When Palestinian boys, mostly teenagers, stand up to protect their homes and lands, the Israeli army responds by beating them, throwing stun grenades and tear gas at them. It is nothing less than a full-scale assault.
“The majority of Palestinian children targeted by the Israeli occupation forces are young boys,” says Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Director of Accountability Program at Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP).
According to a DCIP report, 15 Palestinian children have been killed by occupation forces since the beginning of the year.
Among the victims were: Muhammad Akram Ali Abu Salah, 16, Sanad Muhammad Khalil Abu Attia, 16, Muhammad Hussein Muhammad Qassem, 16, Shawkat Kamal Shawkat Abed, 17, and Amjad Walid Hussein Fayed, 16.
DCIP added that on February 13, an Israeli sniper shot 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Salah, a resident of Al-Yamoun village in Jenin, in the eyes, killing him.
“The violation of Palestinian children’s rights is caused by the presence of Israeli occupation forces in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Ayed said.
Despite the many legal instruments and standards that the international community has tried to put in place to protect children’s rights, the number of violations of children’s rights is getting worse over the years.
“For example, last year we documented the killing of 78 Palestinian children at the hands of the Israeli army. Sixty-one of these children were from the Gaza Strip and 17 from the West Bank.”
“Sixty of the 61 children who were killed in the Gaza Strip were killed during the military assault on Gaza in May 2021. But most importantly, we see from our documentation that there was no need to shoot to kill Palestinian children, because they did. poses no threat to the lives of Israeli soldiers. »
Israeli air and artillery strikes during the 11-day assault killed 253 Palestinians and injured more than 1,900 people.
DCIP documents the arrest, injury, death and incarceration of Palestinian children and youth, and provides legal defense to those prosecuted in Israeli military courts.
“In the last ten years, only one Israeli soldier has been charged with the murder of a Palestinian child, for which the sentence he received is less severe than that which a Palestinian child is punished for throwing a stone at an Israeli vehicle.”
For Ayed, it is a painful but perfect microcosm of Israel’s policy of total impunity and its corrupt legal system, and the bitter frustrations of the Palestinians’ struggle to live in their homes on their land.
The main problem, he explains, centers on the level of accountability and impunity the soldiers enjoy in the eyes of the international community. “International impunity is the backbone of the Israeli occupation,” he said.
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Soldiers serving in the occupied territories know very well that almost everything they do will be excused. They will never be punished, neither by Israel, nor by its authorities, nor by anyone else.
Killings, night raids, arrests and detentions without trial, collective punishment, house demolitions, land confiscation, settlement expansion and exploitation of natural resources by occupying forces are constantly left untouched. control.
Data collected by an Israeli rights group Yesh Din shows that only 2% of complaints against Israeli soldiers filed by Palestinians result in indictments. Meanwhile, more than 80% of cases are closed without a criminal investigation ever taking place.
“Despite numerous violations of international human rights law, Israel has not been held accountable for any of its brutal practices and believes it has the green light to continue killing and violating the rights of civilians. Palestinians, including minors.”
Adding to his negligence, Ayes accused the international community of openly applying double standards in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There is no difference between Moscow’s invasion of Kyiv, he explains, and Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
“There is no political will on the part of the international community to fulfill its legal obligation, which is to punish and sanction Israel for its illegal practices. of human rights in order to maintain good political and diplomatic relations with Israel.”
He also called on the UN for not punishing Israel accordingly, especially for refusing to
including Israel in its list of child rights violators and its report on children and armed conflict, following one of Israel’s deadliest wars against Gaza in 2014.
“The number of Palestinian children who were killed that year was the highest internationally and despite our persistence with the UN to add Israel to the list of armies and armed groups that violate children’s rights, they repeatedly refused.”
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Each year, DCIP collects hundreds of statements from Palestinian children who have been arrested and subjected to long periods of interrogation without the presence of a parent, guardian or lawyer.
Children are often coerced into signing false confessions, in documents written in Hebrew, a language most Palestinian children do not understand.
Additionally, while Israeli military and civilian law states that the minimum age of criminal responsibility is 12, DCIP says Israeli forces routinely detain Palestinian children younger than that.
“The statements we collect provide insight into how the system works and the types of abuse and torture children are exposed to, which we then use to compose our advocacy campaigns,” says Ayed.
What we have discovered is that from the moment of their arrest, Palestinian children are abused and tortured by Israeli forces. Three in four experience physical abuse during arrest or interrogation, involving slapping, kicking, punching and forcing children to sit in stressful positions.
Meanwhile, children detained by Israel also suffer intense psychological abuse, consisting of solitary confinement, threats against their families and intimidation and being imprisoned without sentence in administrative detention.
Moreover, there are no counselors in the prisons and, despite their age, they are often held alongside Israeli criminals. Their arrests often take place at night and involve inhuman means of restraint and transportation designed to destroy their spirit. The whole process has a profound psychological, physical and social effect on them.
“Psychological torture methods are used to put as much pressure as possible on the interrogated person in order to break down their resistance,” Ayed explains.
“We believe that every child who goes through this system will be psychologically affected, because the entire Israeli system is designed to attack not only physically, but also mentally and psychologically well-being of these children. They want to break them from within. “