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Violence against children in war reached extreme levels in 2023, including in Gaza: UN

It also names militants from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad for the first time for killing, wounding and kidnapping children.

Cars and a stroller near the Israeli kibbutz of Kfar Aza, after an attack by Hamas militants on October 7, 2023. File photo: AFP

Hamas’ October 7 surprise attack in southern Israel and Israel’s massive military retaliation in Gaza have led to a 155 percent increase in serious violations against children, mainly through the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Gaza, the report said of the UN Secretary General. Antonio Guterres.

The United Nations has blacklisted Russia’s armed forces and affiliated armed groups for a second year for killing and maiming children and attacking schools and hospitals in Ukraine.

The UN has verified the killing of 80 Ukrainian children and the mutilation of 419 others by Russian forces and their allies last year, most with explosive weapons, the report said.

Russia’s U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Moscow has denied attacking civilians since it invaded Ukraine in 2022.

Israeli UN envoy Gilad Erdan said on Friday he had been informed that the Israeli army had been added to the list and called the decision “shameful”. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were not immediately available for comment.

Sudan, where a war has raged since 2023 between rival generals vying for power, witnessed “a staggering 480 percent increase in serious violations against children,” the report said.

Sudan’s armed forces and rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces were blacklisted for killing and injuring young people and attacking schools and hospitals – as well as the paramilitaries for recruiting and using children in military operations and for rape and sexual assault. violence.

By the end of 2023, Secretary-General Guterres said the UN had verified 1,721 serious violations against 1,526 children.

A damaged tank in Omdurman, Sudan. File photo: Reuters

“I am shocked by the dramatic increase in serious violations,” he said, especially the recruitment, murder and mutilation of children, as well as sexual violence and attacks on schools and hospitals.

Myanmar’s growing civil war also saw a 123 percent increase in serious violations against children. The Myanmar Armed Forces and related militias and seven armed groups are also blacklisted this year.

According to the report, the UN verified 2,799 serious violations against 2,093 children – including 238 killings and 623 injuries attributed to the army and its allied militias.

The United Nations verified 30,705 violations against children in 2023 and 2,285 committed previously, involving more than 15,800 boys and more than 6,250 girls. Some were subjected to multiple violations, the report said.

Although armed groups were responsible for almost 50 percent of serious violations, “government forces were the main perpetrators of killing and maiming children, attacking schools and hospitals, and denying access to humanitarian organizations.”

Guterres said the alarming increase in violations is due to “the changing nature, complexity, expansion and intensification of armed conflicts, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, deliberate or indiscriminate attacks on civilians” and infrastructure and other essential buildings, as well as the rise of new armed groups, acute humanitarian emergencies and ‘blatant disregard’ for international law.

A youth riding school heavily damaged by Russian rocket attacks outside Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photo: Reuters

The UN chief said he is “shocked by the dramatic increase and unprecedented scale and intensity of serious violations against children in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, despite my repeated calls for parties to take action to prevent serious violations.” violations”.

Guterres said he was shocked by the killing, maiming and abduction of children by Hamas and Islamic Jihad on October 7. He said nothing can justify these “brutal acts of terror”.

And he said he was shocked by reports of sexual violence during the attacks, which must be investigated.

The scale of Israel’s military campaign against Hamas and Islamic Jihad “and the scale of death and destruction in the Gaza Strip have been unprecedented,” he said, reiterating calls for Israel to adhere to international law and ensure to ensure that civilians are not targeted. No excessive force is used during law enforcement operations.

In 2023, the report said, 5,698 serious violations against children were attributed to Israeli forces, 116 to Hamas, 58 to unidentified perpetrators, 51 to Israeli settlers, 21 to Islamic Jihad, 13 to Palestinian individuals and 1 to the security forces of the Palestinian Authority.

It said the process of verifying the attribution of 2,051 other violations is ongoing.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. File photo: dpa

In the Gaza Strip alone, the report says the UN has verified the killing of 2,267 Palestinian children. It said around 9,100 children were reportedly killed in the area “and verification is ongoing”.

In total, some 19,887 Palestinian children were reportedly killed or maimed in the Palestinian territories, and “the reports are awaiting verification.”

On a positive note, the Secretary-General reported progress in working with governments and blacklisted armed groups to protect children.

He mentioned Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Colombia, Congo, Iraq, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, the Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.

“More than 10,600 children previously associated with armed forces or groups received protection or reintegration support in 2023,” Guterres said.

To get off the blacklist, government forces and armed groups must develop and then implement an “action plan” to address violations with the Office of the UN Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict.

Guterres welcomed an offer from the Israeli government on May 28 to develop an action plan together with Special Representative Virginia Gamba.

He also welcomed Russia’s continued involvement in Gamba “to end and prevent serious violations against children,” and urged Russia’s armed forces to develop and sign an action plan.

Additional reporting by Reuters