This is a cross-post from Children of Peace by Richard Martin
This piece has been updated since it was first posted on the CoP website, in response to the most recent developments.
In just the last few weeks Israeli and Palestinian children and young people have been paying the ultimate price for a conflict not of their making.
The mutilated bodies of three Israeli Jewish youths Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, probably kidnapped by Hamas operatives on June 12, are found in a field north of Hebron. A three year old Palestinian girl is killed in Gaza when a Hamas Kassam rocket aimed at Israeli civilians, misfires. Just hours after the Israeli youths are laid to rest, the body of kidnapped Israeli Arab Aran Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, aged 16 is found burned in a Jerusalem forest, possibly murdered by Jewish extremists. A 15 year old Israeli Arab boy, Mohammed Karkara from Arruba, bringing water to an IDF patrol is killed by Syrian forces using an anti-tank missile, on the Golan border. In recent days, four boys playing on a beach at the Gaza harbour were tragically killed by Israeli navy gunfire. Today, three teens were killed in Beit Hanoun, Gaza during the latest Israeli engagement with Hamas. Of the 264 Gazans reported dead to date in the Israel-Hamas conflict, around half are women and children.
As I write, Israeli plans for a possible ground war in Gaza are underway – following the indiscriminate firing of hundreds of rockets into Israeli civilian areas by Gazan militants. The Arab League endorsed the Egyptian ceasefire initiative on 15th July 2014, which was accepted by Israel but rejected by Hamas. If a full ground offensive does take place amongst civilian populations, after today’s military engagement with Hamas – the impact on the Gazan people will be catastrophic. Children will once again suffer, their lives blighted by the consequences of armed warfare, the collapse of infrastructure, the loss of loved ones. As Operation Cast Lead demonstrated, it will be painful for all sides and resolve nothing.
The terrible events in the past few weeks serve to highlight the plight of the children of conflict. It bears witness to the ceaseless, nihilistic cycle of revenge, hatred and indiscriminate violence.
Children have few choices. They are the invisible victims of over sixty years of conflict. Children of Peace gives a voice to the children. It is a vital step on any real road map to peace.
For the latest news from Children of Peace – a non-partisan, conflict resolution organisation, supported by Harry’s Place that aims to protect children & build friendship, trust & reconciliation between Israeli & Palestinian children, aged 4 -17 through arts, education, healthcare & sports projects & programmes, so that a future generation & their communities might live in peace, side-by-side – seewww.childrenofpeace.org.uk