Key incidents outlined in this LPHR Child Rights Bulletin covering August 2019:
14-year-old child shot and killed with live ammunition by Israeli forces
294 children injured by Israeli forces in Gaza during the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations
At least 6 children displaced following the demolition or seizure of 22 Palestinian-owned structures
As of 31 August, 185 Palestinian children remain in Israeli military detention
The key incidents and statistics outlined in this bulletin span a range of violation categories: ‘Fatalities’, ‘Injuries’, ‘Settler Violence’, ‘Arrests and Detention’, ‘Interference against Education’, ‘Displacement and Demolitions’. They are collated from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and local human rights organisations: Defence for Children International-Palestine (DCIP), Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Military Court Watch, B’Tselem, and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD).
This bulletin outlines the specific rights of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that apply to the key incidents affecting Palestinian children in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). As the occupying power, Israel has legal responsibilities under international conventions, including the UNCRC, for the safety, welfare and human rights protection of civilians living in the oPt. This bulletin concludes with a Further Reading section.
LPHR gives special thanks to Alica Schiffhauer and Anastasia O’Brien for their excellent work preparing this bulletin.
One Palestinian child and one Israeli child were killed in the oPt in August 2019. Since the start of 2019, LPHR Child Rights Bulletins have recorded that a total of 18 Palestinian children have been killed as a result of Israeli military and settler presence in the oPt, including 14 children from the Gaza Strip.
UN OCHA reports that on 15 August, two Palestinian children, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old, were shot in occupied East Jerusalem by armed police after reportedly stabbing and injuring an Israeli policeman. The 14-year-old, who has been identified by media organisations as Nassim Abu Roumi, died. The 16-year-old was seriously injured. As of 15 September 2019, Nassim’s body was reportedly being withheld from release to his family for burial by Israeli authorities.
UN OCHA reports that on 23 August, a 17-year-old Israeli citizen, Rina Shnerb, was killed by an improvised explosive device near a natural spring close to the Israeli settlement of Dolev (Ramallah) in the occupied West Bank. Israeli forces carried out extensive search operations in the nearby villages, erected flying checkpoints in the area and arrested a number of Palestinians in relation to the incident.
Article 6(1) of the UNCRC states that every child has the inherent right to life. Part of providing meaningful protection under the UNCRC involves review of and accountability for child deaths. To fulfil its obligations under international law, it is necessary that the Government of Israel thoroughly and transparently investigate the circumstances of the above-mentioned killings and ensure legal accountability and justice is delivered where there is criminal wrongdoing.
Data collected by UN OCHA records that a total of 361 Palestinian children were injured during the reporting period. 293 Palestinian children (289 boys and 4 girls) were injured during demonstrations of the ‘Great March of Return’ protests in Gaza during the reporting period. The injuries were caused by the following: live ammunition, rubber bullets, tear gas canisters (hit by), tear gas inhalation, and other causes that were unspecified. At least 67 children were injured in the West Bank, 11 of them by rubber bullets and 4 by physical assault.
Injury incidents in August 2019 include:
UN OCHA reports that 268 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces during the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations near the fence between 1 August – 19 August, resulting in the hospitalisation of 97 children.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reports that on 23 August, during the 71st week of the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations, Israeli forces used live fire against unarmed protesters, resulting in the injury of 161 Palestinians, including 56 children. Of the injured, 77 sustained wounds from live fire, while 25 were hit directly by tear gas canisters.
UN OCHA reports that 483 Palestinians were injured by Israeli forces during the ‘Great March of Return’ demonstrations near the fence between 20 August – 31 August, of whom 236 were hospitalised, including 96 children. 99 of those hospitalised were shot with live ammunition.
According to data collected by UN OCHA, 15 boys were injured during Israeli military search and arrest operations in August. 9 of the boys were injured by rubber bullets (all types), 5 by tear gas inhalation and one was physically assaulted. Most of the injuries occurred in occupied East Jerusalem.
Article 3(2) of the UNCRC provides that states shall ensure children the protection and care necessary for their well-being. The excessive use of force by Israeli authorities during the ‘Great March of Return’ protests and the use of live ammunition against children who were unarmed constitutes a serious violation of this important legal protection. Under international law, lethal force such as live ammunition can only be used as a last resort when there is a direct and imminent threat to life or serious injury.
Article 15(1) of the UNCRC provides for the right of the child to freedom of peaceful assembly. The excessive use of force that has been used during the ‘Great March of Return’ is a violation of this basic right guaranteed by the UNCRC.
UN OCHA reports that 3 children (2 girls and 1 boy) were injured in settler related incidents in August 2019. Since the beginning of the year, 13 children were injured by settlers in the oPt, with the majority of injuries occurring in Hebron city.
Settler violence incidents in August 2019 include:
UN OCHA reports that between 30 July- 19 August, across 14 separate incidents, assailants believed to be Israeli settlers injured 4 Palestinians, including 1 child. The child appears to have been physically assaulted in Hebron.
In Al Jab’a (Bethlehem) two girls were injured in settler related incidents, according to data collected by UN OCHA. The circumstances of the incidents are unclear.
Article 3(2) of the UNCRC provides that states should ensure the protection and care of children, as is necessary for their well-being. The Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din reports that incidents of violence by Israeli civilians against Palestinians and their property are a daily occurrence throughout the West Bank but these incidents are rarely investigated properly by Israeli law enforcement. Only 3% of investigations into complaints filed by Palestinians hurt by settlers lead to convictions.
The low rate of investigations into attacks by Israeli settlers suggests that Israel is in violation of its obligations under Article 39 of the UNCRC, which stipulates that states should take all appropriate measures to promote the physical and psychological recovery of a child victim of abuse, and that such recovery should take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.
ARRESTS AND DETENTION
Between 30 July – 2 September 2019, UN OCHA reports that Israeli forces conducted 344 search and arrest operations in West Bank villages and towns, arresting at least 340 Palestinians, including an unknown number of children. As of 31 August 2019, Military Court Watch documents 185 Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.
Arrest and detention incidents in August 2019 include:
Military Court Watch reports that a 16-year-old child from Nahhalin (West Bank) was arrested by Israeli soldiers on his way home from school at 12:30pm on 29 August. The child reported that he was interrogated without first consulting with a lawyer and was not informed of his right to silence. During the interrogation, the child states he was that he was blindfolded, tied up, searched in his underwear, and threatened with electrocution and beatings. He was accused of plotting to stab a soldier and attempting to set fire to a fence surrounding a nearby settlement. He denied both accusations and was taken to a cell where he was left for three nights until he was granted bail for 3,000 shekels. He was released on 4th September.
B’Tselem reports that on 8 August at 2pm, Israeli forces broke into the family home of a 13-year-old boy, while his parents were out. Soldiers raided the home and arrested the boy. The boy reports being hit on the head by a soldier. He reports being interrogated and accused of stone throwing before being released several hours later.
UN OCHA reports that since June 2019, Israeli Police have been conducting almost daily operations in the neighbourhood of Al ‘Isawiya in occupied East Jerusalem, resulting in clashes that, as of 21 August, have led to one fatality, at least 137 injuries and the arrest of 53 children. UN OCHA states that according to media reports, less than 2% of the 300 residents arrested during this period have been indicted, with the rest released shortly after their arrest. The continuing tensions and violence have severely disrupted the daily life of over 18,000 Palestinians, with a worrying impact on children. There are concerns from local human rights organisations, including B’Tselem, that the police operations may amount to collective punishment which is prohibited by international humanitarian law.
Article 3(1) of the UNCRC obliges states to ensure that: ‘In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration’.
Article 37(b) of the UNCRC states that no child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily and that it shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. The above-mentioned arrests of at least 53 children from one neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem within a three month period in circumstances of alleged collective punishment, constitutes an apparent serious breach of Articles 3(1) and 37 of the UNCRC.
Article 37(c) of the UNCRC states that every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. The circumstances of the child arrest incidents cited above appear to directly contravene this specific child rights protection.
Article 37(d) of the UNCRC also states that every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action. The Israeli authorities’ failure to inform the 16 year-old from Nahhalin (West Bank) of his right to consult with a lawyer prior to questioning constitutes a serious breach of Article 37(d) of the UNCRC.
Please see our Further Reading section below for more on the very troubling issue of the systematic maltreatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military custody.
INTERFERENCE AGAINST EDUCATION
There was one reported incident of interference against education in August 2019.
UN OCHA records that on 29 August, a donor-funded school fence in Ibziq, Tubas, was targeted by settlers. Details of the incident are unclear.
On 12 August, DCIP reported that when Ibziq Mixed Primary school in the northern Jordan Valley (in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank) opens its doors at the end of August, it will do so under the shadow of four pending demolition notices. One of these is for the school’s solar panels, installed at the end of 2018 to generate a little electricity for fans and lighting.
DISPLACEMENT & DEMOLITIONS
According to a breakdown of statistics collated by UN OCHA, 22 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished or seized in August 2019, displacing 19 people, including at least 6 children, and affecting a total of 1,072 people. UN OCHA reports that the number of structures targeted during the period January-August in 2019 is 37% higher than for the same period in 2018. Likewise, the number of donor-funded aid structures targeted in this period (78) has more than doubled compared to the same period in 2018 (30).
Demolition and displacement incidents affecting children in August 2019 include:
Between 30 July – 19 August, UN OCHA reports that Israeli authorities demolished or seized 24 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank citing the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible to obtain. As a result of these demolitions and seizures, at least 9 people were displaced and at least 80 affected, including an unknown number of children. 13 of the targeted structures in the Area C communities had been provided as humanitarian aid, including seven in a herding community in the northern Jordan Valley at risk of forcible transfer (Khirbet ar Ras al Ahmar).
ICAHD reports that on 18 August the Israeli authorities demolished a 1000-cubic metre donor-funded water tank in Bardala, Tubas, Jordan Valley. The water supply served 12 farmers and their families, a total of 66 people, including 37 children.
ICAHD reports that on 21 August the Israeli authorities demolished a private water reservoir in Tubas, Jordan Valley. The water was used for irrigation, and also served as a source of drinking water for five nearby herding communities. It is estimated that 59 households comprising of 357 people, including 184 children, are affected by the demolition
Article 27 of the UNCRC protects children’s right to a 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. The UNCRC further adds that State Parties are responsible for taking appropriate measures to provide assistance in respect to nutrition, clothing and housing. The actions of the Government of Israel in rendering children and their parents homeless and disrupting families’ livelihoods through demolitions of homes clearly violates both the letter and the spirit of the UNCRC.
Article 18(2) of the UNCRC obliges State Parties to give appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities. Demolitions and subsequent forced displacement violate this right as it harms parents and legal guardians’ ability to fulfil their responsibilities of looking after and providing shelter for their children.
Article 16(1) of the UNCRC protects children’s rights to not be subject to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family and home and Article 16(2) entitles children to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Please see our Further Reading section below for more on the ongoing issue of the demolition of buildings and displacement of Palestinian children by Israeli forces.
The shooting of nine-year-old Abd a-Rahman a-Shteiwi in the head with live ammunition
The Child Rights Bulletin for the reporting period 1-31 July 2019 recorded an incident of Israeli forces shooting a nine year old boy, Abd a-Rahman a-Shteiwi in the head with live ammunition. The shooting left Abd with catastrophic injuries. In that Bulletin we referred to our Urgent Action letter submitted to the UK Foreign Office relating to this specific incident, with suggested recommendations. The reply dated 5 September from the new Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, Dr Andrew Murrison, disappointingly stated that the UK government had not raised Abd’s case with Israeli authorities.
We are grateful to Dr Sarah Wollaston MP for her parliamentary question dated 27 September 2019 asking Minister Murrison what representations the UK government has made to Israeli authorities in regard to Abd’s case. Dr Murrison’s reply of 2 October stated that representations had now been made “with the Israeli authorities, stressing the importance of protecting civilians, especially children.” LPHR would urge the Minister to go further, and to call for a thorough and transparent investigation into this shooting. LPHR also wishes to correct an important factual error here that, contrary to the reply given by the Minister, we can confirm that Abd is still alive, although he remains in a serious condition in hospital.
Since the publication of our last bulletin, the research agency Forensic Architecture has published an investigation into the shooting, piecing together video material that was recorded that day to sequence the events that led to the shooting. The conclusion of the investigation is that, contrary to the repeated claims of Israeli officials, the evidence strongly suggests that Abd a-Rahman’s a-Shteiwi’s injury was caused by live ammunition.
Systematic maltreatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military custody
As noted in this Child Rights Bulletin, noted in this Child Rights Bulletin, the maltreatment of Palestinian children during the Israeli military detention process is ongoing. Please see the BBC’s recent short video of ‘Diaries of childhood in Israeli military detention’, which provides more information on the treatment of children tried in military courts in the oPt.
For more on this issue, please also see LPHR’s Urgent Action letter to the then Foreign Office Minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt MP, of 15 January 2019, that requests a renewed UK government impetus to challenge the systemic mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention. The reply from the former Minister can be read here. Additionally, please see LPHR’s February 2018 parliamentary briefing on children in military detention. The comprehensive analysis in this briefing is replicated in the lead speech of Sarah Champion MP for the parliamentary debate that took place on 7 February 2018.
Displacement and demolitions
As noted in this Child Rights Bulletin, the demolition of buildings and displacement of Palestinian children by Israeli forces is ongoing. Please see our recent urgent action letter to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office regarding Israel’s demolition of homes and apartments in the Palestinian community of Sur Bahir, on 22 July 2019. The demolition of 10 buildings, including 70 apartments, will forcibly displace seventeen Palestinians, including an elderly couple and five children, and over 350 others will encounter massive property loss. The demolition appears to violate international humanitarian, human rights and criminal law.
Please also see an Open Letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, undersigned by LPHR, and a letter signed by 39 UK Parliamentarians calling for the release of the United Nations database of businesses engaged in activities related to Israeli settlements. These letters urge the critical need for effective action against illegal settlements in the oPt, and the fostering of corporate respect for human rights through the publication of the UN’s business and human rights database listing companies involved in settlement related activities that adversely impact the human rights of Palestinians. LPHR was particularly involved in the preparation of the letter signed by 39 UK parliamentarians.