The situation in Gaza, explained

Warning: This blog contains mentions of violence and death associated with war. It’s normal to have an emotional reaction to what you see or read about in the news, so consider reading or talking about this article with a trusted adult. 

There is a lot of conversation about Palestine and Israel happening right now; in person, online, in the news, it seems like everywhere you turn, there’s some new news or information. 

But when everyone appears to have an opinion on the current situation, it can be hard to differentiate facts from well… opinions. While we by no means have all the answers, we’re here to try and help you get some clarity by giving you the facts on some of the big questions. 

What is the significance of October 7th? 

On October 7, 2023, the de-facto authorities in Gaza launched an attack against Israel, entering settlements near the Gaza Strip, killing 1200 Israelis and taking another 230 – including children – hostage.1 

Since October 7, over 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza – including over 4,000 children – have been killed in air and artillery strikes by Israeli forces, and over 2,000 remain missing; presumed to be trapped under the rubble of buildings that have been bombed.2 

What is the oPt? 

oPt is short form for the occupied Palestinian territories. 

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, a territory is considered “occupied” when it is placed under the control of a hostile army.3  

In 1967, during what is now called ‘The Six Day War,’ the Government of Israel took over new territory in Palestine and Syria; the West Bank, including Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in Palestine, and the Golan Heights of Syria.4  

From 1967, the Government of Israel has maintained control over these territories through the Military Government of Israel (MGoI) – leading many, including Save the Children, to refer to Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip collectively as the occupied Palestinian territory or territories. 

What is happening in Gaza right now? 

In Gaza, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding. Even before October 7, an estimated 80% of the population of Gaza was reliant on humanitarian aid – meaning they needed to receive money and supplies from other countries and organizations like Save the Children, to be able to eat, have water to drink and wash with, and fuel to heat their homes and keep generators running. 

From October 75: 

  • 1.6 million people in Gaza or 62% of Gaza have been internally displaced – meaning they have been forced to leave their homes to avoid violence or the effects of the armed conflict, and to seek shelter elsewhere;6 
  • 45% of homes in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged;  
  • 279 schools and education facilities in Gaza have been damaged, leaving approximately 625,000 children with no access to education; and 
  • 18 hospitals and 40 health care centres out of service. 

There is also no clean water to drink, and no electricity or fuel, meaning the hospitals and shelters that remain open must operate without power. 

What does the conflict mean for children in Gaza? 

Gaza has a very young population, with almost 47.3% of people in Gaza being under the age of 18.7 

And right now, no child in Gaza is safe. Their right to play, to go to school, and to be protected has been blown apart by a conflict they have no say in. 

This most recent increase in violence also comes following a 16-year blockade – a closure of borders between the occupied Palestinian territory and other countries, including Israel, that seriously limited food, medicine, fuel and other essential supplies from being brought into the occupied Palestinian territories8 – that has had a huge impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing. 

In 2022, well before the start of the most recent conflict, Save the Children reported that children and young people in Gaza have a constant anxiety about being separated from their parents, with 90% per cent feeling less safe when away from them.9 Additionally, 84% of children reported feeling fearful on at least a daily basis, because of previous outbreaks of violence between Palestine and Israel.10 

What is Save the Children doing in Gaza? 

Save the Children have been providing essential services and support to Palestinian children since 1953 and have had a permanent presence in the occupied Palestinian territory since 1973.  

We provide a variety of different programs including youth and child participation, food assistance, nutrition support, water, sanitation and hygiene, education, and child protection programmes among many more. 

Following the start of the conflict, and based on the limited aid currently available within Gaza, we have begun responding through our partners and have distributed food parcels, water, and hygiene products to families, including those in shelters.  

Save the Children will continue to respond in this way for as long as supplies and circumstances allow.  

How can I learn more about what is happening in Gaza and Israel? 

Even news articles can sometimes be written with bias – the reporter who wrote or presented the article may have their own opinions that can inform how they talk about a situation – so the best way to learn more is by reading news from a number of different sources, to get a full picture of the situation from many perspectives. 

You can also check out organizations like Save the Children, Islamic Relief Canada, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and many more who have been working in Israel and Gaza for years – and who still have many staff inside of Gaza. 

This situation can be very tough, even for those of us just watching from Canada, so remember to also look after your own mental health; take breaks, talk to your friends or trusted adults, go for a walk. Staying informed is important but so is looking after yourself. 

For more information on the history of Israel and Gaza, check out this CBC Kids News article.