Violence has always been a part of Palestine’s history. The war-torn nation has struggled for eons to establish a foothold in the Middle East region. In recent years, temporary truces have resulted in decreases of violence but this has always been temporary. In fact, Israel’s recent offensive on the Gaza Strip resulted in the death of more than 270 Palestinian women. Apart from direct assaults, Palestinian children have also become an indirect casualty of the violence.
Repeated Calls for Peace
The Israeli offensive launched in July and August 2014 left more than 2160 Palestinians dead and more than 11,000 injured. The vast majority of these were civilians and more than half of them were women and children.
Palestinian Women Affected in Multiple Ways
According to Amnesty International, the continued Israeli aggression has affected Palestinian women in multiple ways. The same report states that Palestinian women have long borne the brunt of the aggressive in the form of physical violence, deaths, poverty, and unequal society status. Scores of women have been forced to cut down on travel due to mobility restrictions set up by the Israeli Army.
Multiple complications were particularly common due to the delay in acquiring medical care. For example, there have been thousands of cases wherein women were forced to give birth at checkpoints by the roadside due to checkpoint delays.
A case in question was that of Rula Ashtiya. Ashtiya was in labor when she was held up at the Beir Furik Checkpoint on her way to Nablus Hospital. She gave birth on a dirt road by the side of the checkpoint and her baby died minutes later due to medical complications. The distressed woman had to crawl behind a concrete block to get a little privacy to give birth to her child.
Medical organizations are also worried about the high percentage of women suffering from anemia. Cancer-afflicted women in the Occupied Territories also seem to have a much-lower rate of survival.
Apart from women, children in the region too face several aggression in several different ways. The DCI-Palestine or Defense for Children International Palestine organization recorded six cases in 2014 of children being supposed by Israeli Military for questioning. These children had also been subjected to ill treatment and torture while in Israeli Military Detention. The children belonging to the Beita Village in Occupied West Bank reported to an interrogation facility and were promptly taken into custody with no access to a lawyer. DCI-Palestine states that this is the normal process and three in four children held in custody by Israelis forces in the West Bank are subject to physical violence during arrest and transfer.
Times are changing though. In 2011, the Palestinian Cabinet and Palestinian Women’s Affairs Minister Haifa al-Agha, endorsed a nine-year plan to combat violence against women in occupied Palestinian territory. This is the first of its kind plan in the Arab Region and has been endorsed by the Palestinian Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The strategy was supposed to take up a cross-sector approach to recognize violence against women and combat it from the bottom-up.
To protect the children, United Nations and international human rights organizations have raised a hue and cry which Tel Aviv has responded to by setting up a pilot program that will change the process of interrogating children.
With these proactive measures and active defense from international organizations, this situation of escalating violence towards women and children could stop completely.