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War takes toll on Gaza children

Published time: January 09, 2009 22:14
Edited time: January 09, 2009 22:14

Since the Israeli offensive in Gaza began in December, it is estimated that some 770 Palestinians. Roughly half of them are believed to be civilians, with children perhaps the most defenceless victims of the conflict.

With one of the highest birth rates worldwide, the Palestinian autonomy has an overwhelmingly young population. More than half of the people are under 14 years old. It is therefore no surprise that children have paid a high price in the latest armed conflict.

Palestinian officials say the Israeli offensive has killed around 170 children so far.

Gazans are vulnerable not only to frequent shelling. They are also victims of a growing humanitarian crisis.

Without electricity, hospitals are operating on backup generators and are low on fuel. The life-saving services provided by doctors and nurses in overloaded hospitals are under threat.

The risk of disease is growing as water wells and sewage pumps seize up due to a lack of electricity.

Even before the recent conflict broke out, 18 months of blockades meant Gazans had to endure appalling living conditions. Now it has got even worse. And children, who do not understand the logic of war, are still bearing the brunt of the Israeli attacks.

“When the air attack began, we were at home. We then ran in the street and saw injured people, many of them children. Two small girls were killed, one of them had her leg blown off. I’m asking: what have children done to deserve this?” Palestian citizen Abu Aood said.

“When night comes, children get scared, because tanks might come, or rockets may fall on us. Still we do not intend to leave our home,” Palestinian Mama Sahira said.

Kate Conrad from the Save the Children foundation says: “The situation for children in Gaza is increasingly dire.”

She added that as the conflict enters its second week many children in the region lack the means of survival:

“We are now in the 12th day of the conflict. Many are without water, without electricity. Food is very scarce. They are terrorised. They can't sleep at night. And we should understand, too, that even before this crisis hit, children there were very vulnerable.”

On Thursday, the United Nations demanded an investigation into the Israeli shelling of a Gaza school that killed nearly 40 people earlier in the week.

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