EU presidency: Belgium and Commission urge immediate action to protect Palestinian children

In a joint press release on Tuesday evening, the Belgian EU presidency and the European Commission sounded the alarm over "the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation for children in Gaza".

In their emergency appeal, they call for "an immediate and long-term humanitarian pause leading to a durable ceasefire and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages (...) and the provision of humanitarian aid".

Of the more than 30,000 deaths on the Palestinian side since the start of the war, some 70 per cent have been women and children, the presidency and the Commission say. More than 11,000 children have been injured and thousands more are missing, probably injured or killed. One million children are displaced, "at constant risk of violence and abuse". In addition, an estimated 17,000 children have been separated from or have lost their parents. According to Unicef, more than a million children are in need of psychological support.

Risk of famine

In addition, the risk of famine in Gaza is increasing daily, especially for the hundreds of thousands of people in the north who are largely cut off from aid. Health services are also suffering as a result of the war, with access to essential services such as emergency obstetric and neonatal care severely restricted.

"In all wars, children suffer first and most, but in war there are rules," a spokesperson for the Belgian presidency said. "International humanitarian law should be respected and there should be an unconditional release of all children held by Hamas."

"In all wars, children suffer first and most, but in war there are rules. International humanitarian law should be respected"

Apart from Gaza, the situation of children in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is also of concern. "Military enforcement within Palestinian communities and refugee camps, as well as settler violence and restrictions on movement, continue to result in a higher risk of violence against Palestinian children."

Humanitarian pause

Based on these facts, and with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and UN Security Council Resolutions 2712 and 2720 in mind, the Belgian presidency and the European Commission call for "urgent assistance for the children of Gaza and the West Bank".

In addition, Brussels believes that a humanitarian pause is needed immediately. They also call for "respect for international law", an end to "all grave violations against all children" and "safe and unhindered humanitarian access to and within Gaza". There is also support for a UN coordinated and principled humanitarian response for Palestinian children.


European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen and Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

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