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Wed, Feb

'Dear Children of Gaza,' Says Viral Letter, 'I Am Sorry'

WORLD WATCH

GUEST COMMENTARY - In a viral video released Friday, British member of Parliament Naz Shah, who represents the Labour Party, issued an apology to the roughly 1 million children of Gaza on behalf of world leaders who—despite Palestinian journalists' live-streaming of Israel's assault on the enclave and an international court's finding that Israel is plausibly committing genocidal acts—refuse to see the impact the bombardment is having on civilians, including its youngest residents. 

The video shows Shah writing a letter addressed to the "children of Gaza," along with images of children being treated in hospitals, buried under rubble, and living in shelters since Israel began bombarding the enclave in retaliation for Hamas' attack on October 7. Children are also seen gathered on a playground prior to the air and ground assaults that have so far killed more than 13,000 children. 

"We hear about your dreams and aspirations, to learn, to travel, to visit your beaches with clear blue water or play in playgrounds with swings and slides," wrote Shah. "To become astronauts, teachers, and doctors. And every day we see how those dreams are no more." 

"You may ask the world, 'Where were these international values of freedom, justice, and equality when the world could not even protect the right to life for a Palestinian child?'" she added.

The letter was released the same day the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued a preliminary ruling in South Africa's case against Israel, in which the country argued Israeli officials and military officers have committed genocidal acts in Gaza. The ICJ found that South Africa's case was plausible and ordered Israel to "take all measures within its power" to uphold its obligations under Article II of the Genocide Convention.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that there had been 174 people killed in the enclave in the previous 24 hours. 

The U.N. Security Council is expected to meet next Wednesday to discuss the ICJ ruling at the request of the Algerian government, which said it would give a "binding effect to the pronouncement of the International Court of Justice on the provisional measures imposed on the Israeli occupation."

Al Jazeera reported that, according to diplomatic sources, Algerian officials are likely to call for an immediate truce.

Georgios Petropoulos, director of the U.N. Office for Humanitarian Affairs in Gaza, told the outlet Saturday that nearly the entire population—2.2 million people—is now at risk of starvation and the agency can meet the clean drinking water needs of just a third of Gazans. 

"Everyone in Gaza needs aid now and the war must stop," he said. 

The ICJ ruling, said Shah, may give "hope to the children of Gaza. But without an immediate ceasefire we will be letting them down."

The lawmaker's viral letter was released nearly three months after about 20 children held a press conference outside Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, asking world leaders to protect them. 

Now, said Shah, addressing the children of Gaza, "you may ask the world why there was swift action when trade routes and economic interests were at risk but deafening silence when 10,000 children were killed, when your mothers' hearts were torn and your fathers clung and kissed your lifeless bodies farewell... The world might not like your questions, but you deserve your answers."

"The world sees your innocence and bravery, your suffering and endurance, and despite the horror, you still continue, with the world on your shoulders," Shah continued. "Whilst we raised our voices, filled the streets, and called for an end, it was not enough. When the world should have been your inspiration, you became ours. I am sorry."

(Julia Conley is a staff writer for CommonDreams.org where this story was first published.)