Israel 'pressures Ban Ki-moon' to get off UN list of children's rights violators in wars

Palestinian children play on a mattress near the ruins of houses which witnesses said were destroyed by Israeli shelling during the most recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, in the east of Gaza City (Reuters/Mohammed Salem)
Israel is allegedly pulling diplomatic strings to pressurize the UN Secretary-General to exclude it from an annual list of countries accused of violating children's rights in armed conflicts. Israel denies the allegations.

Despite the slaughter of hundreds of Palestinian children in the IDF Israeli operation in Gaza in 2014, Tel Aviv wants to somehow preserve a squeaky clean image and is putting pressure on the UN central office to that end.

Initially, the draft of the document prepared by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s special envoy for children, Leila Zerrougui, included the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on the list for attacking schools and hospitals in the Gaza Strip conflict last year, Reuters reported.

An opposing side in the conflict, the Palestinian group Hamas, has also been added to the list.

Now Ban Ki-Moon is allegedly “leaning toward” omitting Israel from the list of shame, reports Reuters citing diplomatic sources.

READ MORE: Palestine gets ICC membership, opening door to Israel war crimes prosecution

“Now, under pressure from Israel, the SG (secretary-general) is leaning towards not heeding the recommendation of Ms. Zerrougui and probably won't include Israel,” one source said.

The decision is due to come within the next weeks, yet the UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the Secretery-General hasn’t made up his mind whether to include Israel in the list of serious children’s’ rights violator states.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry denies allegations of pressurizing the UN chief.

“There is absolutely no Israeli pressure on the UN Secretary-General,” Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said, stressing, “the pressure comes from those countries who want to include Israel in the worst possible list.”

Nahshon accused Israel’s critics of being “motivated by hatred and totally blind to their own failings.”

“This is a heinous and hypocritical attempt to besmirch the image of Israel and it is doomed to fail,” he said.

The Israeli-Palestinian 50-day conflict in 2014 took the lives of over 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, together with 67 IDF soldiers and six Israeli civilians.

Last August, a senior UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official said that at least 469 children had been killed and over 3,000 injured in Gaza during the IDF’s Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, adding that more than 370,000 Palestinian kids need “immediate psychosocial first aid.”

READ MORE: 469 Gaza children killed, over 370,000 need ‘psychosocial aid’ – UNICEF

UNICEF estimated that at least 219 Palestinian schools (of them seven sponsored by the UN) were damaged by Israeli airstrikes, while 22 of them were completely destroyed.

Leading international human rights watchdogs have advised the UN to include Israel in the index of children’s rights violator countries and organizations.

READ MORE: UN: Dozens of children homeless after Israel illegally demolished Palestinian houses

In April, Human Rights Watch recommended the UN Secretary-General add both the IDF and Hamas to the list back in April.

The HRW’s director for UN communications, Philippe Bolopion, pointed out that other countries and organizations were added to the list for less serious violations.

READ MORE: ‘Grueling & hazardous’: HRW exposes Palestinian child abuse in Israeli settler farms

In a report released this week, Amnesty International accused Hamas of committing war crimes in the Gaza Strip during last year's conflict, whereas Israel was accused of the same in a separate report in March.