Joseph Algazy


Children of the battlefield

(9 July 2001)


HA’ARETZ (English Edition), Monday, July 9, 2001
Ha’aretz English website (

A hunger strike by 14- and 15-year-old Palestinian prisoners is just one example of the suffering inflicted on minors during the current Intifada.

Last week, Palestinian youths imprisoned in the Tel Mond prison went on a hunger strike because of conflicts with the prison authorities. The reason for the prisoners’ rebellion: Since the terrorist attack at the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium discotheque in June, their families from the territories have not been allowed to visit. Attorneys who visited the prison and spoke with some of the youths said that they claim that the police used force against them, used tear gas in order to suppress the rebellion, removed their televisions, fans and hotplates, and put some of the youths in isolation. According to the office of the Israel Prison Service spokeswoman, “There was no hunger strike, but rather the imprisoned youths took turns refusing the prison meals that were delivered to them.” But the International Red Cross in Tel Aviv confirmed that there was in fact a hunger strike at Tel Mond. The Red Cross also reported that visits of family members of the Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails were stopped in the wake of a decision by the authorities, on the day after the attack at the Dolphinarium, to cancel all entry visas into Israel for Palestinians living in the territories. Representatives of the international organization expressed hope that the visits will soon be resumed.

About 80 Palestinian youths are imprisoned at Tel Mond, most of them 15 and 16 years old. They were arrested because of their participation in protest activities of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The youths, members of their families, their attorneys and Defence for Children International (DCI), have complained in the past that jailed Palestinian minors have been beaten and humiliated during their detention and interrogation, have been tortured physically and mentally, have had confessions extorted from them, and have been sentenced by military courts to long periods of imprisonment and payment of fines.

Attorney Hanan Khatib, from the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, took detailed statements, made under oath, from some of the minors imprisoned at Tel Mond, about the types of violence used against them when they were arrested in their homes, usually in the middle of the night; about the beatings they received during their interrogation at police headquarters or in military prison facilities, in order to extort confessions that would incriminate them and others; about being kept in isolation for long periods of time, in cells without bathrooms; and about being held in the Tel Mond prison with criminals who abused and attacked them.

About three weeks ago, DCI/Palestine, with the help of European human rights organizations, church organizations and Unicef (the United Nations Children’s Fund), published a report called A generation denied, Israeli violations of Palestinian children’s rights, 2000. The comprehensive report, which was published in English, describes the situation of Palestinian children in the territories, and discusses the situation of Palestinian minors imprisoned both in the military prison in Megiddo and in Tel Mond, which is run by the Israel Prison Service. The report extensively describes the harsh conditions of interrogation, detention and imprisonment of these minors. Defence for Children International is presently conducting an international campaign aimed at making the public aware of their plight.


Stop shooting children

The main part of the report is devoted to the violation of Palestinian children’s rights under the Israeli occupation, and oppression in the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The report reveals that in the year 2000, 105 Palestinian minors were killed. According to the Palestine Red Crescent, 154 Palestinian minors (under 18) were killed in the period between September 29, 2000 and June 17, 2001; of these, 26 were children under the age of 12, including infants. The number of minors injured is estimated in the thousands. (During the previous Intifada, which began in late 1987 and lasted several years, 94 Palestinian minors were killed.) In October 2000, 35 minors were killed, and in November the number rose to 45.

Most of those Palestinian minors were killed by the military, who shot at them with live bullets or with plastic- or rubber-coated metal bullets. The intent, asserts the report, was to “shoot to kill”. Some children were killed in clashes with settlers, some by inhaling tear gas, and others as a result of the policy of closure. Aala Osa’ama Hamdan, a 10-year-old girl from the village of Assa’aiya in the Nablus district, died of complications of pneumonia after her parents were prevented from taking her to the hospital in Nablus. Huriya Beni Odeh from the village of Jiftlik had a miscarriage because of delays at an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) roadblock, when she was on her way from her home to the hospital in Jericho.

A statistical analysis of the attacks that caused the deaths of children, reveals that about one-third of the children were hit in the head, about one-third in the chest, and the rest in various parts of the body. Among the wounded, a high percentage of children sustained eye injuries. During the first three months of the Intifada, 159 children suffered eye injuries, with 14 losing an eye. Many of the injured children will remain disabled.

According to the IDF spokesman, the number of civilians killed on the Israeli side (not including the 12 Israeli Arabs killed in October) by shooting or in terrorist attacks is 87, about 30 of them minors, including two infants.

At a congress held in Brussels about two weeks ago, on Palestinian Children in the Intifada – sponsored by Belgian organizations including the Belgian-Palestinian Association, the International League for Human Rights, Socialist Women, the World Union of Progressive Jews, and others – one of the participants suggested publishing a call to both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to stop shooting children, without exception, and to stop considering them targets to be killed and wounded. The man who made the proposal explained that it was not his intention to allow the killing of adults, but rather to remove children from the battlefield and from the line of fire. These children are not responsible for the actions of adults and for the policies of their governments, do not decide on their place of residence, and are not masters of their fates. The proposal was received with sympathy, and is now under consideration by human rights organizations.

The DCI/Palestine report provides an extensive description of violations of Palestinian children’s rights to education, health and medical services, a reasonable quality of life, and protection from discriminatory laws and various crimes. The report explains in detail the emotional damage and the traumas suffered by Palestinian children as a result of the military activities they witness, the killings, death and violence, and the deprivation they experience. Doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses report on a significant increase in the number of children (and adults) who complain of nightmares and emotional problems, and require psychological treatment and medications.


An increase in mortality

In discussing the field of education, the writers of the report explain the dangers threatening pupils on their way to school and on their return home. They tell of schools that were attacked by soldiers and settlers, schools that were closed on orders of the Israeli authorities, arrests of pupils and teachers, and pupils and teachers who do not attend school regularly because of the closures, encirclements, and other limitations on freedom of movement. Attached to the report are photographs of frightened schoolgirls, and of classroom walls pocked by bullets holes.

The policy of siege, closure and encirclement for long periods of time, the report says, has greatly damaged the Palestinians’ quality of life, and especially that of the children, because of the destruction of the Palestinian economy and the high rate of unemployment. Day laborers do not go out to work, and farmers do not go out to cultivate their fields. As a result, many villages are suffering from a shortage of staple foods, especially those villages surrounded by settlements and bypass roads, which limit the Palestinians’ freedom of movement. Punishments such as the destruction of homes and the uprooting of thousands of olive and fruit trees, leave hundreds of people without a roof and without sources of income. The report points out that in various districts, children under the age of 14 comprise over 40 percent of the entire population. In Hebron and in Khan Yunis, children comprise over 49 percent of the population, and in Gaza, over 50 percent. The Palestinian report tells of a dramatic increase in the mortality rate among infants and children.


Last updated on 4.8.2001