Palestine minors still face specter of death, detention

ANKARA (AA): Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, the blockaded Gaza Strip and in refugee camps abroad remain at risk of sudden death and injury, while also facing the specter of arbitrary detention at the hands of the Israeli authorities. Children living under Israel’s 12-year siege of the Gaza Strip face the danger of Israeli bullets especially when they are taking part in regular demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, some 50 Palestinian children have been killed near the buffer zone by Israeli army gunfire and more than 3,000 others injured since the protests began more than one year ago. According to protest organizer Ahmed Abu Riteima, entire Palestinian families including young children often take part in the peaceful rallies. “That’s why we’ve seen so many causalities among women and children,” Abu Riteima told Anadolu Agency.

“Israel is solely responsible for this, since it insists on suppressing the rallies with deadly force,” he added. “Children are frequently killed near the buffer zone, either by random Israeli army gunfire or because they are deliberately targeted by Israeli soldiers,” Abu Riteima said. He added: “Gazan children are being killed in cold blood when they pose no real threat to Israeli forces deployed along the other side of the buffer zone.”

Demonstrators demand the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in historical Palestine from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel. They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities. In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, meanwhile, Palestinian children run the risk of being targeted by an Israeli sniper, beaten by a Jewish settler, or detained by Israeli soldiers. Last year alone, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), a Geneva-based rights NGO, documented more than 120 cases in which Palestinian minors were arbitrarily detained by the Israeli authorities.

According to DCIP, “more than half of the children arrested by the Israeli authorities [during this period] experienced verbal abuse, threats, humiliation or intimidation” while in custody. In a recent statement, the NGO added: “The vast majority of children, over 75 percent, said they were physically abused during the course of their detention.” It went on to point out that detained Palestinian children are frequently placed in solitary confinement.

“While in pre-trial detention, the Israeli authorities placed 22 children in isolation for a period of 48 hours or more,” DCIP said, adding that in some cases, children were kept in isolation for 30 days at a time. Meanwhile, Palestinian children living in refugee camps abroad especially in Lebanon or war-torn Syria face their own set of difficulties, including poverty and poor living conditions. Mahmoud Hanafi, head of the Palestinian Institution for Human Rights, a Beirut-based NGO, described the situation of Palestinian children in refugee camps as “miserable”.

“Refugee children live under extremely poor conditions that severely limit their ability to build a viable future,” he told Anadolu Agency. Hanafi cited figures from the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) which put the poverty rate among Palestinians in Lebanese refugee camps at 73 percent and the unemployment rate at 56 percent. He also pointed out that children in the camps often face food insecurity, with 38 percent suffering “moderate” food insecurity and another 24 percent suffering “acute” food insecurity.

According to Hanafi, most refugee children also lack access to adequate education a situation he attributed to “their socio-economic situation and legal restrictions imposed on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon”. An estimated 300,000 Palestinians, including tens of thousands of children, currently live in 12 refugee camps scattered across Lebanon.