Mideast Trouble Takes 'Incalculable' Toll on Youth

Fri Apr 5, 1:33 PM ET

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Thursday that violence
in the Middle East was taking an "incalculable" toll on Palestinian
and Israeli youth.

In a statement, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy also called
for a ban on targeting children, homes, schools and health
facilities. She urged Israel to end curfews and allow Palestinian
families safe access to water, food and health care.

Some 230 Palestinian children under the age of 18 and 47 Israeli
youths were among the fatalities up until March 31, according to
UNICEF. "No one has been able to go out since then and check," a
spokesman said.

At least 1,154 Palestinians and 405 Israelis have been killed since
the Palestinian revolt began in September 2000.

Israeli tanks, continuing their week-long assault, smashed their way
into the West Bank's biggest Palestinian city Nablus on Wednesday
night and encircled three nearby refugee camps while Palestinians
resisted with rifles and grenades.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sent tanks and troops to
"isolate" Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in his West Bank
headquarters after a suicide bomber killed 26 Israelis.

"Over the last weeks, Israelis and Palestinians have terrorised each
other's communities, without regard for homes, schools, health
centres and other public spaces where children are present," UNICEF
said. "The psychological and social impact of armed conflict on
children is incalculable."

UNICEF added: "Traumatic events such as the death or injury of family
and friends, house-to-house searches and the humiliating round-up and
detention of fathers and brothers cause irreparable damage to
children's confidence in adults, increase their acceptance of
violence as an adequate method for resolving problems and dim their
hope in the future."

© 2002 Reuters Limited.