UN adds Israel to list of states committing violations against children

Inclusion comes after eight months of the country’s bombing of Gaza which has killed 13,000 children

The United Nations has added Israel to the global list of states and armed groups who have committed violations against children, according to the country’s UN envoy, Gilad Erdan.

News of Israel’s inclusion on the list follows eight months of war on Gaza, in which more than 13,000 children are estimated to be among the 36,500 killed, and comes a day after the Israeli bombing of a UN school in central Gaza, which killed more than 40 Palestinians, some of them children.

According to human rights officials, Hamas is also named in the report for its killing and kidnapping of children in its 7 October attack on Israel, in which nearly 1,200 Israelis were killed.

Erdan said he was “shocked and disgusted” by the “shameful” decision to include Israel on this year’s list, which is part of a report on children and armed conflict due to be presented to the UN security council next Friday.

The report covers the killing, maiming, sexual abuse, abduction or recruitment of children, denial of aid access and targeting of schools and hospitals.

The report is compiled by the UN secretary general’s special representative for children and armed conflict, Virginia Gamba. The list attached to the report, is widely intended to name and shame parties to conflicts in the hope of deterring violence against children.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, issued a statement that the UN had “added itself to the black list of history when it joined those who support the Hamas murderers”.

Israel Katz, Israel’s foreign minister, warned that the decision would have an impact on his country’s relations with the UN, which are already very strained. It is refusing to deal with the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa), the main organisation channeling aid to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

There have been claims by UN staff that Israel had been left off the list of offenders in previous years after political pressure from Israeli officials.

“There have been already a few years in which there have been verified violations by Israel government forces and by Palestinian armed groups, but they have never been listed,” Ezequiel Heffes, the director of the human rights group, Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict.

Heffes said that once a state or a group had been cited in the UN report for violations, the UN is supposed to engage with the parties, and “for those parties to take actions that may serve to prevent future violations”.

The UN had been in discussion in previous years with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Palestinian armed groups, seeking the persuade them to mitigate harm to children, he added.

“This is a big deal because this is a framework that is created to protect children from the effects of armed conflict,” Heffes said.

Erdan said he had been notified of the decision by the chief of staff to the UN secretary general, António Guterres, and he gave his response in a video on social media.

“I am utterly shocked and disgusted by this shameful decision of the secretary-general,” said Erdan. “Israel’s army is the most moral army in the world, so this immoral decision will only aid the terrorists and reward Hamas.”

There was no immediate comment from Guterres’s office on the list.