UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest annual list of parties that kill or injure children in armed conflict does not include Israel or Hamas — as some UN officials had recommended.
But the UN chief makes clear in the report circulated Monday that the number of Palestinian children killed and injured in Gaza and the West Bank last year — in the thousands, according to UN figures — is unacceptable.
UN officials said the UN special envoy for children in armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, had recommended that both Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, be placed on the report’s list of parties that recruit, use, kill, maim or commit acts of sexual violence against children. But the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the recommendation was not public, said there were differences of opinion among those on the ground on whether Israel should be listed.
The report, covering 2014, includes Israel and the “state of Palestine” in a section on “grave violations committed against children during armed conflict.” It cites a significant deterioration in the security situation in the Palestinian territories, with escalating hostilities in Gaza and a significant increase in tensions in the West Bank, “with devastating impacts for children.”
The report does not single out the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip, who are officially members of a unity government with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, for censure.
In Gaza, at least 561 children — 557 Palestinians and 4 Israelis — were killed, and 4,271 were injured, all but 22 of them Palestinians, the report said. In the West Bank, 13 Palestinian boys and three Israeli youths were killed and 1,218 children were injured, it said.
The current list has 51 groups including Boko Haram and Islamic State, as well as the armed forces from eight countries such as Syria, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.
In the report circulated Monday, Ban slammed Israel for Palestinian child casualties.
He urged Israel “to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect children, to prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protection afforded to schools and hospitals.”
He also urged Israel to ensure accountability for perpetrators of alleged violations and to engage in talks with Zerrougui, “to ensure that there is no recurrence.”
Sources in the United Nations told Reuters that Ban’s decision to override Zerrougui’s recommendation was highly unusual.
“The UN secretary-general was right not to submit to the dictates of the terrorist organizations and the Arab states in his decision not to include Israel in this shameful list, together with organizations like ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Taliban,” Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said in a statement. “However, the UN still has a long way to go. Instead of releasing thousands of reports and lists against Israel, the UN must unequivocally condemn the terrorist organizations that operate in the Gaza Strip.”
Ban’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters that the list was the “result of a consultative process” and in the end was Ban’s decision. “Obviously, it was a difficult decision to take,” Dujarric said, adding that UN member states “have never been shy” about expressing their opinions to Ban about who should or should not be included.
Without naming any country, Ban called into question those parties to conflict that say targeting children was never a policy or practice “but merely the unintended consequence of military action.”
“I would like to put all parties to conflict on notice that those that engage in military action that results in numerous grave violations against children will, regardless of intent, find themselves under continued scrutiny by the United Nations, including in future reports relating to children and armed conflict,” he said.
Earlier this week, UN diplomatic sources told Reuters that Israel “lobbied hard” against its inclusion on the list and seemed to have the backing of Ban, who indicated last week that the international body would not include Israel in its list of entities committing “grave violations against children.”
Some 2,100 Gazans were killed during the summer war between Israel and Hamas led-fighters, according to Palestinian tallies. Israel says that up to half of those killed were fighters and blames Hamas for all civilian deaths in Gaza, since Hamas and other terror groups emplaced their military infrastructure in residential areas of the crowded enclave.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.