2023 marks deadliest year on record for children in the occupied West Bank

This horrific record was reached this month after the deaths of two 16-year-old boys on two separate occasions.[1]

On average, it equates to more than one Palestinian child killed per week. At least six Israeli children have also been killed this year.

As the second consecutive year for record numbers of child fatalities in the West Bank, this highlights the worsening situation for children’s safety across the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

A Palestinian child interviewed by Save the Children last year was one of the children killed this month. His words are a haunting reminder of the fears Palestinian children face on a regular basis, and his death drives home the reality of those risks. Yousef* said:

“My dream is to be able to look at anything on my way to school, like birds and greenery. I want to see the things I always imagine. I don’t want to smell gas or see soldiers everywhere. I don’t want to be scared to go outside. I don’t want my mother to be scared that I might get hurt or roam the streets looking for me, fearing I was hurt by Israeli soldiers.”

Despite only being September, the child death toll in oPt this year has already reached at least 44, including at least six children killed in Gaza. This figure is just one short of the 45 Palestinian children killed in total in 2022. Two Israeli children were also killed last year.[2]

Five of the Palestinian children killed this year were under 12 years old, and three were under eight. The youngest was just two years old.

In July, at least four Palestinian children were killed in Jenin during the largest Israeli military operation in the West Bank in over 20 years, involving a heavy use of force including airstrikes.

Amina,* a 15-year-old girl who experienced the Jenin military operation, said:

“Every once in a while, I sit alone in the room and start crying. I cry about everything that happened to us. I dream every day of what happened. I don’t sleep until dawn, until I make sure that they are not coming back for us.”

Amina’s mother said:

“My daughters are not the same, my seven-year-old refuses to leave the house alone now. And once the girls hear that the soldiers are coming into the camp, they start crying, wanting to leave.”

Jason Lee, oPt Country Director for Save the Children, said:

“We’re facing the deadliest year in the West Bank, once again, with several months of 2023 to go. This is an alarming trend. This year has been marked by an unprecedented use of force and record numbers of child deaths since records began. The maiming and killing of children must end.”

Save the Children is calling for an immediate end to the excessive use of force against children by Israeli forces. At the same time, we are calling for an immediate, independent investigation into – and accountability for – the killing of all children. As long as a culture of impunity persists, cycles of violence are likely to continue.

Without an immediate de-escalation, children will continue to pay the price with their lives. The government of Israel must protect children and restrict use of force in line with its obligations under international law.

Save the Children has been working with Palestinian children since the 1950s, with a permanent presence in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) since 1973. Our team works across the oPt, with over 30 partners, to ensure children survive, have a chance to learn, are protected from all types of abuse, and that all actors remain committed to fulfilling the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

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