The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says Palestinian children in the besieged Gaza Strip are the main victims of Israeli atrocities in the enclave.  

The regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at UNICEF, Geert Cappelaere, in a statement on Friday, said:  "The escalating violence in Gaza has exacerbated the suffering of children whose lives have already been unbearably difficult for several years."

Cappelaere added that apart from the physical injuries children sustain in Israeli attacks, they are increasingly showing symptoms of severe distress and trauma.

According to figures provided by the UN agency, over the past five weeks, five children lost their lives and hundreds more were wounded in largely peaceful protest rallies held along the border with the occupied Palestinian territories. Furthermore, at least half of the total child population in Gaza depend on humanitarian assistance, and one in four needs psychosocial care.

Cappelaere also said minors “belong in schools, homes and playgrounds” and hence, they should “never be targeted.”

Late last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein called on Israeli forces to curb the use of “lethal force against unarmed demonstrators” during protests, wondering “how children… can present a threat of imminent death or serious injury to heavily protected security force personnel.”

Nearly 50 Palestinians have lost their lives in clashes with Israeli military during protests along the Gaza border since March 30. The Israeli regime has faced growing international criticisms over its use of live rounds against unarmed demonstrators.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli-imposed siege, since June 2007, causing a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty there.

In addition, Israel has deliberately imposed power cuts and shortages in fuel in Gaza, hugely disrupting water and sanitation services. Medicines and health equipment are also in dire short supply, straining an already fragile health system.

Israel has also launched several wars on Gaza, the last of which began in early July 2014.