UN says violence against children in conflict reached extreme levels in 2023, including in Gaza

Violence against children caught in multiplying and escalating conflicts reached “extreme levels” in 2023, with an unprecedented number of killings and injuries in crises, from Israel and the Palestinian territories to Sudan, Myanmar and Ukraine, according to a new U.N. report.

The annual report on Children in Armed Conflict, obtained on Tuesday by The Associated Press, reported “a shocking 21% increase in grave violations” against children under the age of 18 in an array of conflicts, also citing Congo, Burkina Faso, Somalia and Syria.

For the first time, the U.N. report put Israeli forces on its blacklist of countries that violate children’s rights for the killing and maiming of children and attacking schools and hospitals. It also listed Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants for the first time as well for killing, injuring and abducting children.

Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack in southern Israe l and Israel’s massive military retaliation in Gaza have led to a 155% increase in grave violations against children, especially from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in Gaza, the report said.

The United Nations kept the Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups on its blacklist for a second year over their killing and maiming of children and attacking schools and hospitals in Ukraine.

Sudan, where a war between rival generals vying for power has been raging since 2023, witnessed “a staggering 480% increase in grave violations against children, the report said.

The Sudanese Armed Forces and the rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces went on the blacklist for killing and injuring youngsters and attacking schools and hospital — and the paramilitary also for recruiting and using children in military operations and for rape and sexual violence.

The growing civil war in Myanmar also saw a 123% increase in grave violations against children and the Myanmar armed forces and related militias and seven armed groups are also on this year’s blacklist.

The report by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the United Nations verified 30,705 violations against children in 2023 and 2,285 committed earlier, affecting over 15,800 boys and more than 6,250 girls. Some were subjected to multiple violations.

The U.N. chief said the alarming increase in violations is due to “the changing nature, complexity, expansion and intensification of armed conflict, the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians” and infrastructure and other essential building, as well as the emergence of new armed groups, acute humanitarian emergencies, and “blatant disregard” for international law.

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