The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was ratified by Israel in 1991 and by Palestine in 2014, making both state parties bound by the obligations set out in the CRC. The CRC provides children with a distinct set of rights covering all aspects of a child’s life. The CRC applies to Palestinian children in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), which comprise the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. As the occupying state, Israel has a general responsibility under international conventions, including the CRC, for the safety, welfare and human rights protection of civilians living in the OPT.
The incidents and statistics outlined in this bulletin have principally been collated from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (in Gaza). They engage specific rights of the CRC which are also highlighted in this bulletin. Some of these incidents raise serious concerns that state parties have breached obligations to protect and realise children’s rights provided by the CRC. This includes an overarching obligation of the CRC to ensure the best interests of the child is a primary consideration in all decisions and actions that affect children.
In addition to providing a broad overview of the landscape of serious human rights incidents affecting children in the oPt over the reporting period, this specific bulletin concludes with an in-focus section that looks at the issue of long-standing restrictions on access to education in the oPt.
LPHR gives special thanks to Angelina Nicolaou and Emma Fullerton for their excellent work preparing this bulletin.
14 Palestinian children were killed across the oPt.
The deaths took place in the context of increasing violence, partly sparked by repeated restrictions on Palestinian access to Al Aqsa Mosque. Between 1-26 October 2015, 43 Palestinians and 7 Israelis were killed in the oPt and Israel, while approximately 5,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis were injured.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports the number of West Bank Palestinians killed (29) and injured (4,400) is the highest in any equivalent period since 2005, when they started documenting casualties. In Gaza, the number of casualties is the highest since the end of the 2014 hostilities.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated on 8 October that “the high number of casualties, in particular those resulting from the use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces, raises concerns of excessive use of force, and violations of the right to life and security of the person.”
Of the 14 Palestinian children killed between 5 October and 25 October, two were killed in Gaza. On 11 October, Israeli forces fired missiles at a house south of Gaza City, resulting in the collapse of the house, killing a pregnant woman, Nour Rasmi Mohammed Hassan, and her 3-year-old daughter, Rahaf Yehya Sa’di Hassan. Investigations by several human rights groups found that the missiles had directly hit the victims’ home, refuting the Israeli official statement’s claim that the house collapsed as a result of a strike on an adjacent training camp. Israeli NGO B’Tselem cites the absence of any military training camp near the house.
On 10 October, 10-year-old Marwan Hisham Barbakh was killed by a live bullet fired by Israeli forces while attending a protest that took place at the border fence between Gaza and Israel.
The following 12 children have been killed in the West Bank since 5 October 2015:
13-year-old Abdel Rahman Shadi Abeidallah was shot and killed by Israeli forces during clashes Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem on 5 October.
17-year-old Amjad Hatem al-Jundi, from Yatta village south of Hebron, was killed when Israeli police officers fire at him in one of the malls in Karyat area in Israel on 7 October.
16-year-old Ishaq Qasem Badran was shot by Israeli forces in East Jerusalem after an alleged stabbing incident on 10 October.
13-year-old Ahmed Sharaka was killed, reportedly shot in the head, during a protest near the Beit El/DCO Checkpoint, Ramallah, on 11 October.
15-year-old Hasan Manasra was shot and killed by Israeli forces, who then allegedly ran over and injured his 13-year-old cousin, Ahmed Manasra, as the two boys were on their way to a mall on 12 October. Israeli forces claimed that the two boys were perpetrators of attacks on Israeli citizens. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reports that the David Red Star ambulance crew deliberately delayed offering first aid to the 13-year-old. PCHR point to a video published by Ma’an Satellite Channel, showing Israeli civilians and police insult and swear at Ahmed Manasra, and call for killing him, as he lies bleeding and crying for help.
16-year-old Bayan Ayman Al-Eseli was killed at a military checkpoint in the east of Hebron by Israeli forces on 17 October. Israeli forces claimed she attempted to stab a female Israeli solider.
16-year-old Tareq Zeyad Al-Natsha was killed at a military checkpoint at the northern entrance of al-Shuhada street in Hebron on 17 October. Israeli forces claimed he attempted to stab a solider.
16-year-old Mu’taz Uweisat was killed at a temporary checkpoint established at the entrance of “Armon Hanatziv” settlement, south of East Jerusalem, on 17 October. Israeli forces claimed that he attempted to stab a number of Israeli Border Guard officer.
17-year-old Husam Isma’il Al-Ja’bari was killed in Hebron by Israeli forces on 20 October.
15-year-old Bashar Nidal Al-Ja’bari was killed in Hebron by Israeli forces on 20 October.
17-year-old Ahmad Muhammad Kamil was killed by private security guards contracted by Israeli authorities in Jenin on 23 October.
17-year-old, Dania Jihad Hussein Ershied. was shot dead by Israeli border police at the entrance of the Ibrahimi mosque in the south of Hebron’s old city, on 25 October. Israeli authorities claim that Dania had a knife in her possession. Amnesty International reports “if Dania… had a knife in her possession, eyewitness accounts indicate she was not posing a threat to Israeli forces when she was shot, and her killing is therefore absolutely unjustified.”
The shootings raise significant concern that the chosen response to suspects is the harshest possible, with lethal or unnecessary consequences. Amnesty International has documented at least four incidents in which Palestinian teenagers were deliberately shot dead by Israeli forces when they posed no imminent threat to life, in what appear to have been extrajudicial executions. The intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life. Therefore, law enforcement officers must apply non-violent means before resorting to force and firearms. It must also be noted that some of the child fatality incidents above does not involve an allegation that the child had committed a criminal offence.
On 22 October, the UN Deputy Secretary General stated “a number of incidents, many caught on video and widely disseminated, call into question the degree of response, including the apparent disproportionate use of lethal force as a first resort.” B’Tselem notes that Israeli politicians and senior police officers have “openly called for the extrajudicial killing of suspects.”
Article 6(1) of the CRC states that every child has the inherent right to life. Any incident where a Palestinian child is killed involves a grave violation of their right to live, survive and develop healthily under Article 6 of the CRC. Part of providing meaningful protection under the CRC involves review of and accountability for child deaths. To fulfil its obligations under international law, it is necessary that Israel opens credible investigations into each of the killings above.
Article 40 of the CRC deals with approaches to children who are alleged to have breached criminal law, and outlines a number of due process rights afforded to children. Article 40 states: “State Parties recognise the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognised as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth, which reinforces the child’s respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and which takes into account the child’s age and the desirability of promoting the child’s reintegration and the child’s assuming a constructive role in society.” When read in conjunction with Article 6(2), which provides that State Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child, it is abundantly clear that a suspected policy or practice of lethally shooting at children who are not posing an imminent, mortal threat would amount to a significant violation of the CRC.
LPHR’s recent Urgent Action letter to the UK Foreign Office concerning Palestinian child fatalities since 5 October 2015 can be read here.
At least 807 Palestinian children and 5 Israeli children were injured across the oPt.
The majority of injuries sustained in the West Bank occurred during clashes with Israeli forces during protests or search and arrest operations. The majority sustained in Gaza occurred during clashes and demonstrations. Widespread protests took place in the oPt in response to restrictions on entry to Al Aqsa Mosque Compound in East Jerusalem.
In the week beginning 6 October, at least 170 children were injured during protests in the West Bank alone. Incidents included the injury of eight children in multiple clashes in which Israeli forces fired teargas canisters, live ammunition, rubber bullets, skunk spray, and sound grenades at Palestinians engaged mainly in stone throwing, and, in some cases, throwing Molotov cocktails.
On 13 and 14 September, the Israeli police carried out operations in Al Aqsa Mosque Compound, triggering violent confrontations with Palestinians. Two children were injured. The police operations followed three consecutive weeks of restricting Palestinian access to the Compound, to secure the entry of Israeli civilians. The UN Security Council has expressed grave concern over escalating tensions and called for “the exercise of restraint, refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric, and upholding unchanged the historic status quo at the Haram Al-Sharif – in word and in practice.”
On 12 October, Israeli police officers opened fire at a schoolgirl, Marah Bakeer, seriously wounding her. Israeli officers opened fire at the 17-year-old after an Israeli civilian allegedly attempted to attack her while she waited at a bus stop in al-Shaikh Jarrah, north of the Old City, on her way home from school.
5 Israeli children were injured. Stabbing and alleged stabbing attacks resulted in the injury of two Israeli children. Additionally, on 3 October in Jerusalem, a 2-year-old was injured when a Palestinian man attacked an Israeli family. Another Israeli 2-year-old was injured by Palestinians throwing stones. A 15-year-old Israeli boy was stabbed and injured near the Old City of Jerusalem, allegedly by a Palestinian. A Palestinian child, an alleged perpetrator of an attack on an Israeli, was also injured.
32 children were injured in Gaza. On 3 September, a 10-year-old child accompanying his father fishing in Access Restricted Areas at sea, off the coast of the Gaza Strip, sustained a bullet wound to his thigh.
Article 15(1) of the CRC provides for the rights of the child to freedom of peaceful assembly. Article 3(2) of the CRC affords children with the protection and care necessary for their well-being.
In late August, a 9-year-old and a 13-year-old were injured in Rafah City, Gaza after stepping on Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) while playing. A full legal analysis on the presence of UXO in Gaza can be found in the LPHR Child Rights Bulletin of 1 July 2015.
14 children were injured by Israeli settlers.
The attacks took place in the context of numerous Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian civilians and property. Incidents included:
The stabbing of a 17-year-old boy in Hebron.
The physical assault of a 7-year-old boy on Huwwara main road in Nablus.
The physical assault of a 16-year-old in Qalqilya.
The physical assault of a 14-year-old in Jenin.
The stoning of a 6-year-old girl in Hebron.
Separate hit and run incidents saw a 7-year-old and an 11-year-old injured in Hebron. Additionally, a 10-year-old child was injured when run over by an Israeli-plated vehicle in Nablus.
One incident affected an extended Palestinian family of 80 people, residing next to Kiryat Arba’ settlement in Hebron. The family were repeatedly attacked by settlers damaging their house. On the first day of the attacks, some of the Palestinian children responded to the Israeli settler attacks by throwing stones. This was followed by Israeli forces firing tear gas canisters at the house. Ambulances were prevented from reaching the property to treat children reportedly suffered from tear-gas inhalation.
An arson attack in the Bedouin community of ‘Ein Samiya resulted in damage to a residential tent. Israeli authorities served two Israeli-settlers with indictments for this attack, according to Israeli media. This is the first such indictment in connection to an arson attack in 2015. According to the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din, of 13 complaints regarding arson attacks filed with the Israeli police since 2008, only one led to an indictment, two are still under investigation, and ten were closed without indictment.
Israeli settlers blocked the main road leading to several herding communities in the Masafer Yatta area in Hebron, severely affecting the communities’ access to services.
Article 3(2) of the CRC provides that states should ensure the protection and care of children as is necessary for their well-being. Article 27 recognizes the right to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. Article 27(3) also provides that States shall take appropriate measures to assist in the implementation of the aforementioned right. Restricted access to services in the Massafer Yatta area of Hebron suggests that the requirement to provide an adequate standard of living for the children residing there is not being met.
Hundreds of search and arrest operations saw roughly 147 children arrested, many of them in Jerusalem. In addition, two 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old were handed summonses to report to the Israeli intelligence in “Gosh ‘Etzion” settlement, south of Bethlehem.
Article 37(b) of the CRC stipulates that no child shall be deprived of his or her liberty arbitrarily and that the arrest of a child shall be used only as a last resort. Article 3 of the CRC stipulates that the best interests of the child should be considered when children are dealt with through administrative bodies and the courts of law.
The above-mentioned restricted access to the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound disrupted the education of around 500 students on 24 August who were prevented from accessing three schools in the Compound.
On 5 October, a number of Palestinian schools in Jerusalem cancelled classes citing safety concerns after the Palestine Red Crescent Society declared a state of emergency, following 14 attacks in 72 hours against its ambulances and staff by Israeli forces and settlers. On 18 October, two schools located in the Access Restricted Area near Gaza’s perimeter fence had to be evacuated due to the clashes that took place in the area.
Israeli forces intensified movement restrictions in the West Bank, disrupting access to educational facilities. Several checkpoints across the West Bank became permanently staffed and over 120 additional ad-hoc checkpoints were deployed, forcing people to wait or use long detours. Following an Israeli Security Cabinet decision of 14 October, Israeli forces blocked several main streets leading to and from most Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. As of 21 October, 38 obstacles, including 17 checkpoints, have been put in place. These obstacles directly impact 9 Palestinian neighbourhoods, home to approximately 138,000 people, roughly 45% of East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population. The restrictions are ongoing and have a consequential disruptive impact on children’s access to education.
Article 28 of the CRC recognises the right of the child to education. Please see below our ‘in-focus’ section for more information and related legal analysis on access to education.
DISPLACEMENT & DEMOLITIONS
Roughly 160 structures were demolished and 151 children displaced during the reporting period. 145 structures were demolished and 126 children displaced in August, marking the highest number of demolitions in a single month for five years:
17 August marked the largest number of people displaced in the West Bank in a single day since October 2012: 78 Palestinians, including 49 children, were displaced in the communities of Az Za’ayyem Bedouin, Khan al Ahmar Abu Falah, Bir Miskoob and Wadi Sneysel. These are among the 46 Area C Bedouin communities in the central West Bank at risk of forcible transfer due to a plan advanced by the Israeli authorities to relocate the residents.
The week of 18-24 August had the largest wave of demolitions in a single week in six months. Israeli authorities demolished 42 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and East Jerusalem for lack of Israeli-issued building permits, displacing 33 children in one week in August. Since the start of 2015, a total of 458 structures have been demolished by the Israeli authorities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, displacing around 551 Palestinians including 305 children.
Six children were displaced in Al Jiftlik Abu al ‘Ajaj community in the Jordan Valley on 11 August. This is the fifteenth time the residents of Al Jiftlik Abu al ‘Ajaj have experienced demolition incidents since 2014.
During a military operation in Jenin refugee camp, Israeli forces destroyed a two-floor building located in Area A, displacing two children, and damaging another adjacent home.
Around 50 children were displaced from their homes in Khirbet Ras al Ahmar in the Jordan Valley for six hours to make way for an Israeli military training exercise. This is the second instance in 2015 that this herding community has been temporarily displaced. The practice negatively affects the livelihoods and access to services of already vulnerable communities, and often results in damage to their property.
September and October saw continued house demolitions and displacement affecting children:
On 3 September, five children were displaced when the Israeli authorities demolished seven Palestinian structures in East Tayba Bedouin community in Area C for lack of Israeli-issued building permits.
Dozens of demolition and stop work orders were issued in Area C, including against 18 residential structures and a donor-funded school serving 40 students in three communities in the Massafer Yatta area (Hebron) designated by the Israeli authorities as a closed military zone. Around 1,000 people currently living in this area are at risk of forcible transfer.
A registered refugee family of seven, including five children, was displaced when the Israeli authorities demolished two structures in East Jerusalem.
On 8 September, the Israeli authorities demolished a plants nursery in Khallet Sakariya (Bethlehem) in Area C for lack of Israeli-issued building permits, and confiscated around 22,000 NIS (3.8 NIS = USD 1) worth of the materials therein, affecting four families.
On 6 October, Israeli forces blew up two Palestinian homes and partially sealed a third one in East Jerusalem, displacing 20 children. The homes belonged to family members of Palestinian perpetrators of attacks against Israelis. On 13 October, the Israeli Security Cabinet approved measures expediting punitive demolitions. On 8 October, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that ‘collective punishments such as house demolitions are both illegal and counter-productive’. The following week, Israeli authorities issued another 7 punitive demolition orders. On 18 October, the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected a petition against another punitive demolition order. Another punitive demolition took place on 20 October.
On 19 October, Israeli settlers under police escort evicted three Palestinian households from a building in the Silwan area of East Jerusalem. Settlement expansion in Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem has resulted in the displacement of Palestinian families. On 2 September, Israeli settlers settled in a Palestinian house in the Silwan area.
Article 27 of the CRC protects children in terms of their standard of living, and seeks to ensure that this standard is adequate with respect to the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development. It further adds that State Parties are responsible for taking appropriate measures to provide assistance in respect to nutrition, clothing and housing. The actions cited above of the Israeli government to render children and their parents as homeless and displaced is a clear violation of both the letter and the spirit of Article 27 of the CRC. Furthermore, Article 16(1) of the CRC states that no child should be subjected to arbitrary interference with his or her privacy or family.
Long-standing restrictions on access to education in the oPt:
Article 28 of the CRC recognizes that education should be accessible to all children on the basis of equal opportunity, obliging Israel to ensure that children in the oPt have unrestricted access to education. There are, however, serious and long-standing concerns that children in the oPt encounter significant obstacles to access their right to education.
A 2010 UNICEF press release warned that educational standards in the oPt were at an unacceptable low, citing demolitions of and issuing of demolition orders against schools; restricted access to schools; too few and substandard classrooms; long journeys to school; and constant harassment by soldiers and settlers, as contributing factors. Also of concern was the long-term impact of psychological distress caused by forced displacements and house demolitions on a child’s education. Little improvement to Palestinian children’s access to education appears to have been made since, with schoolchildren in Gaza and Area C of the West Bank especially vulnerable. Palestinian and Bedouin citizens of Israel also face restrictions and discrimination in accessing education.
Restrictions on access to schools
The above-cited prevention of over 500 students from accessing three schools inside the Al Aqsa Mosque Compound was one of at least 42 incidents which disrupted the normal functioning of schools in the oPt so far in 2015. Other incidents included the issuing of demolition orders against schools and attacks on schools or school children journeying to school.
UNICEF reported 162 attacks on schools in the West Bank between January and September 2014, amounting in some instances to periodic denial of access to education. Israeli authorities and Israeli settlers were responsible for the attacks. Instances included military operations inside or near schools, cases of military use of schools by Israeli forces, and situations in which children lost school time as a result of the detention of teachers and schoolchildren while on their way to and from school, or as a result of Israeli security forces causing delays at military checkpoints.
Numerous military checkpoints impede the movement of Palestinian children on their journeys to school. Otherwise short journeys can take hours, resulting in missed classes. A child attempting to pass through a military checkpoint may experience intimidation, assault or arbitrary arrest by Israeli soldiers. The threat of arrest and detention may be especially frightening as 62% of children experience physical abuse within 24 hours of arrest. These experiences may deter children from going to school and inhibit their ability to focus on their studies. Indeed, many children must be accompanied by members of the community on their way to school because they are targets for settler violence and intimidation from soldiers. UNICEF’s 2014 target of providing a protective presence for 9,067 children and 354 teachers crossing checkpoints indicates the scale of this specific barrier to education.
The above outline of numerous, significant obstacles to Palestinian children accessing education in the oPt, strongly indicates that Israel must undertake fundamental remedial action so to prevent the continued breach of their obligation under the CRC to ensure these children have unimpeded access to their right to education.