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Thursday, 15 November, 2001, 16:28 GMT
UN urges protection for Mid-East children
Two Palestinian children who lost their mother during shooting between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen
Palestinian children are suffering psychological distress
By Emma Jane Kirby in Geneva

The United Nations fund for children, Unicef, is calling on the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to ensure that children under the ages of 18 are not targeted or asked to participate in the Middle East conflict.

A policeman with Israeli children in a kindergarten near where a Palestinian shot dead an Israeli
In the last year, 166 Palestinian and 27 Israeli children have died
Drawing on a series of studies conducted by academic institutions and non-governmental organisations, Unicef has found that many children in the West Bank and Gaza are suffering an increase in psychological distress directly linked to the current conflict.

Since the Middle East conflict escalated one year ago, Unicef says 194 children under the age of 18 have been killed in the fighting.

This figure includes 166 Palestinian children, 27 Israeli children and one foreigner.

Thousands injured

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and an Israeli human rights group, more than 7,000 Palestinian and more than 50 Israeli children have also been injured.

Studies collated by Unicef show a marked increase in the numbers of children suffering from psychological difficulties after repeated exposure to the sounds of shooting.

A Palestinian boy flashes a victory sign
Palestinians are urged to prevent kids from taking part in violent activities
Ninety-three schools have been shelled in the last year of violence and three have been converted into military posts.

Pierre Poupard, the Unicef special representative in the West Bank and Gaza, says Unicef is now calling upon the Palestinian authorities to offer greater protection to children.

"We also reiterate our call to the Palestinian Authority, with which we are working every day, to expand measures to prevent children from participating in any violent action, and part of this is just to put back all children at school," Mr Poupard said. "Just to have them living in a more peaceful environment."

So far, Unicef has trained about 13,000 teachers and social workers in the West Bank and Gaza to recognize and deal with signs of psychological disorders in children.

See also:

23 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israeli troops kill Palestinian boy
13 Nov 01 | Middle East
Amnesty calls for Mid-East observers
26 Oct 01 | Middle East
Analysis: US unease over Israeli action
12 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
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