Defense for Children – Palestine (DCIP), in a recent article, reported that in 2018, Israel has killed Palestinian children at the rate of more than one per week, with the majority of these killings taking place in the blockaded Gaza Strip. By their latest count, 44 children have been killed by Israeli armed forces this year. This represents a sharp rise from 2017 when 15 Palestinian children were killed, and 2016, when 32 such deaths took place in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT).
Palestinian children have also had to face other Israeli-inflicted brutalities and excesses like torture, arbitrary detention, physical and verbal abuse, beatings and military court trials. All of these are egregious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the rights of the Child (CRC) of 1991. Israel has regularly used live lethal ammunition against children during protests and clashes in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in violation of international law that clearly stipulates that intentional lethal force should only be used when it’s absolutely unavoidable and when there is an imminent threat to life or serious injury. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported at least 961 child injuries at the hands of Israeli forces in 2017.
Moreover, according to Israeli rights group Yesh Din, out of the 186 internal investigations conducted on Israeli soldiers accused of injuring Palestinians, a mere 3.1 percent of the cases produced an indictment.
The situation when it comes to Palestinian children languishing in Israeli prisons is not much better. An average of 310 Palestinian children enter the Israeli prison system each month for “security offences,” according to DCIP. As many as 60 children among them are aged between 12 and 15. Israel prosecutes 500-700 Palestinian children in military courts, effectively taking away their right to a fair trial. Palestinian children have also reported facing verbal and mental abuse, coercion, threats and beatings during interrogations in their time in detention. In 2017, 137 Palestinian children from the West Bank were detained and prosecuted in military courts. Out of the 137 children, 26 were kept in illegal solitary confinement for an average of 12 days. Five Palestinian children were also held in administrative detention, meaning they were detained on secret evidence without any charge or trial. Since October 2015, Israel has kept 25 Palestinian children in administrative detention.
A report by Military Court Watch in June 2014, based on testimony from 114 children, detailed the horrific abuse suffered by them in Israeli detention centers.
This year, amid the Great March of Return protests, a majority of the deaths of children have taken place in the Gaza Strip. Al Jazeera reported last week that since March 30, 183 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza. 18,000 others have received injuries at the hands of the Israelis. Since March, Palestinians have been protesting at the Gaza-Israel border, demanding the right of return for refugees who were expelled and displaced from their homes and land 70 years ago during the creation of the state of Israel. The Great March of Return rallies concluded on May 15, a day which the Palestinians mark as ‘Nakba day’, referring to the expulsion of more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948. Since then, protesters have been holding weekly demonstrations at the border.