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68 orphans were evacuated from Gaza to the West Bank, enraging Israel's far right

Children react during the funeral of the Faojo family, killed in an Israel strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 11, 2023. Roughly 600,000 children are sheltering in Rafah, where a spiraling humanitarian crisis is playing out due to the war between Israel and Hamas.
Said Khatib
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AFP via Getty Images
Children react during the funeral of the Faojo family, killed in an Israel strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Nov. 11, 2023. Roughly 600,000 children are sheltering in Rafah, where a spiraling humanitarian crisis is playing out due to the war between Israel and Hamas.

TEL AVIV, Israel - An international non-profit organization has evacuated 68 children without parental care as well as 11 employees and their families from Rafah, in southern Gaza, to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

With the help of the German embassy, the children, staff and their families were evacuated by the charity group SOS Children's Villages International, and arrived Monday in Bethlehem.

The children are between the ages of 2 and 14, and according to a statementfrom SOS, were moved with the consent of their legal guardians.

"The successful evacuation gives a glimmer of hope. At the same time, our concern remains with all the children who are still in danger in Gaza," said Angela Maria Rosales, chief program officer at SOS Children's Villages International.

The charity has a facility in Rafah, caring for children who were orphaned before the war, but the increasingly dangerous conditions in the city made the move necessary.

Over a million Palestinians are sheltering in Rafah, which, in addition to Israeli airstrikes, is facing dire shortages of food, water and shelter. There are roughly 600,000 children in Rafah, according to UNICEF, many living in makeshift tents.

The United Nations said that the transfer was carried out with the approval of Israeli authorities — a decision that has sparked angeramong hardliners inside the Israeli government. The far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir calledthe transfer one in a series of "fake 'humane measures,'" saying "the citizens of Israel continue to pay the price." Meanwhile, in a post on X (formerly Twitter), finance minister Bezalel Smotrich demanded to know who gave the "immoral order" while the children of Israelis are held hostage.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not commented on the transfer.

The SOS facility in Rafah will remain open, according to a statement from the charity, and continue to accept children who have lost their parents in the war, which has been especially devastating for children.

UNICEF estimates that at least 17,000 children in Gaza are unaccompanied or separated from their families. And according to Save The Children, a humanitarian charity focusing on the welfare of children, at least 12,400 children have been killed there in the aftermath of last year's attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants.

Twelve hundred people were killed in the Oct. 7 attack, according to Israeli officials, while another 240 were taken hostage by Hamas. Among those killed were 38 children. Israel's military response has so far killed at least 31,184 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

D. Parvaz
D. Parvaz is an editor at Weekend Edition. Prior to joining NPR, she worked at several news organizations covering wildfires, riots, earthquakes, a nuclear meltdown, elections, political upheaval and refugee crises in several countries.
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