A Palestinian man cries while holding a dead child who was found under the rubble of a destroyed building following Israeli airstrikes in Nusseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip on Oct. 31, 2023. In just 25 days of war, more than 3600 Palestinian children have been killed in Gaza, according to Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry. (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman, File)/23110115
More than 3600 Palestinian children were killed in the first 25 days of the war between Israel and Hamas, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry. They were hit by airstrikes, smashed by misfired rockets, burned by blasts and crushed by buildings, and among them were newborns and toddlers, avid readers, aspiring journalists and boys who thought they’d be safe in a church.
Nearly half of the crowded strip’s 2.3 million
inhabitants are under 18, and children account for 40% of those killed so far
in the war. An Associated Press analysis of Gaza Health Ministry data released
last week showed that as of Oct. 26 2,001 children ages 12 and under had been
killed, including 615 who were 3 or younger.
“When houses are destroyed, they collapse on the heads
of children,” writer Adam al-Madhoun said Wednesday as he comforted his
4-year-old daughter Kenzi at the Al Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central Gaza
city of Deir al-Balah. She survived an airstrike that ripped off her right arm,
crushed her left leg and fractured her skull.
Israel says its airstrikes target Hamas militant sites
and infrastructure, and it accuses the group of using civilians as human
shields. It also says more than 500 militant rockets have misfired and landed
in Gaza, killing an unknown number of Palestinians.
More children have been killed in just over three
weeks in Gaza than in all of the world’s conflicts combined in each of the past
three years, according to the global charity Save the Children. For example, it
said, 2985 children were killed across two dozen war zones throughout all of
“Gaza has become a graveyard for thousands of
children,” said James Elder, a spokesperson for UNICEF, the U.N. children’s
Images and footage of shell-shocked children being
pulled from rubble in Gaza or writhing on dirty hospital gurneys have become
commonplace and have fueled protests around the world. Scenes from recent
airstrikes included a rescuer cradling a limp toddler in a bloodied white tutu,
a bespectacled father shrieking as he clutched his dead child tight to his
chest, and a dazed young boy covered in blood and dust staggering alone through
“It’s a curse to be a parent in Gaza,” said Ahmed
Modawikh, a 40-year-old carpenter from Gaza City whose life was shattered by
the death of his 8-year-old daughter during five days of fighting in May.
Israeli children have also been killed. During Hamas’
brutal Oct. 7 rampage across southern Israel that sparked the war, its gunmen
killed more than 1400 people. Among them were babies and other small children,
Israeli officials have said, though they haven’t provided exact figures. About
30 children were also among the roughly 240 hostages Hamas took.
As Israeli warplanes pound Gaza, Palestinian children
huddle with large families in apartments or U.N.-run shelters. Although Israel
has urged Palestinians to leave northern Gaza for the strip’s south, nowhere in
the territory has proven safe from its airstrikes.
“People are running from death only to find death,”
said Yasmine Jouda, who lost 68 family members in Oct. 22 airstrikes that razed
two four-story buildings in Deir al-Balah, where they had sought refuge from
The strike’s only survivor was Jouda’s year-old niece
Milissa, whose mother had gone into labor during the attack and was found dead
beneath the rubble, the heads of her lifeless twin newborns emerging from her
“What did this tiny baby do to deserve a life without
any family?” Jouda said.
Israel blames Hamas for Gaza’s death toll — now more
than 8800, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry — because the militant group
operates from jam-packed residential neighbourhoods. Palestinians point to the
soaring casualty count as proof that Israeli strikes are indiscriminate and
The war has injured more than 7000 Palestinian children
and left many with lifechanging problems, doctors say.
Just before the war, Jouda’s niece Milissa walked a
few paces for the first time. She will never walk again. Doctors say the
airstrike that killed the girl’s family fractured her spine and paralyzed her
from the chest down. Just down the hall from her in the teeming central Gaza
hospital, 4-year-old Kenzi woke up screaming, asking what had happened to her
missing right arm.
“It will take so much care and work just to get her to
the point of having half a normal life,” her father said.
Even those physically unscathed may be scarred by
For 15-year-olds in Gaza, it’s their fifth
Israel-Hamas war since the militant group seized control of the enclave in
2007. All they’ve known is life under a punishing Israeli-Egyptian blockade
that prevents them from traveling abroad and crushes their hopes for the
future. The strip has a 70% youth unemployment rate, according to the World
“There is no hope for these children to develop
careers, improve their standard of living, access better healthcare and
education,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director for Defense
for Children International in the Palestinian territories.
But in this war, he added, “it’s about life and