A senior official of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF
) has condemned the fatal shooting, reportedly by Israeli military gunfire, of three Palestinian children while at play Saturday in the southern Gaza Strip.
"This sad event hits me particularly hard because I been in the area just a few hours earlier, interacting with Palestinian children," UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Toshiyuki Niwa said. "These kids were just being kids when their lives were cut short."
Mr. Niwa, who was in Rafah to launch a joint polio campaign between UNICEF and the Palestinian Ministry of Health and also to visit safe play zones for children shortly before the incident, underscored that areas that youngsters play and learn in must be treated as zones of peace.
Sometimes it seems that no matter what we do to provide children with safe and peaceful alternatives they end up victims in this terrible conflict," he said.
As of mid-March 2005, more than 800 children under the age of 18 have been killed, including 696 Palestinians and108 Israelis, since the current conflict erupted more than four years ago.