Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), It has been over a month since Israel was shaken by the most atrocious terrorist attacks in its history, which claimed the lives of over 1300 innocent Israelis. Over 220 Israeli people, many of them children, have also been brutally abducted and held hostage by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.
We cannot even fathom the suffering of the families who have lost their loved ones during these brutal attacks, of those parents and families whose children are now held hostage in Gaza. While all lives matter, the loss of children’s lives crashes our souls and is deeply troubling. They are always the most vulnerable in times of war.
It is of paramount importance that all hostages are unconditionally released and that all Israeli children held hostage are immediately reunited with their families.
Amidst the surge of extreme violence and the military operations in response to the heinous Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, we are extremely concerned about the impact of this unprecedented violence on children in Gaza, compounded by the blockade of food, water, and vital services and absence of humanitarian access to the population in need.
It is unbearable to watch children suffering unspeakable atrocities and causalities during this conflict, as well as a result of the heavy bombings of Gaza. With every airstrike, rocket, and bullet fired, children’s sense of security is ripped away yet again, with dire consequences for their long-term well-being. Every child, Israeli or Palestinian, deserves to grow up in peace and security.
It is also important to stress that the killing and maiming of children, along with attacks on schools and hospitals, are grave violations against children’s rights.
All actors have an absolute obligation to always protect children in conflict. We cannot accept children as collateral of this cycle of violence. Children should never be a target and should never pay the consequences of choices made by adults, who failed to protect them.
It is certain that children – yet once again – are those paying the highest toll in this conflict. The latest figures put the number of casualties in Gaza at over 10.000 people, out of which 4000 children. This war has become a war on children and we cannot be complicit in this indiscriminate slaughter of children! We are facing a risk of having a lost generation in Gaza and the horrors and unprecedented violence suffered by all children in Israel and Gaza are likely to have a major negative impact in their development in life. We need to put a stop to this now before it is too late.
In such uncertain and dire times for both Israeli and Palestinian children, we call for caution, and restraint and urge all parties to strive for the de-escalation of violence and to fully respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law, affording special protection to children. And we repeat our call for a humanitarian pause, to de-escalate the conflict and for humanitarian aid to reach the population in dire need.
After a month of heavy and constant bombing of the Gaza Strip, the situation for children in Gaza has become unbearable since they find themselves with no access to critical supplies. It is therefore essential that Israel refrain from imposing measures that amount to collective punishment of a civilian population and ensure civilian populations get critical food, water, and medical supplies.
Civilians, and infrastructure essential for their lives, such as hospitals and schools, must be spared from the violence. We call on all actors to do their utmost to protect the lives of children, everywhere and always.
Published in Brussels Morning on 14/11/2023