A close look at a shocking allegation: Is Palestinian children killing at the hands of Israel resulting from their involvement in armed groups ?

In the face of international outrage at the recent suicide of Guantanamo prisoners, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., who commands the Guantanamo Bay prison, had this to say:

"They are smart. They are creative, they are committed," he said, quoted by Reuters. "They have no regard for life, either ours or their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

Military officials have argued that the detainee suicide attempts are designed to gain attention and to manipulate world opinion.

Colleen Graffy, deputy assistant U.S. secretary of state for public diplomacy, told the BBC that the suicides were a “good P.R. move to draw attention” and “a tactic to further the jihadi cause.”

In the same vein, the deaths of Palestinian children killed by Israeli raids is said to be due to the 'use of children by palestinian armed groups for suicide and terror misssions' and to the 'dogmatisation of palestinian youths in schools and inside their families' where they are teached to 'hate Israel'.

This kind of counter claim in the face of the suffering of vulnerable people who are put down, occupied, tortured and killed, looks to me not only as a way of escaping responsibility but also as the expression of the disdain and the disregard on the part of the criminals who commit such crimes towards the humanity of their victims.

I wanted to investigate the shocking counterclaim concerning palestinian children. A review of Amnesty International (AI) reports between 2002 and 2006 on the children issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict yielded the following:
The 2006 and 2005 reports make only brief mentions of the use of children in the Palestinian Authority (PA) by armed groups, a use denied by main Palestinian armed organisations:

2006. ''Armed groups continued to use children to carry out attacks and transport explosives or weapons. Several Palestinian children were arrested by the Israeli army for their alleged involvement in such activities. The main armed groups reportedly disavowed the use of children and some blamed such abuses on local cells acting on their own initiative.''
You can consult here detailed AI documents concerning the PA.

2005. The use of children has a separate entry but is not more detailed than the 2006 report and mentions the case of a mentally disabled boy arrested by israelis wearing a suicide belt: ''Several children were involved in attacks against Israelis; two of them carried out a suicide attack inside Israel. Others were arrested by the Israeli army for their alleged involvement in such attacks. Palestinian armed groups have no declared policy of recruiting children and claim to disavow the use of children; some blamed such abuses on local cells acting on their own initiative or “collaborators” seeking to discredit the armed groups.
In March Hussam ‘Abdu, a 16-year-old boy with mental disabilities, was arrested at Huwara checkpoint, near Nablus, while wearing a suicide belt. The Israeli army had advance information about the case and had closed the checkpoint. The boy remained detained in Israel awaiting trial at the end of the year.''

2004. The 2004 report makes no mention of the use of children by Palestinian groups in military missions.

2003. The 2003 report reminds the PA that even non states have to comply with the UN convention on children's rights with the following mention:''In October the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that non-state actors establish and strictly enforce rules of engagement for military and other personnel which fully respect the rights of children as contained in the UN Children’s Convention and as protected under international humanitarian law. It also recommended that they refrain from using or targeting children in armed conflict and comply fully with Article 38 of the Convention, and as much as possible with the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.''

2002. The 2002 report is the most extensive on the the children issue but has no mention of the use of children by Palestinian armed groups. The 2002 report encompasses a period at the height of the second intifada. It enumerates the number and the names and the context of Israeli children victims of suicide attacks made by Palestinian armed groups and of Palestinian children killed by Israel. The report is damning for Israel.
''The alarming pattern of killing of Palestinian children by the IDF was established at the outset of the intifada and has continued. On the second day of the intifada, on 30 September 2000, four children were killed by IDF fire.
The following day another four children aged between 12 and 17 were again killed by other security services. Within a month some 30 Palestinian children had been killed by IDF fire and by the end of the year 2000 the number was over 80.
The rate at which Palestinian children were being killed decreased slightly during 2001 but increased again in 2002. In the first seven months of 2002 alone, more than 100 children were killed by IDF fire and the age of the victims was significantly lower than in the previous two years: in 2002, some 48% of the children killed were 12 years old or younger, as compared with some 35% in 2001 and about 13% in 2000.
In the first months of the intifada, the majority of child victims were killed as a result of the unlawful and excessive use of lethal force in response to demonstrations and stone-throwing incidents, when the lives of IDF soldiers were not at risk. In 2002 the majority were those children killed when the IDF randomly opened fire, or shelled or bombarded residential neighbourhoods in Palestinian towns and villages. Most of these children were killed when there was no exchange of fire and in circumstances in which the lives of the soldiers were not at risk.''


1. It is highly inhumane and hypocritical to assume that the killing of Palestinian children is the result of the use of children by Palestinian armed groups. This use is only briefly reported as an allegation in the 2005 and 2006 reports while the killings of Palestinian children have been taking place in a savage way since the beginning of the second intifada as a result of random shooting on civilians by Israel during peaceful demonstrations, attacks on civilian areas, demolition of houses, denial of access to medicare and hospitals, attacks by flechettes and booby-traps on densely populated areas and attacks by Israeli settlers.

2. Not to forget that after 2004, suicide attacks against Israel and Israeli civilians dropped dramatically and Hamas, the main organisation for armed resistance conducting terror attacks against Israel, has declared truce in 2004. So it seems to me that the claim of the use of children by armed groups coincide more with an increase in the number and the intensity of attacks on Palestinian civilians perpetrated by Israel than with attacks against Israeli civilians perpetrated by Palestinian armed groups.

3. To assume that the children killed are involved in armed groups is also to ignore what is a child and what is a combatant. The Israeli Institute for counterterrorism who, I assume, must know the difference between the two, published in June 2003, at the height of the suicide attacks on Israel by palestinian armed groups (and the alleged use of children in these attacks), the statistics and figures of combatant and civilian casualties covering a two year period from June 2001 to june 2003. The statistics speak by themselves. Israel has deliberately and indiscriminately targeted Palestinian boys and men between 14 and 39 years old.
4. In November 20th, 2004, Defence for Children International, Palestine section, published an article on its website which concluded:
''After months of media reports highlighting the role of children in the Palestinian intifada, the 2004 Global Report on the Use of Child Soldiers has found that this phenomenon remains the exception rather than the rule in Palestinian areas, although one which needs to be taken seriously.''

''Meanwhile, the report stated that both Israeli and Palestinian government forces have been implicated in the misuse of Palestinian children. While the Palestinian Authority has recruited some under-18s for its security forces, the Israeli Army and intelligence services have sought to recruit children as informers, often putting pressure on them to collaborate. The high level of child arrests has been important in this light, involving the detention of around 350 minors a year. Some of these children have reported torture and are often treated in ways that “fall short of international standards on juvenile justice,” said Forbes-Adam. ''

You can read here their 2005 report titled:'Surviving the present: Facing the future'. Once again, the report is damning for Israel and makes no mention of children's use by Palestinian armed groups.

5. Claiming that the massive killing of palestinian children by Israel is the result of the involvement of these children in acts of war against Israel is an imposture meant to protect the criminal's image while dehumanising the victim.


Sadiq said...

great article with indepth research and thoughts.

i am thinking about an article on Guantanamo Bay condition.

do u hv any statistics about that?

Sophia said...

Thanks Sadiq. Actually we don't know statistics on Guantanamo. We only know what filtered throught testimonies from Humanitarian workers and from released detainees. More will be known when there will be full fledged investigation and I am sure this will come out one day.
Up to now the only statistic we know is that among Guantanamo detainees nobody was charged yet !

Since March 29th 2006