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.
LPHR gives special thanks to Angelina Nicolaou and Emma Fullerton for their excellent work preparing this bulletin.
Five children were killed in the West Bank:
An 18-month old baby, Ali Dawabsheh, was burnt to death on Friday 31 July after suspected Israeli settlers threw firebombs into a house while its occupants were sleeping. In 2013, the UN Human Rights Committee’s concluding observations noted that Israel should put an end to the impunity enjoyed by settlers who destroy Palestinian livelihood and take active measures to prevent further violence and destruction. Please see the ‘settler violence’ section below for more information on this fatal arson attack.
Two children were subsequently killed by Israeli forces on Friday 31 July. Israeli forces shot dead an unarmed, 16-year-old Palestinian child, Mohammad al-Masri, in the Access Restricted Areas (ARA) near the fence surrounding Gaza, reportedly after he tampered with an Israeli security camera. On the same day, Israeli forces killed a 15 year old Palestinian child, Laith Fadil al-Khalidi, reportedly shooting him in the back. The shooting took place during clashes with Israeli soldiers at Atara checkpoint, Ramallah, following protests that erupted over the aforementioned fatal arson attack. An Israeli army spokesperson said that soldiers shot the Palestinian youth after he threw a firebomb at them. An eyewitness stated that the boy was running away from soldiers when he was shot. The boy was the third child killed by Israeli forces near a military checkpoint in the West Bank this year.
On 3 July 2015, a senior Israeli military officer shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian child, Mohammad Sami Ali Kasba, near Qalandiya checkpoint, Jerusalem. Witnesses stated that the boy was shot with at least three bullets in the back, face, and upper side of his torso as he attempted to flee from soldiers. The Israeli military claimed that the boy was shot while throwing rocks at the officer’s vehicle and putting the officer’s life at risk. CCTV footage acquired by B’Tselem appears to confirm witness accounts and medical evidence that the boy was shot in the back. The Israeli Military Police Investigations Unit have reportedly launched an investigation into the incident. B’Tselem cites the Unit’s poor track record of investigating such killings, as well as praise from leading Israeli politicians for the officer involved, as barriers to an unbiased and credible investigation. See LPHR’s urgent action letter to the UK Foreign Office concerning the above case here.
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 their obligations under international law, it is necessary that Israel opens a credible investigation into each of the killings above.
A four-year-old Palestinian girl from Yatta town (Hebron) was accidentally shot and killed by her father, while he was cleaning his gun. Article 19 of the CRC stipulates that State Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, while in the care of parents or guardians. Article 24(2)(a) specifies that State Parties should take measures to diminish child mortality.
53 children were injured by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza:
51 injuries were sustained by Palestinian children during clashes and Israeli forces search and arrest operations across the West Bank, including the following:
A fifteen year old sustained a bullet wound to the thigh at a protest against Israeli policies near Ofer detention facility, southwest of Ramallah.
An infant and an 18-month-old baby suffered from tear gas in the context of protests in Kufr Qaddum, Qalqiliya. A 13-year-old and a 16-year-old were shot with live ammunition during clashes in Ramallah and a search and arrest operation in Balata Refugee Camp, Nablus.
Three boys were struck by sound bombs during clashes in East Jerusalem.
A 17-year-old was struck by a rubber bullet in Abu Dis, Jerusalem.
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 the Access Restricted Areas (ARA) in the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces shot and injured two children. One incident involved the shooting of a 14-year-old child who had been playing with other children within 50 meters of the fence. The shooting took place in the context of more than 107 incidents of Israeli forces opening fire towards civilians in the ARA on land and at sea. Creating a dangerous environment in public spaces breaches the right to leisure, play and culture under Article 31 of the CRC. Article 3(2) of the CRC affords children with the protection and care necessary for their well-being.
An 18-month old was burnt to death, and his four-year-old brother sustained severe burns, in an arson attack on a Palestinian home. The aforementioned arson attack took place in Duma and involved settlers firebombing the home of a family while they slept, at around 2am. The deceased baby’s four year old brother, Ahmad Dawabsheh, sustained burns to 60% of his body, and both parents, Saad Dawabsheh and Rihan Dawabsheh, sustained third degree burns over 80-90% of their bodies. The father subsequently died of his wounds. Earlier in July, a four year old girl was assaulted by settlers in Hebron. These incidents of settler violence were two of 35 which resulted in physical harm to Palestinians or damage to property in the period covered by this bulletin.
Graffiti left by the arsonists in the fatal attack in Duma read “revenge”, “price tag” and “long live the Messiah”, suggesting that the attack was one of many intended to pressure Palestinians into leaving their land by Israeli settlers wishing to appropriate it. Between August 2012 and August 2015, Israeli civilians have set fire to nine Palestinian homes in the West Bank. Additionally, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a Palestinian taxi, severely burning the family on board. No one was charged in any of these cases, suggesting that settlers are generally able to act violently with impunity. B’Tselem reports that in recent years, Israeli civilians have set fire to dozens of Palestinian homes, mosques, businesses, agricultural land and vehicles in the West Bank, and that in many cases the Israeli Police did not investigate.
Impunity exists in part because it is very difficult for Palestinian victims of settler violence to make complaints to the authorities. Many police stations are located within settlements, meaning that administrative obstacles exist when Palestinians wish to file a complaint. Palestinian victims of settler violence are also faced with uncooperative police officers. Even when an investigation is opened, further deficiencies in the complaint process include the failure to locate and identify suspects, to collect or consolidate sufficient evidence to prosecute suspects who have been located, losing files and prematurely concluding that no offence was committed or that a suspect has no connection to the offence. Article 4 of the CRC states that State Parties should undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the implementation of the rights recognised in the present Convention. In order for the rights of the child to be meaningfully protected as intended by the CRC, adults and children need the opportunity for redress. The mechanisms currently in place are deficient and not upheld properly by the authorities.
During the reporting period and before the fatal attack in Duma, there was another arson attack on a Palestinian home, in Hebron, as the inhabitants slept inside. Unimpeded regular occurrences of violence against Palestinian families suggests that Article 3(2) of the CRC, which provides that states should ensure the protection and care of children as is necessary for their well-being, is being breached. Furthermore, Article 39 of the CRC stipulates that states should take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of abuse and that such recovery and reintegration should take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.
UNEXPLODED ORDNANCE (UXO)
A nine-year-old Palestinian child was severely burned when unexploded ordnance (UXO) detonated while he was tampering with it near his house in Tubas city. By exposing Palestinian children to the risk of death or serious injury, unexploded ordnances violate a range of articles under the CRC. Importantly, Article 6 of the CRC promotes a right for the child to live, survive and develop healthily. An in depth legal analysis of the implications of UXO on the rights of the child can be found in the LPHR Child Rights Bulletin dated 1st July 2015.
101 children were arrested in the West Bank and Gaza during the reporting period:
92 children were arrested during military incursions into the West Bank and Gaza, and eight were arrested at checkpoints. 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. UNICEF has observed that the Israeli military court system, as a whole, is not one which considers the best interests of the child. According to a recent update by Military Court Watch in July 2015, little progress has been made in implementing recommendations made by UNICEF in 2013, regarding the treatment of children throughout the military court system. As of July 2015, 58% of the children arrested and detained by the Israeli military reported that they were subjected to physical violence. 94% of children detained reported that they were denied access to a lawyer.
One child was arrested while on a fishing boat within 4 nautical miles off Gaza’s shore. The child’s arrest took place in the context of several arrests of and shootings at fishermen during the reporting period. There were at least 107 incidents of Israeli forces opening fire towards civilians in the Access Restricted Areas on land and at sea. Such incidents restrict access to agricultural lands and sea, undermining the livelihoods of farmers and fishermen and exacerbating the chronic malnutrition suffered by children in the OPT. In 2013, the UN Human Rights Committee’s concluding observations called on Israel to review the restrictions placed on Palestinian access to land, sea and livelihood.
No incidents were reported over the period covered by this bulletin. Article 28(1) of the CRC states the right of the child to education.
DISPLACEMENT & DEMOLITIONS
98 children were displaced and adversely affected by demolitions in the West Bank:
There were 75 demolitions of Palestinian property during the reporting period. 31 Palestinians, including 17 children, were displaced from their homes as a result of demolitions. A further 200 Palestinians, including 81 children, were affected by demolitions.
Additional incidents involving children include:
Israeli forces sealed a family home with concrete and metal in East Jerusalem, displacing six people including a child. This was the home of one of the perpetrators of an attack on a synagogue in 2014, raising concerns that the displacement may constitute a collective punishment, prohibited under international law. The Israeli authorities also confiscated the tent provided as humanitarian assistance to the displaced family.
In East Jerusalem, a family sealed their home and another family demolished their home pursuant to orders issued by the Israeli authorities on grounds that they lacked building permits.
Stop work orders were issued against 26 structures, mostly residential, in communities in the West Bank, including Jabal al Baba in Jerusalem. Jabal al Baba is one of 46 Palestinian Bedouin communities in the central West Bank at risk of forcible transfer due to an official Israeli relocation plan.
Demolitions and stop work orders were issued against dozens of structures in the Bedouin community of Abu Nwar in Jerusalem, another of 46 communities in Area C of the West Bank at risk of forcible transfer due to an Israeli relocation plan.
Senior Israeli officers who visited Abu Nwar and Susiya, communities at risk of forcible displacement in Hebron, informed residents that they must vacate their homes by the end of the Eid before demolitions start.78 Following widespread attention given to the plight of those living in Susiya and a call from the UN the Humanitarian Coordinator to halt the demolition, plans for the demolition of Susiya appear to have temporarily halted. See LPHR’s urgent action letter to the UK Foreign Office concerning Susiya, and the Foreign Office’s response, here.
Additionally, there were several incidents of temporary displacement:
251 Palestinians, half of them children, were displaced from their homes for six hours during an Israeli military training exercise. The affected families live in four herding communities in the northern Jordan Valley. Temporary displacement in these circumstances has become systematic in recent years, with more than 103 such incidents recorded since the beginning of 2012.
Five herding communities in the northern Jordan Valley were temporarily displaced from their homes for six hours to make way for an Israeli military training exercise. The affected communities are located within areas designated by the Israeli authorities as “firing zones”, covering roughly 18 per cent of the West Bank. Since 2012, displacement in this context has become systematic, undermining the livelihoods and living conditions of the affected residents.
62 Palestinians, including 27 children, were displaced from their homes in Humsa Al Buqia’a in the northern Jordan Valley for six hours during an Israeli military training exercise. This is the fourth instance since the beginning of the year that this herding community has been temporarily displaced.
Article 16(1) of the CRC states that no child should be subjected to arbitrary interference with his or her privacy or family. Please see below our ‘in-focus’ section for more information and related legal analysis on displacement and demolitions.
Imminent demolitions and forcible transfer in the occupied West Bank:
An Israeli high court ruling in May has placed between 250-350 people in the occupied West Bank village of Khirbet Susiya, among them children, at imminent risk of being forcibly displaced from the area in which they’ve lived since 1967. The Israeli High Court ruled against the villagers’ injunction seeking to halt Israel’s planned destruction of Khirbet Susiya.
The villagers’ built homes on their own agricultural land in 1986 after Israel declared the village’s original location nearby an archeological site and evicted them from caves that served as their homes. Some of the families at risk have been subject to three waves of demolitions and displacements since 1986. A settler outpost now stands at the site of their initial displacement. At their current site, successive attempts by the community to have a spatial plan and building permits approved have been rejected.
The pretext for the planned demolition is that the villagers’ structures were built without planning permission. At the Israeli High Court hearing in May the court accepted the villagers’ ownership of the land but ruled that they did not have permission to build there. A court hearing scheduled for 3 August on the appeal of the villagers’ petition against the latest rejection of their master building plan to authorise all of the structures in their village was recently postponed against a backdrop of international pressure against the planned demolition of Susiya. The reason given for the postponement is that Israel is exploring whether there is a basis for discussing legalizing the status of the village. See LPHR’s urgent action letter to the UK Foreign Office concerning Susiya, and the Foreign Office’s response, here.
The threat to Susiya is ‘emblematic of a pattern of injustice that is repeating itself across many parts of the West Bank’ whereby ‘communities are coming under multiple threats and intimidation… to relocate completely or relinquish surrounding agricultural and grazing lands on which their livelihoods depend’, according to the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Israeli government is advancing plans to forcibly relocate up to 7,000 Palestinian Bedouin from 46 communities in the occupied West Bank. The UN Secretary-General has stated that the Israeli government’s implementation of this relocation plan would amount to individual and mass forcible transfers and evictions, representing a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is a particular concern that children will be among those adversely affected by the proposed mass displacement.
Reports of planning for 1,065 Israeli settlement units and possible retrospective approval of buildings built without permits or on private Palestinian land, suggests that Palestinian families are being discriminated against in favour of Israeli settlers. Human Rights Watch has documented this discrimination as occurring in both the occupied West Bank and the Negev within Israel. Article 2 of the CRC provides that states must ensure children’s rights without discrimination of any kind.
See LPHR’s event summary of its 1 June event entitled: ‘The forcible displacement of Palestinian Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel’, for an overview of the parallel current issue of planned forcible dispossession of Palestinian Arab Bedouin in the Negev in Israel.