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20 Jun, 2013 14:00

Israel used Palestinian minors as human shields, detain and torture - UN

Israel used Palestinian minors as human shields, detain and torture - UN

Thousands of Palestinian children were systematically injured, tortured and used as human shields by Israel, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child reported. Israel’s foreign minister denied the report’s accusations, calling it "recycled old stuff."

During the 10-year period examined by UN human rights experts, up to 7,000 children aged 9 to 17 were arrested, interrogated and kept captive, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said in its new report. At least 14 cases of abuse were reported to have taken place in the past three years.

As conflict in the Gaza Strip and West Bank continues, children on both sides continue to be killed and wounded; however, the majority of victims are Palestinian.

"Hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed and thousands injured over the reporting period as a result of the state party military operations, especially in Gaza where the state party proceeded to [conduct] air and naval strikes on densely populated areas with a significant presence of children, thus disregarding the principles of proportionality and distinction," Reuters reported, citing the CRC’s report.

It was revealed that the IDF used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings, forcing them to stand as human shields to discourage stone-throwing at military vehicles and troops.  

"Almost all those using children as human shields and informants have remained unpunished and the soldiers convicted for having forced at gunpoint a 9-year-old child to search bags suspected of containing explosives only received a suspended sentence of three months and were demoted," the watchdog's panel of 18 independent experts said.

Throwing stones at soldiers of Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is the most common felony for which underage Palestinians are taken to prison – convicted Palestinian minors face penalties of up to 20 years in jail, the CRC reported.

Reuters / Yannis Behrakis

"Palestinian children arrested by [Israeli] military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released," the report said.

Children are fitted with leg chains and shackles to appear before military courts, and are often held in solitary confinement. The committee blames Israel’s “long-standing occupation” of Palestinian territory for the “severe and continuous violations of the rights of Palestinian children and their families."  Many Palestinian children are denied birth certificates, health care and education, as well as basic needs such as clean water.

Israel – which disputes the international stance that its West Bank settlements are illegal – denied the accusations. The Israeli Foreign Ministry accused the UN report of “recycling old stuff” that carries “no importance.”

"If someone simply wants to magnify their political bias and political bashing of Israel not based on a new report, on work on the ground, but simply recycling old stuff, there is no importance in that," Reuters quoted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor as saying.

According to Palmor, officials from the ministry and the military cooperated with UNICEF in March for its work on the report. He claimed the effort was aimed at improving the treatment of Palestinian minors in Israeli custody.

"Israel will study the conclusions and will work to implement them through ongoing cooperation with UNICEF, whose work we value and respect," he said back then.