A UN report released Friday said that in 2018 Israel killed 56 Palestinian children — the largest number since Israel and Hamas fought a war in the Gaza Strip in 2014.
In the report to the Security Council, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Israeli troops injured nearly 2,700 children “in the context of demonstrations, clashes and search and arrest operations,” according to Reuters.
Meanwhile six Israeli children were injured in incidents relating to the conflict.
The UN chief called on Israel “to immediately put in place preventive and protective measures to end the excessive use of force” and “all Palestinian actors to refrain from encouraging children’s participation in violence.”
The report also singled out Afghanistan, with 3,062 children killed or injured; Syria, where “air strikes, barrel bombs and cluster munitions resulted in 1,854 child casualties”; and Yemen, where the fighting between Saudi Arabian-led forces and Iran-backed Houthi rebels caused over 1,100 child casualties.
The likely reason for the high number of Palestinian child casualties in 2018 are the weekly border protests in the Gaza Strip which began in March 2018 and continue to this day, though they have recently been tempered by a reported ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.
Israel says the Hamas terror group has used the violence as cover for attacks on troops. The protests, encouraged by Hamas, have consistently included rioting, with Palestinians burning tires and attacking Israeli soldiers with rocks, hand grenades and bombs. Protesters regularly attempt to sabotage and breach the border fence.
Demonstrators have also adopted the tactic of launching incendiary balloons into Israel, burning thousands of acres of forestry and farmlands.
Hamas also formed units tasked with sustaining tensions along the border fence with riots during nighttime and early morning hours.
Earlier this year the Israeli army said Hamas operatives had been heard on loudspeakers promising children at the border NIS 300 ($83) if they get injured at the protests.
Israeli troops regularly respond to the violence with less-lethal means such as tear gas and rubber bullets, but do use live fire in some cases. Some 200 Palestinians have been killed since the protests began, and thousands have been injured.
The international community has criticized Hamas for endangering innocents at the demonstrations, but has also accused Israel of disproportionate force against unarmed protesters.