Gaza protests one year on: Almost 3,000 children injured in Gaza protests required hospital treatment

Sunday 31 March 2019

Save the Children and its partners have spoken to more than a thousand children impacted by the protests many of whom are struggling to come to terms with life-changing injuries. 

  • Save the Children supports the UN call for Israel to revise military rules of engagement related to the use of live ammunition against children, and urge that all protests remain peaceful.(1) 
  • Given the backdrop of escalating violence taking place at this one year anniversary point, we urge both sides to take steps to resolve the underlying causes of this conflict so all children are protected and can live in dignity.

At least 49 children have been killed at the Gaza border fence since the start of the protests one year ago, confirmed by the WHO.(2) According to the UN over 6,000 children have so far been injured in Gaza protests by a combination of injuries including those hit by live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas.(3) According to WHO, 2,980 children were so badly wounded that they required hospital care.(4) 

The UN mandated Commission of Inquiry reported that children had been shot at by Israeli soldiers with live ammunition and rubber bullets and have been treated for tear gas inhalation fired across the parameter fence. (5) Many of those who survived have suffered life-changing injuries and have been denied, or unable to gain access to, adequate medical care to address their needs. 

The demand for specialist medical support has far exceeded Gaza's health system, which has been crippled by years of the blockade. According to WHO data, 80% of children injured at the protests who applied to leave Gaza to receive emergency medical treatment in Israel over the last year have had their permits rejected or delayed. (6)

Save the Children and its partners have spoken to thousands of children impacted by the protests. Many children are struggling to cope with their injuries some of which will have long term implications, that the health system is ill equipped to manage. Thousands have sustained serious wounds, including blindness, head injuries, and amputations.  According to WHO, 21 children have had their upper or lower limbs amputated following injuries sustained at the protests. (7)

Faris*,16, was shot in the leg by live ammunition while attending a protest in October last year. Doctors recommend he receive emergency treatment in Israel and he was one of the few who was granted permission to travel.  However his permit was delayed by five days so by the time he reached a hospital in Jerusalem they couldn’t save his leg and it had to be amputated above the knee. Faris* told Save the Children about the day he was shot:

“I wasn’t carrying any weapons or anything, I was just standing there like all the other people. When I was injured, I started to scream, saying: 'help me, help me!' The men came, and at the hospital, the pain was unbearable, I looked at my leg, it was freezing.”

Save the Children echoes the UN’s call for an immediate end to Israel’s excessive use of force against children at the border. We urgently support the UN call for Israel to revise military rules of engagement related to the use of live ammunition against children at the protests, in a year that saw at least 49 children killed and almost 1000 injured by live ammunition in 2018 alone.(8) 

According to the UN, violence at the March of Return protests injured more than 20,000 adults between the 30th March 2018 and 31st January 2019.(9) Four Israeli soldiers were also reported injured at the protests and another killed on a protest day, away from the protest site. (10) 

Save the Children’s Regional Director, Jeremy Stoner, warned of fears that this week’s protests could be deadly:

“Our teams in Gaza tell us that tensions are mounting and there are grave concerns that this Friday’s protests could be the worst yet. The killing and maiming of children can never be acceptable and as in all conflicts, the perpetrators must be held to account.  Save the Children strongly urges all protests to remain peaceful. We call on all sides to tackle the long-term causes of this conflict by putting an end to the blockade and promoting dignity and security for both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Beyond their physical wounds, children’s mental health in Gaza looks to be at an all-time low.  Research conducted by Save the Children showed that, even before the protests, many children in Gaza were showing worrying signs of distress. Years of living in a humanitarian crisis has left many children feeling hopeless and Save the Children warns of high levels of anxiety and depression among Gaza’s youth. Save the Children interviewed Faris* three months after his amputation. He said:

"When I go into the street, I see the children playing football, running, I get upset, I cannot bear it. From the day they amputated my leg, I remain indoors, at home, I don't go out or do anything.”

Ali*,16, was badly injured by shrapnel in his leg while attending a protest in June 2018. Four months later, his younger brother Yousef*, 14, was shot in the chest at the protests by live ammunition and died. Ali*s family say they are unable to come to terms with their loss. Ali* told Save the Children: 

“The house felt empty. My brother used to bring life and happiness to the house. I couldn’t believe it. My dad went to see him, they first told him he was shot, then we went to Shifaa Hospital and they told us he had passed away. It was a shock to us all.  I didn't want to stay at home as it was full of memories of him.”

 

Save the Children's Middle East Director, Jeremy Stoner said: 

“One year ago we called for an end to the Israeli government’s use of sniper fire and live ammunition against children in Gaza demonstrations on the Gaza fence. It is devastating that we are still calling for it now, when each week more children are killed or gravely injured. The numbers of injuries are already in the thousands and are only going to get higher unless this stops now.  Save the Children calls for all parties to absolutely prioritise the protection of children and take steps to ensure the safety of children.

“Children are seeing their friends shot, their parents shot and they are living with the outcomes of this without adequate support to go around to enable them to recover physically or mentally. We are deeply concerned by the psychological impact prolonged exposure to such violence will have on Gaza’s children.”

 

Notes to editors: 

Background information:

Save the Children is one of the largest non-governmental organisations working in Gaza, addressing the immediate humanitarian and long-term development needs of children and adults. We have over 30 years of experience on the ground and currently implement programs in the areas of education, child protection, livelihoods and economic opportunities, and psychosocial health. We also provide some water and sanitation services and work through partners to provide a range of other services. 

Through our partners we provided Faris*,Ali* and Samer* with psychological support. Faris* was also given access to medication and assistive devices such as crutches. 

For spokesperson availability please contact: 

Antonia Roupell:  antonia.roupell@savethechildren.org   +44 7855957573 

out of UK media hours please contact:  media@savethechildren.org.uk   +44 7831650409