Honouring the most vulnerable victims of the escalating violence in Palestine and Israel

Yaning Wu
3 min readMay 20, 2021

This article contains graphics and language that some readers may find distressing.

The past two weeks have seen an intense spike in tensions in the Middle East. Though I am yet unqualified to speak to the political and historical context of the current unrest, I felt it important to highlight how the fighting has impacted Palestine and Israel’s youngest civilians, who rarely pose a risk to armed personnel.

Documentation from the nonprofit Defense for Children International’s Palestine branch and the BBC suggests that around 70 children have been killed by military forces since May 10th, 68 of them Palestinian. Many died together with their parents, siblings, and cousins.

The below plot shows how many children in the region were killed (usually by airstrikes, gunshots, or rockets) during the day and night from May 10. More children were killed at night, with a large proportion of this group made up of the victims of an airstrike in Gaza City at 1 am, May 16.

As an outside observer, I imagined these attacks to be especially egregious. We are all most defenceless while resting, and children need more sleep than the rest of the population. I thought also of the tender routines of families tucking their youngest members into bed, and how their next waking moments would have been the most terrifying of their lives.

Children caught in these clashes are so exposed to the sounds of war that the din of daily urban life, such as the whirs of a car starting or the drone of an airplane, can be startling. That is, at least, what I can tell from the videos circulating around social media this week. A 2012 survey of more than 500 young people in Gaza from UNICEF suggests the same.

Combining these two factors and my enduring belief in remembrance through storytelling, I have dedicated a lullaby to the 70 children killed during these nine days of escalation.

This is German composer Johannes Brahms’ “Wiegenlied” (“Cradle Song”), originally written for voice and piano and transcribed for solo piano by Russian-born composer Leopold Godowsky. It is widely recognisable around the world.

On the accompanying slides below, you will see the name and age of each child killed, as well as the time and place of each incident. Although this conflict is an unequal one, I did not explicitly separate Palestinian and Israeli children. The loss of each child, no matter the rarity of this kind of event, is a catastrophe for their loved ones, as it should be to us all.

Please turn on your audio and click “play” below.

Sources: Defense for Children International, BBC, Bisan Centre for Research and Development (same links as above)

I do not intend to cause any offence with this work, which only presents the data I have found online. Above all, I wish these families peace, and I wish to never have a reason to add new flowers.

Thank you for reading. If you notice errors in this, or any of my published articles, please notify me via the comments.

Appendix: Methodology and challenges

  • I produced both visualisations with the free version of Flourish. The first is a stacked bar chart, while the second is a “story”, similar to an automated set of presentation slides. I added audio, images, and text and set the number of seconds between each panel to produce the latter.
  • Data on children killed during this recent escalation can be inconsistent. For example, the children’s names were transliterated differently, especially if they were originally in Arabic, so I attempted to maintain consistency in spelling for those with the same last name. Otherwise, multiple spellings were used across sources, and I treated them as generally correct. Similarly, the children’s ages varied by 1–3 years between sources. I used the Defense for Children International’s figures when inconsistencies occurred because the organisation provided the most complete information about each individual.
  • Because of the nature of the violence, deaths can be difficult to verify, and documentation may only be available days after their occurrence. Therefore, these figures are likely underestimates.



Yaning Wu

she/her. Population Health student @ UCL. Perpetual dataviz nerd. Published on Towards Data Science and UX Collective.