Gaza's children: Why so many young lives have been lost
Published Wednesday, July 23, 2014 7:54PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 23, 2014 10:42PM EDT
At six years old, many kids are learning how to ride a bike. Their baby teeth are beginning to fall out and they’re learning how to add and subtract in school.
And if they’re in Gaza, a six-year-old is now living through his or her third war.
In a two-week battle that has killed almost 700 Palestinians so far, UNICEF estimates that one in three civilian deaths are children under 18. The 2014 conflict in Gaza has claimed more children than Hamas fighters, according to rights groups like Defence for Children International and World Vision.
Why have so many young people been killed in Gaza?
The high proportion of young deaths is mirrored by the densely packed population of the 360-square-kilometre swath of land tucked into the southwestern Coast of Israel. More than 40 per cent of Gaza’s population is under 15 years old, and the median age of its 1.8 million inhabitants is just over 18 – compare that to Canada’s median age of just under 42.
The death toll thus far has been disproportionate. Only two Israeli civilians have been killed despite the thousands of rockets Hamas has fired into the country. Twenty-nine Israeli Defence Force soldiers have died in the conflict.
The UN Human Rights Council voted Wednesday to create an independent commission to investigate potential war crimes by Israel and Hamas. Attacks on Palestinian homes and hospitals raise “a strong possibility that international law has been violated,” according to U.N. high commissioner Navi Pillay.
She also said “the indiscriminate firing by Hamas and other armed groups of more than 2,900 rockets, as well as mortars, from Gaza continues to endanger the lives of civilians in Israel.”
Israel accuses Hamas of storing rockets and creating tunnels in non-combatant homes, turning civilians into “human shields” as Israel strikes Hamas targets attempting to hinder its ability to fire rockets. Human shields or not, Israel is still firing. Palestinian human rights group Mezan said 477 civilian houses have been destroyed since the beginning of the conflict, with 332 people dying in their homes.