Thursday, January 28, 2021

Growing up under occupation: the toll Palestinian children pay

By Lien S. - October 16, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation] [Features]
Tags: [child arrests] [UNICEF]

Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian child suspected of throwing stones at a protest in Nabi Saleh. Photo (archive) by Lazar Simeonov.

Palestinian children are growing up in an environment in which their rights are being violated. A recent bulletin released by UNICEF (the United Nations Children Fund) shows that 871 Palestinian children were injured and four killed in the first half of 2013.

Rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas

Four Palestinian boys were killed and 851 boys and 20 girls were injured during the first half of 2013. One of the wounded is eight-year old Laith Abu Aker from Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem, who was hit in the forehead by an Israeli rubber-coated steel bullet during clashes on 29 August. 

The contrast with the number of Israeli child victims is sharp, as according to UNICEF, only five were injured in the same time span. 

The majority of these Palestinian children injured since the beginning of this year have sustained their injuries during demonstrations, clashes or search and arrest operations by the Israeli military. Contact wounds from Israeli rubber-coated metal bullets and severe tear gas inhalations are the most frequent injuries, yet occasionally, live ammunition and direct physical assaults are used against children as well.

Arrest and detention

On October 7, a 13-year old boy from Hebron declared that four heavily armed Israeli soldiers arrested him when arriving at this school, beat him up and took him to an army base. During his detention he said he was left without food or water for several hours before being interrogated. Soldiers ridiculed him and took pictures of him going to the bathroom, the boy related.

Statistics compiled by the Israeli human rights organization, B’tselem, show that during the first half of this year, an average of 223 Palestinian children were being held in Israeli detention each month. A total of 31 children were ill-treated or tortured in this period. They were painfully hand-tied, blindfolded, strip searched, leg-ted, verbally abused, beaten or kicked, not informed of their rights or not allowed to have their parent or a lawyer with them during interrogation.

Even though the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Israel is 12, Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, has reported several incidents of Israeli soldiers detaining younger children. 

On 9 July, for example, soldiers detained a five-year old boy for two hours in Hebron, after he had thrown a stone. They threatened the child and his parents, handcuffed and blindfolded the father and handed the child over to the Palestinian police.

While the age of criminal responsibility is 12 in both Israel and the Palestinian territories, Israeli children are judged by civil courts while Palestinian children are judged by Israeli military courts; however, when it comes to actual imprisonment, the minimum age of Israeli children jumps to 14, but stays at 12 for Palestinians. 

Click here to see a graphic published by 972 Magaizne, which provides insight into the way children, both Palestinian and Israeli, are treated under Israel’s legal regime. 

Schools under attack

The right of access to education is frequently violated in Palestine as well. On Wednesday, 9 October, Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at a school in al-Khader, south of Bethlehem. One student was shot in the foot according to Ma’an News Agency

According to UNICEF, in the first half of 2013, 29 West Bank schools were attacked by either the Israeli military or by Israeli settlers. Between April and June, there were 15 reported cases of the Israeli military’s detention of students and teachers on their way to school. In the same period of time, the Israeli military designated six different school areas as 'closed military zones.’ 

Settler violence can also be directed against Palestinian students and schools. The children of Tuba and Maghayir al-Abeed in the South Hebron hills have needed a military escort to safely reach their school in At-Tuwani for the last nine years. On their daily walk to school, they risk being attacked by settlers from the settlements they pass along the way. One of them told Defence for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine) that sometimes they miss the first class because the soldiers who need to escort them show up late, but that at least the soldiers don’t harass them anymore like they used to. “They used to speed ahead in the jeep, forcing us to run after them.” Requests for a school bus to take the kids to school safely, have been denied.

Teaching during clashes can make it very hard for the students to focus as well. On Saturday, 5 October, tear gas interrupted classes in the Lajee center in Aida refugee camp. “Every Saturday I teach French to the kids here. Last week during class there were clashes going on outside, which made it very difficult for the children to pay attention,” a volunteer teacher in the camp explained in an interview with the Palestine Monitor. “After a while, so much tear gas was coming into the class room that we all had to cover our nose. As soon as the situation outside calmed down, we sent the kids home.” 


UNICEF reports that between April and June of 2013, 122 children were left homeless in the West Bank after their houses were demolished by the Israeli military. Another 420 children were affected by demolitions that threatened their families’ livelihoods and 239 children were temporarily displaced for up to 23 hours because of Israeli military trainings in the Jordan Valley. On Monday, 7 October, Israel issued demolition orders to another six Palestinian families in Bardala village in the northern Jordan Valley, reports Ma’an News Agency.

 “Instead of growing up with a law-based, negotiated settlement founded on universal human rights principles, justice and respect for human dignity; Palestinian youth have had their futures stifled and suppressed by systemic discrimination, constant settlement expansion, and prolonged military occupation,” writes Brad Parker, an international advocacy officer with DCI-Palestine. 

“While the US-dominated Oslo negotiating process should have concluded by May 1999, it has dragged on for decades. The guise of a 'peace process’ has enabled successive Israeli governments to pursue and implement policies that have crushed the dreams and aspirations of an entire generation,” he concludes.


*Correction* - This article was edited on 21 October 2013. It mistakenly read, "during the first half of this year, an average of 223 Palestinian children were being held in Israeli detention..." This has been changed to "223 have been detained each month."

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