UN Chief puts Israeli military, Hamas on blacklist for harming children

united nations — The United Nation’s secretary-general has included Israel’s military and Hamas on the annual blacklist of perpetrators who harm children.

“I am appalled by the dramatic increase and unprecedented scale and intensity of grave violations against children in the Gaza Strip, Israel and the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” Antonio Guterres said in the report, which was sent to U.N. Security Council members on Tuesday but has not yet been published.

The annual Children and Armed Conflict report names and shames those who recruit, kill, maim or abduct children, commit sexual violence against them, deny them humanitarian assistance, or attack schools and hospitals. Guterres’ special representative Virginia Gamba is mandated by the Security Council to work to prevent and end these violations.

In the report, obtained by VOA, the United Nations said it has verified 8,009 grave violations against Israeli and Palestinian children, but the process is ongoing and slow due to the conflict. Of them, 113 were against Israeli children, and the rest were against Palestinian children in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The report says most child casualties in Gaza from October 7 to the end of last year were caused by “the use of explosive weapons in populated areas by Israeli armed and security forces.”

In addition to Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad was also listed. Both groups are listed for the first time, accused of killing, maiming and abducting children.

The report covers the period from January to December 2023. Hamas carried out its terror attack in Israel on October 7, 2023, triggering the war that is now in its ninth month. The report covers only the casualties reported or verified in 2023.

This is the first time either Israel or Hamas has been included on the report’s blacklist, despite the killing and maiming of hundreds of children in at least three previous wars in Gaza.

Israel’s armed and security forces are listed for the killing and maiming of children and for attacks on schools and hospitals.

“The inclusion of Israeli forces on the U.N.’s ‘list of shame’ is long overdue and reflects overwhelming evidence of grave violations against children,” Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, told VOA in an email.

Israeli officials have expressed outrage at being included on the list, which also includes the Taliban and terror groups al-Qaida and Islamic State.

A U.N. spokesperson said last week that Israel was notified of its inclusion “as a courtesy.” The country promptly sought to get ahead of the report’s publication, dismissing it as more anti-Israel action by the United Nations.

“Today, the U.N. added itself to the blacklist of history when it joined those who support the Hamas murderers,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday. “The IDF is the most moral army in the world. No delusional U.N. decision will change that.”

His United Nations ambassador went further, publishing the video of part of his phone call with Guterres’ chief of staff.

“I’m utterly shocked and disgusted by this shameful decision of the secretary-general,” Gilad Erdan said in the call on Friday, adding that it would reward Hamas and extend the war.

Russia makes blacklist again

Last year, Russia’s armed forces landed on the blacklist for their war in Ukraine. This year, they remained listed despite a significant drop in the number of violations attributed to them. The United Nations verified the killing of 80 children and the maiming of 339 others attributed to Russian forces and affiliated groups.

A senior U.N. official said a decrease was not enough. Russia must continue this trend for at least a year and also sign a joint action plan with Gamba’s office to be delisted.

No party previously on the list was delisted this year.

Both sides in Sudan conflict make list 

The situation in Sudan, which devolved into brutal violence in April 2023 when two rival generals went to war in a power struggle that continues today, has seen the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces both land on this year’s blacklist.

The report found a dramatic increase in 2023 in the military recruitment and use of children in Sudan, as well as their killing, maiming and sexual abuse. Attacks on schools and hospitals were also reported.

“I urge all parties to take preventive and mitigating actions to avoid and minimize harm and better protect children, including to refrain from the use of explosive devices,” Guterres said in the report.

The 2023 report verified nearly 33,000 grave violations committed against the world’s children in several countries experiencing conflict — an increase of 21% over the previous year. There were 11,649 confirmed child killings and maimings. Recruitment is again on the rise, after trending downward for the past two years.

Grave violations were reported in countries including Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Congo, Myanmar, Somalia and Syria, among others.

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