A human rights organisation has slammed Israel after a report found Israeli forces shot hundreds of Palestinian children in the besieged Gaza Strip during the Great Return March.
In its latest analysis, Save the Children showed that children as young as eight who were attacked by Israeli forces are struggling to receive help as provisions for health care in the besieged enclave worsens.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry has recorded 500 detailed injuries in children, at least 250 of which were hit with live bullets. The true number of children injured is expected to be higher, with the ministry reporting that so far 689 children have been injured, but the details of some attacks are not yet known.
“All parties must ensure that children are protected in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and other relevant international law,” said Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s Country Director for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
“We are deeply concerned by the high number of children who have been hit by live ammunition and we agree with the
High Commissioner for Human Rights said this could suggest an excessive use of force and may amount to "unlawful killing and maiming,” she added.
By teaming up with MAAN Development Center, a grassroots organisation to provide psychosocial help for Gazan children, Save the Children found that youth are losing hope as Israel continues to attack Gaza, notably its latest assault on protesters.
“The result has been devastating for the children of Gaza – physically and psychologically. Many have been injured, and many more have seen their parents or loved ones either hurt at the protests, or suffering increasing hardship in their daily lives,” Moorehead said.
“Children and families are telling our staff that they are losing hope of conditions ever improving in Gaza. We’re calling for an urgent lifting of the Israeli blockade that has crippled the economy and for increased donor engagement to alleviate the urgent daily needs of almost two million people in Gaza.”
Mass protests erupted on 30 March - dubbed "Great Return March" - which have centred on the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, after they were expelled following the 1948 creation of Israel.
The protests along the Gaza border quickly turned deadly after Israeli forces began responding with live ammunition. Thousands of protesters have been wounded by gunfire or needed treatment for tear gas inhalation in the weeks of protests.
No Israelis have been reported hurt.
Israel has defended its disproportionate use of violence against peaceful protesters involved in the the Great Return March demonstrations after facing a legal challenge from international rights groups, suggesting human rights laws do not apply to what it described as "acts of war”.
Click here to view an updated list of the Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza since Friday March 30.