UN Coordinator and Resident Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Lynn Hastings, has stated that the year 2023 remains extremely challenging for children in the occupied Palestinian territories.
In a statement, Hastings highlighted that over 1.3 million Palestinian children are returning to their schools in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip this week and the following week in a tumultuous year.
She added, “Schools should provide a safe haven that ensures children’s education, development, and protection. It is the place where young minds are encouraged to explore, discover, and develop their capacities to the fullest.”
Hastings pointed out that these children have lost weeks of education this year due to prolonged strikes, the escalation witnessed in Gaza in May last year, and the operations carried out by Israeli occupation forces in refugee camps in the West Bank.
She continued, “The longer children lose out on education, the harder it becomes to make up for this loss, and the impact will be felt by children across all population clusters.”
She affirmed that the situation is worsening, as since the beginning of this year, Israeli forces have killed 42 Palestinian children, including 35 in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and seven others in the Gaza Strip.
In the West Bank, the total number of Palestinian children martyred during this year is roughly equal to the number killed throughout the entire year of 2022.
Hastings indicated that during the first six months of 2023, the United Nations documented more than 423 incidents affecting Palestinian children and their education, including the Israeli forces firing at schools or children, carrying out operations, demolishing schools, settlers’ harassment, and delays at checkpoints, affecting around 50,000 children.
She highlighted the demolition of three schools by the Israeli authorities over the past 12 months, the latest being in Ein Samiya on August 17, just a few days before the start of the new school year.
Currently, Israeli forces have issued decisions to completely or partially demolish 58 other schools, or suspend their operations.
Hastings stressed that safe access to education is a fundamental right for all children and should be protected at all times and by all parties.
She stated, “As the international community, we must do more to ensure the availability of sufficient resources to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA and support the humanitarian response plan, to provide regular, safe, and high-quality education to all Palestinian children.”