Key incidents outlined in this LPHR Child Rights Bulletin covering 1 March – 30 April 2020:
15-year-old Palestinian child shot and killed with live ammunition by Israeli forces
57 children injured by Israeli forces in Gaza and the West Bank
As of 31 March, 194 children Palestinian children remain in Israeli military detention (UN agencies have importantly called on release of all children from military detention in a statement published on 11 May)
Despite COVID-19, detention of Palestinian children has increased six percent from January 2020
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, and B’Tselem.
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 Elena Christaki-Hedrick for her excellent work preparing this bulletin.
Data collected by UN OCHA records that one Palestinian child was killed by Israeli forces in the oPt during the reporting period of 1 March – 30 April 2020. Since the start of 2020, LPHR Child Rights Bulletins have recorded that a total of 4 Palestinian children have been killed as a result of Israeli military and settler presence in the oPt, including 2 children from the Gaza Strip.
DCIP reports that on 11 March, Israeli forces shot and killed 15-year-old Mohammad Abed Al-Rahim Hamayel in the early morning hours in Beita, a village near the West Bank city of Nablus. After being struck in the head by live ammunition, Mohammad was transferred by ambulance to Rafidia hospital in Nablus where he was taken to the operating room and later pronounced dead. According to DCIP, Israeli forces, including around 40 military vehicles and two bulldozers, deployed near the Jabal al-Arma area east of Beita around 5:00am, and clashed with villagers for around two hours. Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition and rubber-coated metal bullets at demonstrators from less than 40 metres away.
Article 6(1) of the UNCRC provides that every child has the inherent right to life. The above-mentioned shooting of a child strongly suggests that Israel’s authorities have seriously violated their legal duty under Article 6(1). 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. The shooting of a child in the head with live ammunition during clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces raises serious questions as to whether the Israeli military forces involved violated the right to life by using excessive lethal force when the child did not pose an imminent threat to life or serious injury. Violations of this legal requirement should entail individual criminal responsibility.
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 child fatality and ensure legal accountability and justice is delivered where there is criminal wrongdoing. However, there is strong evidence indicating that Israel is failing to provide accountability for child deaths, with data collected by B’Tselem and Israeli human rights organisation Yesh Din suggesting that soldiers who harm or kill Palestinians or damage their property are very rarely indicted.
Data collected by UN OCHA records that a total of 57 Palestinian children (56 boys and 1 girl) were injured by Israeli forces during the reporting period. The injuries were caused by the following: live ammunition, rubber bullets, tear gas inhalation and physical assault.
Injury incidents from 1 March – 30 April 2020 include:
B’Tselem reports that on 3 March, 16-year-old Muhammad Atiyyah was injured by Israeli Special Patrol Unit officers in al-‘Esawiyah. Video footage posted on social media shows one of the officers firing a sponge round into the school’s courtyard. Muhammad, a tenth-grade student, was standing with his cousin a few metres from the gate, when he was struck in the hand by the round. He was transferred to the Clalit HMO clinic for emergency treatment of his injury.
B’Tselem reports that on 4 March, 9-year-old Fawzi ‘Abeid was injured by Israeli forces whilst sitting with his grandparents on the balcony of their home in al-‘Esawiyah. At around 18:30, several Special Patrol Unit officers entered the neighbourhood and confronted a resident about 15 metres from the family home. The resident fled up the street and one of the officers fired a black sponge round that hit Fawzi in his right index finger. Fawzi was transferred to the Clalit HMO clinic and then the French Hospital in Sheikh Jarrah for emergency treatment of his injury.
UN OCHA reports that on 11 March, 17 children were injured during clashes south of Nablus. The clashes erupted during a protest in Beita village against ongoing attempts by Israeli settlers to take over a hill near the village located in Area B. The protests are ongoing since 28 February and have resulted so far in one fatality and 386 injuries, including 183 by rubber bullets, seven by live ammunition and the rest by tear gas inhalation or physical assault.
UN OCHA reports that in the period 17 – 30 March, nine children were injured by Israeli forces in various clashes across the West Bank. Some of the injuries were recorded in At Tuwani village (Hebron), after Israeli forces intervened during clashes between residents and Israeli settlers, who previously raided the village. Other injuries were recorded in weekly demonstrations against settlement expansion and access restrictions in Kafr Qaddum (Qalqiliya).
UN OCHA reports that in the period 31 March – 13 April, four children were injured in clashes with Israeli forces across the West Bank. One infant and a three-year-old child were injured by tear gas inhalation in two incidents in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan during a search and arrest operation and while police forces were enforcing movement restrictions related to COVID-19.
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 demonstrations including the use of live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets and tear-gas against children who were unarmed or otherwise not posing an imminent threat constitutes a serious violation of this important legal protection. The shooting of a sixteen year old in a schoolyard with a rubber bullet strongly suggests a serious breach of Article 3(2)
Article 15(1) of the UNCRC provides for the right of the child to freedom of peaceful assembly. The injury of 22 children during demonstrations in the reporting period, as recorded by UN OCHA, suggests that Israeli forces are using excessive force in violation of international human rights law.
UN OCHA reports that at least six children were injured in settler-related incidents in the reporting period. Settler violence incidents in the reporting period include:
B’Tselem reports that on 29 March, seven settlers, armed with clubs and knives, attacked three Palestinian families, including at least two children, whilst they were having a picnic in the olive groves north of the village of a-Dhahrat.
B’Tselem reports that on 6 April, six masked settlers, one of them armed, threw stones at four Palestinian 12-year-olds strolling by the ‘Ein al-Harasha spring, which lies to the east of the town of al-Mazra’ah al-Qibliyah. The terrified children fled back to the town.
B’Tselem reports that on 12 April, at around 20:00, a 16-year-old Palestinian child playing in a soccer match in central Hebron was pepper-sprayed and physically assaulted by a group of Israeli settlers. The child was taken by a Red Crescent ambulance to the Muhammad al-Muhtaseb Hospital for the treatment of his injuries.
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 and that 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. As the occupying power, Israel has the obligation to protect Palestinian civilians from all acts or threats of violence, including by Israeli settlers, and to ensure that attacks are investigated effectively and perpetrators held accountable.
ARRESTS AND DETENTION
Between 1 March – 30 April, UN OCHA reports that Israeli forces conducted more than 302 search and arrest operations in West Bank villages and towns, arresting more than 340 Palestinians, including at least 26 children. As of 31 March 2020 (latest figures available) Military Court Watch documents 194 Palestinian children in Israeli military detention. This is an increase of six percent since January 2020. Arrest and detention incidents in the reporting period include:
Military Court Watch reports that on 3 March, a 17-year-old minor from Silwad was subjected to a night-time arrest by Israeli soldiers at 2:00am. In his testimony, the boy reported that he was not given any documents, nor was he told the reason for his arrest. During his arrest, the boy stated that the soldiers handcuffed him with metal handcuffs, blindfolded him, and put him into the back of a military jeep. During interrogation the following day, the boy reported that he was accused of throwing a Molotov cocktail near a settlement, which he denied. He then described being taken to Ofer Prison where he was strip searched before being admitted to section 13. He described how the other prisoners gave him food because he was hungry. The next day, the boy attended his first hearing at Ofer military court. He reported that his family did not attend the hearing because they were not notified. After attending five military court hearings, the boy stated that he was sentenced to one month in prison and fined NIS 2,000, with a suspended sentence of three months valid for one year. After a whole month in Ofer prison, the boy reported that he was finally released on 9 April and taken by Palestinian police to a hotel where he tested positive for COVID-19. When the test was negative the following day, he reported that he was taken home.
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’. During the COVID-19 pandemic, States should pay increased attention to ensure that the best interests of children should be a primary consideration in all actions taken by Governments, as children in detention face heightened risk of contracting coronavirus. The above-mentioned arrests and detention of children during the pandemic appears to directly contravene this child right protection, as the detained children are at grave risk of contracting COVID-19.
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. The above-mentioned arrest of a child at their family home during the night when other options are available to perform an arrest, in addition to an appropriate length of imprisonment, constitutes an apparent serious breach of Articles 3(1) and 37(b) of the UNCRC.
Article 37(a) of the UNCRC states that no child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Article 37(c) of the UNCRC obliges states to ensure 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 incident cited above appears to directly contravene these specific child rights protections, as the boy was subjected to degrading treatment during his arrest and imprisonment.
Please see our Further Reading section below for more information on the grave threat of the COVID-19 pandemic to Palestinian children in detention.
INTERFERENCE AGAINST EDUCATION
There were no reported incidents of infringement on education in the reporting period of 1 March – 30 April.
DEMOLITIONS & DISPLACEMENT
Demolitions and displacement remain a matter of huge concern. Data collected by UN OCHA records that 19 children were displaced by the demolition of 76 structures during the reporting period. Please refer to LPHR’s Demolitions and Displacement bulletin for information on incidents affecting children in March and April 2020.
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.
The grave threat of the COVID-19 pandemic to Palestinian children in detention
As noted in this Child Rights Bulletin, there is a troubling increase in the number of Palestinian children held in Israeli military detention since January 2020. As reported by UNICEF, many of these children are held in confined and overcrowded spaces with inadequate access to nutrition, healthcare and hygiene services – conditions that are highly conducive to the spread of diseases like COVID-19. For more information please see LPHR’s March 2020 blog on the COVID-19 pandemic, which focuses on the circumstances of vulnerable population groups, including child detainees in Israeli prison and detention facilities, and Israel’s legal duty to ensure that Palestinians are protected as far as possible from the spread of the virus.
Please also see the important joint press statement by UN officials here, calling for the immediate release of all Palestinian children in detention, in light of the COVID-19 crisis. The statement also warns of the grave emotional and psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on Palestinian children, as legal proceedings are on hold, almost all prison visits are cancelled, and children are denied in-person access to their families and their lawyers.
LPHR has consistently engaged with the UK government on the issue of the pervasive and systemic maltreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention. For example, please 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 on this issue. The Minister’s response can be read here. Please also see LPHR’s briefing on children in military detention for a comprehensive legal and human rights analysis. The analysis was replicated in the lead speech of Sarah Champion MP for the parliamentary debate on 7 February 2018.
The effect of tear gas and military raids on students from the most conflict affected communities in the West Bank
Please see Save the Children’s press statement here, which reports that tear gas attacks against students in and around schools in the West Bank have doubled in one year leaving children stressed and anxious. Save the Children highlights that since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and the consequent closure of schools, these attacks have dropped to zero, a trend that needs to be maintained post-pandemic. The international organisation’s latest report, which surveyed more than 400 children, found that three-quarters of Palestinian children reported attacks on their schools. The research also highlighted that three-quarters of children fear encountering military personnel or settlers on their way to school, who they are afraid may verbally abuse them or threaten them with tear gas or physical assault.