on Thursday condemned United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres' omission of Israel from a "list of shame" of countries that kill and injure children during wars and other armed conflict.

The Secretary-General Office's annual Children and Armed Conflict report—which is likely to be released publicly on June 30, according to one U.N. official—reportedly leaves Israel off the list of grave violators who harm children, despite Israeli forces' killing and wounding over 1,000 Palestinian minors over the past two years. The report states that 42 Palestinian children were killed and 933 others wounded by Israeli forces in 2022 alone.

Yet, according to one journalist who saw the report, Guterres noted "a meaningful decrease in the number of children killed by Israeli forces, including by airstrikes," in 2022.

That's because Israel conducted a major bombing campaign against Gaza in 2021 in which 67 children were among the 256 Palestinians killed. The report says Israeli forces killed a total of 78 children in 2021.

Guterres did say that "I remain deeply concerned by the number of children killed and maimed by Israeli forces" and by Israel's "use of live ammunition during law enforcement operations" as well "the persistent lack of accountability for these violations."

Noting that 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinian children in the West Bank in 15 years, Jo Becker, advocacy director for children at Human Rights Watch, said Guterres' "unwillingness year after year to hold Israeli forces accountable for their grave violations against children has backfired, only emboldening Israeli forces to use unlawful lethal force against Palestinian children."

"From 2015-2020, the U.N. attributed over 6,700 child casualties to Israeli forces. He has just verified 975 more in 2022. Yet he still omits Israel from his 'list of shame,'" Becker tweeted.

Criticism of the Children in Armed Conflict report comes after seven Palestinians including two children—Ahmed Youssef Saqr and Sadeel Ghassan Naghniyeh Turkman, both 15 years old—died during and after a Monday raid by Israeli troops on the Jenin refugee camp in the illegally occupied West Bank. Turkman, who was shot in the head while recording the raid, succumbed to her injuries on Wednesday.

Another Palestinian child, 15-year-old Ashraf Morad Mahmoud Al-Sa'di, was killed Wednesday in an Israeli drone strike on a vehicle in which he was traveling north of Jenin, according to the charity Defense for Children International-Palestine.

Palestinian journalist Leila Warah discussed the youths' killings in a video for Mondoweiss:

Last year, Guterres said he was "shocked by the number of children killed and maimed by Israeli forces during hostilities, in airstrikes on densely populated areas, and through the use of live ammunition during law enforcement operations," declaring that "should the situation repeat itself in 2022 without meaningful improvement," Israel should be included on the blacklist.

"The secretary-general's threat to add Israeli forces and Palestinian groups to his 'list of shame' created an expectation that they would finally be held accountable," said Ezequiel Heffes, director of the Watchlist on Children in Armed Conflict—which has recommended Israel's inclusion on the "list of shame" every year since 2017.

"Although the mechanism has proven effective in changing warring parties' behaviors and strengthening protections for children in other conflicts, by failing to follow through on the threatened listing with Israel and Palestinian groups, he sends a message that they can continue committing grave violations against children without consequences."

The Children in Armed Confict analysis reportedly notes that Palestinian resistance forces—who are not on the "list of shame"—killed or maimed more than 100 children in 2022.

"If you do not list this government now, when will you list the Israeli government?"

Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N. Riyad Mansour on Thursday called the omission of Israel from Guterres' list "very disappointing to the Palestinian people and to the Palestinian children."

"The secretary-general made a big mistake in not listing this current Israeli government," Mansour said during a press conference. "This is the most extreme government, loaded with fascist elements. If you do not list this government now, when will you list the Israeli government? It's very unfortunate that he selected not to list them."

Israel isn't the only controversial omission from the list. While human rights advocates welcomed Russia's inclusion—the report directly attributes 136 child deaths to Russian and affiliated forces—some asked why Ukraine, whose homeland defenders killed 80 children last year according to the publication, was left off.

Saudi Arabia was removed from the list in 2020 even though it continues to lead an eight-year U.S.-backed coalition intervention in Yemen's civil war which UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, says has killed more than 11,000 children.

"The U.N. needs to hold to account all governments, no matter how powerful, for their violations," Becker asserted Thursday.

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