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Israel could be 'blacklisted' over killings of Palestinian children, says UN chief

New United Nations report finds Israeli forces killed 78 Palestinian children and maimed another 982 last year
A child stands in the wreckage of her neighbourhood in the Gaza Strip following Israel's military bombing campaign in May 2021. (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)
A child stands in the wreckage of her neighbourhood in the Gaza Strip following Israel's military bombing campaign in May 2021 (MEE/Mohammed al-Hajjar)

Israel should be added to a UN blacklist if its violence against Palestinian children is repeated this year, UN chief Antonio Guterres said on Monday. 

In its annual Children and Armed Conflict report, the UN said Israeli forces killed 78 Palestinian children, maimed another 982 and detained 637 in 2021.

“I am shocked by the number of children killed and maimed by Israeli forces during hostilities, in air strikes on densely populated areas and through the use of live ammunition during law enforcement operations,” the UN secretary-general said in the report.

"Should the situation repeat itself in 2022, without meaningful improvement, Israel should be listed," he added. 

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So far this year, at least 15 Palestinian children have been killed by Israeli forces, according to the Geneva-based Defence for Children International’s Palestine chapter (DCI-P).

The annual report, which records grave violations against children in conflict areas around the world, has caused controversy at times over which parties are included in its “blacklist” at the end of each report.

The list is intended to exert pressure on states and armed groups around the world for violations against children verified by the UN. 

Israel has never been on the list.

According to this year’s report, the UN recorded 2,934 grave violations against 1,208 Palestinian children and nine Israeli children in the occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel. 

All 17 children killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, were fatally shot using live ammunition mainly during demonstrations, the report noted. 

In the besieged Gaza Strip, 69 Palestinian children were killed, the majority during Israel's 11-day bombardment campaign. 

Among the 637 Palestinian children detained in this period, 85 reported ill-treatment and breaches of due process by Israeli forces, with 75 percent reporting having experienced physical violence.

The report also said Palestinian rockets fired by armed groups killed two Israeli children.

Israel and the Palestinian territories witnessed the highest number of verified violations against children in 2021 according to the report, along with Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia. 

Syria and Yemen 

In Syria, the UN said 424 children had been killed and 474 maimed last year. Of those, 301 deaths were attributed to Syrian government forces and pro-government forces.

Around 1,296 children were recruited into the conflict, mainly by armed opposition groups.

In Yemen, which has been wrecked by war between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels, the report said that 2,748 grave violations had been committed against 800 children by the warring sides. 

A total of 201 children were killed and a further 480 were maimed.

'I am alarmed by the high number of children killed and maimed, especially by explosive remnants of war'

- Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general

The Houthis were responsible for killing or maiming 180 Yemeni children, while the Saudi-led coalition, which is in the country to restore the UN-recognised government, was responsible for killing or maiming 100 children.

The report also recorded high levels of recruitment and use of children in the conflict, especially by the Houthi rebels, who recruited 174 children (172 boys, two girls), between the ages of nine and 17 last year alone.

“I am alarmed by the high number of children killed and maimed, especially by explosive remnants of war,” Guterres said, urging all parties involved in the conflict to abide by international humanitarian law.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen had been on the UN’s blacklist for three years before being removed in 2020. 

It was first briefly added to the blacklist in 2016 and then removed by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pending review.

At the time, Ban accused Saudi Arabia of exerting “unacceptable” undue pressure after sources told Reuters that Riyadh had threatened to cut some UN funding. Saudi Arabia denied threatening Ban.

This year’s report found that 2,515 children had been killed and 5,555 maimed in global conflicts during 2021.

Afghanistan saw the highest number of deaths of children during 2021, the report said, with 626 deaths verified, as the Taliban seized territory from the US-backed government and western forces rapidly withdrew from the country.