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, Defence for Children International Palestine (West Bank) and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (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 are 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 impact of the decade-long illegal closure of Gaza on child welfare.
LPHR gives special thanks to Beatriz Esperança, Eva Milne and Jana Mainwaring for their excellent work preparing this bulletin.
8 Palestinian children died during the reporting period. These fatalities bring the number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces in the oPt since the start of 2017 to 12.
On 7 May, Israeli forces shot and killed 16-year-old Fatima Houjayji in the Old City of Jerusalem. According to Israeli sources, Fatima attempted to stab a group of policemen. The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem reports that although the girl brandished a knife, she ‘stopped several metres away from the officers, [and] did not pose a danger to them.’
On 22 May, Israeli forces shot and killed 15-year-old Raed Ahmed Issa al-Radaideh at a checkpoint southeast of Jerusalem, after he allegedly attempted to stab a border policeman. The alleged attempted stabbing resulted in no injuries. Reportedly, Israeli forces prevented Palestinian Red Crescent medics from reaching the boy, who was left bleeding for approximately 40 minutes.
In May, 16-year-old Fatima Taqatqa died of wounds sustained when she was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers in March. Soldiers shot the girl when she crashed a car into the metal pillars protecting a settler bus stop at the Gush Etzion junction (Hebron), in an incident that did not cause any other injuries.
On 2 June, 14-year-old Nouf Uqab Abd al-Jabar Infiaat died of her wounds after being shot by Israeli forces the previous day. The girl was shot six times in the neck, hand, and thigh after she reportedly stabbed and injured a soldier at a checkpoint between her hometown and its neighboring Israeli settlement in Jenin. Reportedly, Nouf was left bleeding on the pavement for nearly an hour before an ambulance arrived. Video footage published by local press shows armed Israeli soldiers and at least one armed man standing around the injured child, verbally abusing her.
On 7 July, a one-year-old Palestinian baby boy died of wounds sustained on 19 May 2017, as a result of severe tear gas inhalation. During the incident, Israeli forces fired tear gas canister towards Palestinian stone-throwers at the main entrance of ‘Abud village (Ramallah). One canister landed inside the baby’s house.
Israeli forces shot and killed a 16-year-old, Aws Mohammad Yousef Salameh during an overnight raid of Jenin refugee camp on 12 July. Reportedly, clashes erupted during the raid and Aws was chasing military vehicles on foot with a group of youths when Israeli forces opened fire. The Israeli army claimed that Israeli soldiers opened fire in response to shooting by Palestinians. There is concern that Aws was shot with an expanding bullet. The use of expanding and exploding bullets is a violation of international humanitarian law and amounts to a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Israeli authorities should carry out an immediate and transparent investigation into the alleged use of an expanding bullet.
On 21 July, Israeli forces shot dead a 17-year-old, Mohammed Khalaf Mahmoud Khalaf Lafi, during clashes with Palestinian rioters in the West Bank town of Abu Dis. Mohammed was shot with live ammunition to the chest.
On 28 July, a 16-year-old, Abdel-Rahman Hussein Jaber Abu Hamisa, was shot and killed by Israeli forces during clashes next to Gaza’s perimeter fence, east of Al Bureij refugee camp. Reportedly, Abdel-Rahman was 20-30 metres away from Israeli forces stationed behind artificial sand hills on the Israeli side of the border fence when he was shot with live ammunition. Witnesses reported that Israeli forces fired live ammunition at several youths who attempted to reach Abdel-Rahman after he was shot.
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 review the circumstances and causes of the above-mentioned deaths and open credible investigations into each of the killings. Given B’Tselem’s powerful critique of the credibility of Israel’s military investigation process for the killing of Palestinians by Israeli military forces, there is a substantial concern that Israel is breaching this grave ‘right to life’ obligation under the CRC.
At least two of the above-mentioned child fatalities included incidents in which the child involved was denied immediate medical attention at the scene. Article 24 (1) of the CRC states that is the duty of all States Parties to recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health, and that all States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services. 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 clear that Israel is failing to fulfil its obligations under international law. Further information and statistics regarding the obstruction by Israeli forces of medical response teams can be found in the ‘in-focus’ section of this previous LPHR Child Rights Bulletin: https://lphr.org.uk/latest-news/child-rights-bulletin-for-the-period-27-october-28-december-2015/
At least 148 Palestinian children were injured by Israeli forces across the oPt, many of them during clashes which occurred during demonstrations and search and arrest operations. Additionally, three children were injured by unexploded ordnance.
26 children were injured in violent protests and clashes with Israeli forces across the West Bank between 2-15 May. The majority of clashes occurred during demonstrations commemorating the 69th anniversary of what Palestinians refer to as the ‘Nakba’ and in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, who had been on hunger strike for more than 30 days, protesting their conditions of detention.
On 14 May, at approximately 02:00, Israeli forces moved into Jenin refugee camp where they raided and searched houses. A number of Palestinian young men gathered to throw stones at the Israeli soldiers, who opened fire at them. A 15-year-old child sustained a live bullet wound to the left leg.
On 21 May, in al-Nabi Saleh village, northwest of Ramallah, a 15-year-old sustained a bullet wound to the leg when Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinians who had gathered to demonstrate in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.
On 23 May, protesters gathered by the Gaza border fence and threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired live bullets and tear gas canisters at them. A 17-year-old sustained a live bullet wound to the abdomen and right hand.
Between 30 May – 12 June, 6 children were injured in various clashes with Israeli forces across the oPt. 5 of these injuries were recorded near Gaza’s perimeter fence, during protests against the closure of Gaza.
On 4 June, 3 children in the south of Gaza city were injured when one of the children detonated unexploded ordnance.
On 30 June, a 14-year-old child sustained a live bullet wound to the chest while a 15-year-old child sustained a live bullet wound to the thigh during an Israeli incursion into Jenin.
A child lost an eye during clashes which saw at least 34 children injured in one fortnight in July. Most clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians in and around East Jerusalem followed large-scale assemblies of worshippers carrying out prayers in the street, in protest against the installation of metal detectors at the entrances to the Haram ash Sharif/Temple Mount, following an attack next to the compound.
Article 15(1) of the CRC provides for the right of the child to freedom of peaceful assembly. Article 3(2) of the CRC affords that states shall ensure children the protection and care necessary for their well-being. The excessive use of force for the purposes of containing or silencing protests is a violation of these rights and denies children the protection and care promulgated in the CRC. Further information regarding the serious child protection issue of unexploded ordnance in Gaza can be read in the in-focus section of this previous LPHR Child Rights Bulletin: https://lphr.org.uk/latest-news/child-rights-bulletin-for-the-period-31-march-27-may-2015/
Incidents of settler violence affecting Palestinian children included:
On 22 June, a Palestinian child and four adults were beaten up by a group of Israeli settlers on Jaffa Street in West Jerusalem. Following the attack, Israeli police arrested the Palestinians.
Two children were injured by settlers in two separate stone-throwing incidents at Beit ‘Einoun junction (Hebron) and ‘Asira al Qibliya (Nablus).
On 25 July, Israeli settlers took over an apartment in a building located in Hebron, in violation of an Israeli military order declaring part of the building as a closed military area. A Palestinian family (including 8 children) residing in the same building, reported access restrictions and intimidation since the takeover. A petition challenging the settlers’ ownership claims was filed with an Israeli court three years ago by the Palestinian family. It is still pending.
In July, three Israeli settlers including a child were injured by stone-throwing by Palestinians, according to Israeli media reports.
Multiple incidents of property damage affecting livelihoods occurred throughout the reporting period.
Unimpeded regular occurrences of violence against Palestinian children 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. 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.
There were approximately 897 Israeli search and arrest operations in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem during the reporting period and 22 such incursions in Gaza. The incursions saw at least 117 children arrested.
The use of terrifying night raids on homes to arrest children was documented during the reporting period. Additionally, at least 11 children were arrested at Israeli military checkpoints.
On 5 May, Palestinian civilians organized a protest at the entrance to ‘Azmout village, northeast of Nablus. As the protesters approached the above-mentioned entrance, Israeli forces fired metal bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canister at them. They then arrested a 17-year old child.
On 14 May 2017, Israeli gunboats opened fire at fishing boats sailing within the authorized area off Khan Yunis shore, south of the Gaza Strip. They arrested 6 fishermen, including two children, confiscating the fishing boat.
On 15 May, Israeli forces arrested a 16-year old after they stopped the vehicle he was in on Hizmah village’s Road, northeast of occupied Jerusalem. Reportedly, Israeli forces severely beat the boy, blindfolded him and took him to an unknown destination.
On 16 May, a 14-year-old boy from Azzun was arrested by Israeli soldiers at 2:30 a.m. and accused of throwing stones and setting fire to tyres. His testimony can be read here.
On 22 May, at approximately midnight, Israeli forces moved into ‘Asker refugee camp, northeast of Nablus. They raided and searched a number of houses, arresting three 17-year-olds.
On 26 May, Israeli soldiers fired sound bombs and tear gas canisters at Palestinian civilians who had gathered in the vicinity of Jaljoulia checkpoint in solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike. The soldiers then arrested three children.
On 16 June, Israeli forces established a checkpoint in ‘Ain Samiyia area, east of Kafur Malik village, northeast of Ramallah. They stopped a Palestinian vehicle carrying two children and arrested them. On the same day, Israeli forces moved into Silwan village, where they raided a house, beating and arresting a 14-year old boy.
On 30 June, Israeli forces moved into Kroum Qamar neighborhood in Silwan village, in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City where they raided and searched a house and arrested a 15-year-old and a 10-year-old.
Article 37(c) of the CRC 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. Israeli forces continue to carry out military arrest operations at night. The routine use of night arrest operations designed to intimidate and terrify the targeted communities suggests that Israel is in breach of their duty under Article 37 of CRC. Many children report being ‘scared’ or ‘terrified’ when confronted with heavily armed soldiers in their homes and sometimes their bedrooms. Also relevant is Article 3(1) of the CRC which provides: “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”.
Infringements against education included:
On 19 May, at approximately 23:30, Israeli force moved into ‘Ein Yabrub village, northeast of Ramallah. They raided and searched a secondary school for boys, confiscating a surveillance camera.
On 23 May, Israeli forces seriously injured a 6-year-old, hitting him in the back of the head with a tear gas canister as he was on his way home from school, near the southern West Bank town of Bethlehem.
In May, Israeli settlers assaulted and injured the headmaster of Qurtuba primary school in the H2 area of Hebron city.
On 1 June, UNRWA discovered part of a tunnel under two of the agency’s schools in the Maghazi Refugee Camp, in the Gaza Strip, and announced that it intends to seal it as an immediate priority. The agency stated that it is ‘unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way’.
In July, the Israeli authorities issued at demolition and stop-work orders against a primary-school in ‘Arab ar Ramadin al Janubi, as well as 12 other donor-funded structures provided as humanitarian assistance to communities in Area C.
Delays at multiple checkpoints across the West Bank and closures of village entrances disrupted access to services and livelihoods during the reporting period.
Article 28 of the CRC recognises 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. The above-mentioned injury of a young child whilst leaving his school suggest that the Israeli authorities have seriously breached Article 28 of the CRC.
DISPLACEMENT & DEMOLITIONS
At least 49 Palestinian owned structures were demolished, confiscated or destroyed, displacing at least 3 children and affecting the livelihoods of 51 families and a further 566 people. Additionally, the Israeli authorities issued 68 stop-work or demolition orders against Palestinian structures.
3 children were displaced when a Palestinian family was forced to self-demolish an extension of their house in East Jerusalem, on the grounds of a lack of an Israeli-issued building permit.
In one fortnight, the Israeli authorities issued at least 38 demolition and stop-work orders against residential and livelihood-related structures in 7 communities in Area C and East Jerusalem. Some of the targeted structures had been provided as humanitarian assistance and funded by the oPt Humanitarian Fund.
- The Israeli authorities dismantled and seized a solar panel system provided by an international humanitarian organisation to the Area C community of Jubbet adh Dhib (Bethlehem). The panels were to supply electricity to 27 families.
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 of the Israeli government in rendering children and their parents homeless and disrupting families’ livelihoods clearly violate 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.
UPDATES FROM MILITARY COURT WATCH AND DEFENCE FOR CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL PALESTINE
Military Court Watch (MCW) reports that according to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), as of 31 May 2017, there were 331 Palestinian children held as ‘security prisoners’ in Israeli detention facilities. These figures include two children held without charge or trial in administrative detention. 74% of child detainees were transferred and detained inside Israel, n violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. A further 17 Palestinian children were held as criminal prisoners.
Defence for Children International Palestine (DCI Palestine) reports that out of 69 children who provided sworn testimonies this year, detailing their experiences following arrest, 49 said they endured physical violence at the hands of Israeli forces.
MCW reports that based on evidence collected in 2017, 52% of children detained by the Israeli military in the West Bank report being arrested from home at night. This percentage has remained largely constant since a UNICEF report highlighted their concern on this issue in 2013. In cases where summonses are used, most continue to be delivered at night.
MCW documents that on average, Palestinian children arrested by the Israeli military in the West Bank live within 1.02 km from a settlement. MCW submits that due to the presence of approximately 400,000 Israeli civilian settlers living in the occupied West Bank, the military unacceptably adopts a strategy of intimidation and collective punishment focused on Palestinian communities located in proximity to the settlements. This theory is supported by evidence collected by MCW and from former Israeli soldiers.
MCW notes that 5 years after a delegation of UK lawyers reviewed and published their findings on the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law, only one of the report’s 40 recommendations has been substantially implemented. ‘Children in Military Custody’ found undisputed evidence that the military detention system violated at least 6 articles under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and two articles under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
MCW’s annual report for 2016- 2017 considers developments relating to the arrest and detention of children by the Israeli military. The report suggests there has not been a significant improvement in practice.
The impact of the closure of Gaza on child welfare
Children, making up roughly half of Gaza’s population, are particularly vulnerable to the diminishment of basic services and human rights protections, including acutely the protection of the right to health, caused by the ongoing illegal closure of Gaza.
Deprivation of healthcare
The situation in 2017 is critical. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that over 42% of Palestinian requests for permits to travel to hospital appointments outside Gaza have been denied or delayed by Israel in April 2017. Among those denied were 3 children. Denials of permits can have the most grave consequences on patients. In January 2017, a 17-year old Palestinian died after having been refused travel for medical needs. The teenager required treatment for a congenital heart defect.
Equally, delays in accessing care can have fatal consequences. According to the WHO, April saw three people, including a 5 year-old girl, die while waiting for a permit to access health care. In April alone, 178 children had their access to healthcare delayed by delays in being granted Israeli-issued permits.
Children from Gaza in need of hospital appointments continue to wait for travel permits. Defence for Children International Palestine reports that a 17-year-old, shot and left in critical condition by Israeli forces in May this year, is in need of medical attention attainable only through access to a Jerusalem hospital. The boy had his application to travel to the hospital denied and must wait for the outcome of his second application. In arbitrarily restricting children’s access to healthcare, Israel appears to breach both the spirit and the letter of children’s right to ‘the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health’, as enshrined in Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Israel also breaches the obligation laid out in Article 24 of the CRC to ‘strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to such health care services’.
Economic constraints and impact of poor infrastructure on child well being
The delay or denial of access to healthcare suffered by many residents of Gaza is directly linked to the economic constraints engendered by the decade-long illegal closure of Gaza. This crippling Israeli policy has stymied the facilitation of an adequate healthcare system in Gaza. As a result, Israel, as the occupying power, has breached and obstructed the realisation of children’s basic human rights, including the fundamental right to life. For example, Israel restricts the freedom of movement of health professionals. In the last two years, the number of travel permits granted to Palestinian health workers has decreased by 28%. At the moment, there is an extremely limited workforce in Gaza. There are only 21.5 medical doctors and 25.3 nurses per 10,000 people. In Gaza, 17 hospitals and 56 primary clinics were damaged in 2014, and reconstruction has been incredibly slow due to the restriction on importing basic building materials by Israel. The United Nations has criticised the closure for creating an “artificial scarcity of construction materials”. The delays and restrictions placed on development and reconstruction, especially in the wake of a particularly destructive military operation in 2014, undermines the realisation of children’s fundamental rights, for which Israel, as the occupying power, is primarily responsible.
Gaza’s separation from the West Bank leaves it in an isolated position, affecting its economic development and access to international funding. Nonetheless, even if Gaza did possess a proper infrastructure for healthcare and a sizeable workforce, Gaza’s lack of supplies (such as a water treatment process, desalination and electricity generation) would inhibit its proper functioning. Even before Gaza’s sole power plant in April 2017 completely shut down after exhausting its fuel reserves (it resumed partial operations in late June with fuel purchased from Egypt), Gaza only received half the power it required. This situation is wholly unacceptable in light of the adverse health impact of the long running electricity crisis, which has resulted in children having limited access to clean water and an increased risk of waterborne diseases. Additionally, electricity shortages impact the ability of parents to cook for children, with Gazans reporting that they have to wait up to three weeks to have their gas cylinder refilled, during which time it becomes nearly impossible to provide sufficient nourishment for their children. Families resort to utilising unsafe methods to cook and to provide light, which has caused at least 13 child deaths since 2013. To this end, Gaza’s chronic energy crisis has shocking fatal consequences as regards the safety and welfare of children.
The decision by Israel’s Security Cabinet on 11 June 2017, at the request of the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to reduce its own electricity supply to Gaza by 40 per cent, has compounded the critical issue of Gaza’s limited basic services. In mid-July 2017, Gaza was plunged into darkness after its only power plant ceased operating due to lack of fuel, leaving almost two million people reliant on just 70 MW of power now provided by Israel – well short of the 450 MW per day required. As the UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper, has warned: “The situation in Gaza has become increasingly precarious over recent months. No one is untouched by the energy crisis. And restrictions by the Palestinian Authority in the medical sector are hitting some of the most vulnerable adults and children in the Strip.” He cautioned that the continuation of electricity blackouts will likely lead a total collapse of basic services, including critical functions in the health, water and sanitation sectors.
Responsibilities of the occupying power
As an occupying power, Israel has legal responsibilities for the general safety and welfare of Gaza’s population. Additionally, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has a specific duty to protect the sick and children under the age of fifteen. It must also enable the free passage of medicines and enable medical teams to provide assistance, and refrain from imposing collective punishment. The reduction in electricity, and the closure as a whole, is at odds with these legal responsibilities, as well as other duties incumbent from being a signatory to major international human rights treaties, that recognise the right of every person to freedom of movement, to work, to an adequate standard of living, to education, to adequate health care, and to family life. The closure amounts to collective punishment and its impact on children is accordingly severe.
Overlapping rights guaranteed by Israel as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to all children under the age 18 in Gaza, including the right to health (Article 24), rehabilitation (Article 23) and recovery (Article 39), are also being severely curtailed by Israel’s imposed policy of closure on the children of Gaza.
In sum, Israel’s decade-long illegal closure of Gaza has cruelly resulted in poor access to healthcare that does not spare children. By crippling Gaza’s local infrastructure and workforce, and severely limiting people’s freedom of movement, Israel is denying many Gazan children their basic human right to healthcare, and scandalously contributing in some grave cases to the violation of their fundamental right to life.