The Israeli occupation authorities have transformed the images of joy, play and education that should be the norm for Palestinian children into a shocking number of violations committed by the army against them in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Around 1.3 million Palestinian children in the West Bank are affected daily by Israel’s policy of arrest and detention, as well as attacks by gunfire, beatings and illegal settlers.
Another one million children in Gaza are considered to be the most affected by the restrictions imposed by the occupation. This includes the siege, aggression and multiple military offensives. Children under the age of 15 make up 42 per cent of the entire population in the Gaza Strip; Israel has basically assassinated their childhood.
The Israeli army has arrested at least 800,000 Palestinians since 1967 in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. There are currently 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, including 70 women and more than 400 children. The occupation authorities hold Palestinians in 22 prisons and detention centres, where 95 per cent of them have been subjected to torture and degrading treatment.
Interrogations include torture from the time of arrest. It is common for prisoners to be stripped and handcuffed and forced to stand outside in freezing temperatures. Families are rarely allowed to visit them, even child prisoners.
Several reports and studies have been published in recent years which expose Israel’s acts against Palestinian children. UNICEF reports in particular have confirmed that the Palestinian children detained by Israel — 250 children under the age of 17 this year already — are abused systematically in a manner that violates international law.
According to UNICEF, an average of 700 children between the ages 12 and 17, mostly males, are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army, police and security agencies in the occupied West Bank every year.
The UN body also confirmed that it has documented some examples of Israel’s actions that can be classified as inhumane under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
According to the UNICEF report, the mistreatment of Palestinian youth usually begins at the time of arrest, which often happens in the middle of the night and is carried out by armed soldiers; mistreatment continues throughout the trials and sentencing procedures.
The report also confirmed that the Palestinians, who are usually detained for throwing stones, are often forced to confess.
Minors under the age of 13 are often sentenced to prison for up to six months, while those who are 14 and over may get 10 years in prison for throwing stones; this can even be up to 20 years if the target is a moving car.