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Britain must immediately stop arms sales to the Israeli government

Last week, harrowing footage of an attack on a refugee camp in Rafah, in which people were burned alive, shocked the world. But this was part of a pattern, not an isolated incident. In the week that followed, more than 300 Palestinian civilians – including children – were killed and around 1,300 injured as Israeli forces intensified their assault on the city and Gaza.1.

The indiscriminate use of explosive weapons in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas on earth, has killed nearly 15,000 children since October 7.

Thousands of children who survived months of relentless bombardment have suffered life-changing injuries. Since the war began, an average of more than ten children a day in Gaza have lost one or both legs.2.

Children are seven times more likely to die from blast injuries than adults, and the injuries they sustain are very different.

During an air raid, their small bodies are thrown further by the force of the explosion. Shrapnel and debris can more easily tear their thinner skin and muscles, causing devastating internal injuries. Their still-developing bones are more susceptible to fracture or long-term deformity, and they experience less blood loss.

If children survive the explosions, they must cope not only with physical trauma and disabilities, but also with the enormous stress that comes with growing up in a conflict zone.

Explosive weapons are now the leading cause of death among children in conflict around the world. However, there is very little research into blast injuries in children. This is why Save the Children and partners established the Centre of Paediatric Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College London. It brings together medical professionals, pain specialists, and prosthetics and rehabilitation experts to drive new innovations that save children’s lives and support their recovery.

This groundbreaking research will address everything from initial emergency response, through treatment, prosthetics and development into adulthood, to give children the best possible chance of a healthy future.

In Gaza, we have distributed 1,000 copies of our manual on treating blast injuries in children to help paramedics on the ground. This is urgently needed because three out of four children Save the Children has treated since opening our field hospital in Al-Mawasi have suffered blast injuries.

Our pediatric nurse Becky told us:

“We treated a 10-year-old boy who had a shrapnel fragment in his thigh that had shattered his femur… He had multiple surgeries, but the sight of his leg was so shocking that he couldn’t even look at it. He was crying silently and it was heartbreaking.”

13-year-old Solave ​​had to have her leg amputated after being hit by a large piece of shrapnel. In her mother’s words:

“She completely collapsed when she realized her leg was gone. She didn’t want to know the truth and turned her back to us. She assumed she still had her leg. We tried to support her and reassure her that she would get a prosthesis. But she asked how she was going to get to her classroom because it is on the third floor of her school.”

The health system in Gaza is ruined, children lack adequate pain relief, and children who have had amputations do not have access to wheelchairs or prostheses.

The UK Government has a responsibility to do everything in its power to stop this, uphold international humanitarian law (IHL) and protect children. This includes immediately halting arms sales to the Israeli Government.

Under its arms export control regime and as a signatory to the Arms Trade Treaty, the UK government must suspend arms sales where there is a clear risk that they could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Several UN officials and experts have raised the alarm about widespread violations of international humanitarian law, including possible war crimes, taking place in the Gaza Strip.3Many other states – such as Spain, Canada, Italy and the Netherlands – have already suspended their arms sales to Israel.

In addition to the widespread killing and maiming of children, 60 percent of Gaza’s homes, 80 percent of schools and almost all hospitals have been destroyed or damaged. British weapons should play no role in this conflict. And yet Britain supplies 15 percent of the parts for the F-35 fighter jets used in Gaza (3). Children like Solave ​​are being bombed by planes made from British parts.

Politicians have been telling us for months how concerned they are about the number of civilians killed in Gaza and any incursion into Rafah. But words without actions are meaningless.

The parliamentary elections must not distract attention from the atrocities being inflicted on Palestinian children. Our politicians’ eyes must be on Gaza, not just on the latest opinion polls.

Whoever forms the next government must finally take action to protect children. This means immediately halting arms sales to Israel, while pushing for an immediate and definitive ceasefire, unhindered humanitarian access and the safe release of all hostages.