Displaced Palestinians

Displaced Palestinians trying to survive under Israeli siege are pictured in Rafah, Gaza on March 21, 2024.

(Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu via Getty Images)

UN Panel Says IDF Appears Set on 'Physical Destruction of Palestinian Children'

"Children in Gaza can no longer wait, as each passing minute risks another child dying of hunger as the world looks on," said the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

A United Nations panel said Thursday that the Israeli military's siege of Gaza appears "calculated to bring about the physical destruction of Palestinian children," pointing to the growing number of kids starving to death as Israel obstructs the delivery of humanitarian aid.

"They are cut off from food, even crumbs are not easy to find," the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said in a statement. "A little girl wept in front of the BBC's camera, crying, 'I miss bread.' The occupying power has blocked or severely restricted food and other life-essential supplies and aid."

At least 27 children have died of malnutrition or dehydration in recent weeks, a toll that the U.N. panel said is "likely to be significantly higher" and is "set to rise" as Israel's blockade and attacks on aid convoys continue. An alarming analysis released earlier this week by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification found that Gaza's entire population—roughly half of which is children—is "facing high levels of acute food insecurity."

"Children in Gaza can no longer wait, as each passing minute risks another child dying of hunger as the world looks on," the U.N. committee said.

Children are also at high risk from ongoing Israeli bombings, which have inflicted immense physical and psychological suffering on Gaza's children. Israel's military has killed more than 13,000 children in the territory since October 7, a figure that the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) called "astronomically horrifying." Save the Children estimated that between October and January, an average of more than 10 children per day in Gaza lost one or both of their legs due to Israeli attacks.

"I think these numbers that we're seeing out of Gaza are just staggering," Catherine Russell, UNICEF's executive director, said earlier this week. "We haven't seen that rate of death among children in almost any other conflict in the world."

The U.N. panel on children's rights called attention to the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) January ruling ordering the Israeli government to "enable the provision" of humanitarian aid and do everything in its power to prevent acts of genocide—directives that Israel has been accused of systematically violating.

"Since the ICJ order on 26 January, and as of 19 March, an average of over 108 Palestinians have been killed and another 178 injured every day in Gaza, and children are amongst them," the committee said Thursday. "The looming invasion of Rafah will take the fragile situation to the breaking point, putting the lives of 600,000 children at immediate risk, and will rapidly reach the tipping point of famine."

"While reiterating its calls for the remaining children held hostage to be released immediately," the panel added, "the committee also calls on all parties, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire to protect hundreds of thousands of innocent children's lives."

The statement came as the United States, Israel's chief arms supplier, proposed a draft U.N. Security Council resolution declaring that an "immediate cease-fire" is "imperative." The U.S. has repeatedly stonewalled and vetoed cease-fire resolutions at the Security Council in recent months even as its top officials, including President Joe Biden, have expressed concerns about the grisly civilian death toll in Gaza.

In a scathing op-ed for The Guardian on Thursday, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Mary Lawlor wrote that "the international human rights architecture is creaking under the weight of the hypocrisy of countries who profess support for a rules-based order yet continue to provide weapons to Israel that kill more innocent Palestinians."

"There exist no moral arguments," wrote Lawlor, "that can justify the continued sale of weapons to Israel by states that respect the principle of the universality of human rights."

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