Children in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict

Children in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict

Children in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict refers to the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on minors in Israel and the Palestinian territories.


Casualty figures

During the First Intifada, thirteen Palestinian children were killed by the IDF, while five Israeli children were killed by Palestinian militants.[1] Between September 13, 1993 and the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, ten Palestinian children were killed by IDF soldiers and two by Israeli civilians.[1] During the same period, thirteen Israeli children were killed by Palestinian militants.[1][2]Since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, 954 Palestinian and 123 Israeli children under the age of 18 have been killed, according to B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights monitoring group.[3]

Israeli children

9-year-old Israeli boy Osher Twito copes with the loss of his leg after a Palestinian Qassam rocket exploded next to him in the city of Sderot

The first acts of Palestinian violence specifically targeting Israeli children were committed in the 1970s. Notable examples include the Ma'alot massacre in which 22 Israeli high school students, aged 14–16, from Safed were killed by three members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Avivim school bus massacre in which 9 children were killed, and the Kiryat Shmona massacre in which 9 children were killed.

About 70% of the Israeli children were killed in Palestinian suicide bombings. Others were killed in shootings and attacks on cars and buses. Examples include:

  • A suicide bombing outside a crowded discothèque on Friday night, June 1, 2001 killed 21 teenagers. The armed wing of Hamas claimed responsibility.[4]
  • In 2001, 10 month-old Shalhevet Pass was shot in the head and killed by a Palestinian sniper while sitting in her stroller in Hebron.[5][6]
  • A suicide bombing on 2 March 2002, targeting a group of women and children next to a synagogue, resulted in the deaths of seven children.[4]
  • The Maxim restaurant suicide bombing in 2003 claimed the lives of four children, including a two-month old baby. Oren Almog, 10, lost his eyesight and five members of his family.[7]

According to Amnesty International, between 2000 and 2004 "more than 100 Israeli children... [were] killed and hundreds of others injured in suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks carried out by Palestinian armed groups in Israel and in the Occupied Territories."[8]

An Israeli child wounded by a Hamas Grad rocket fired on the city of Beer Sheva is taken to a hospital

In 2008, a Palestinian gunman shot and killed 8 teenagers at the Mercaz HaRav religious school in Jerusalem, and wounded 11. A 2009 poll found that 84 percent of Palestinians supported the attack. Support was 91 percent in the Gaza Strip compared to 79 percent in the West Bank.[9]

Palestinian children

The first recorded incident of Palestinian children killed by IDF was in November 1950 when three Palestinian children from the village of Yalo aged 8, 10 and 12, were shot near Dayr Ayyub in the Latrun salient. According to adult witnesses, "only one man fired at them with a sten-gun but none of the detachment attempted to interfere."[10] In February 1953, one of five Arab shepherds shot in al-Burj was 13 years old.[11] During the 1952 Beit Jala raid, 4 children ranging in age from 6 to 14 were killed by machine gun fire.[12]

Palestinian girl killed during the Gaza War.[13]

According to the Defence of Children International (DCI),[14] of the "595 children killed [29 September 2000 to 30 June 2004], 383, or 64.4%, died as a result of Israeli air and ground attacks, during assassination attempts, or when Israeli soldiers opened fire randomly" and "212 children, or 35.6%, died as a result of injuries sustained during clashes with Israeli military forces".[15] The DCI estimates that from the 1 January 2001 until 1 May 2003, at least 4,816 Palestinian children were injured, with the majority of injuries resulting from Israeli army activity while the children were going about their normal activities.[16][17] According to Amira Hass, 54 minors were brought to UNRWA clinics with head wounds from August 1989 to August 1993. [18]The Association of Israeli and Palestinian Physicians for Human Rights (PHR-Israel) estimates that a child under the age of six was shot in the head every two weeks during the Al Aqsa Intifada.[19]Amnesty International accused Israeli forces of inadequately investigating killings of children during the Al-Aqsa Intifada,[20] while also condemning the killings of Israeli children by suicide bombings and other attacks by Palestinians.[8]

Manipulation of children

In 2000, Arab journalist Huda Al-Hussein stated that: "While UN organizations save child-soldiers, especially in Africa, from the control of militia leaders who hurl them into the furnace of gang-fighting, some Palestinian leaders…consciously issue orders with the purpose of ending their childhood, even if it means their last breath."[21]

Child suicide bombers

According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers "2004 Global Report on the Use of Child Soldiers", there were at least nine documented suicide attacks involving Palestinian minors between October 2000 and March 2004.[22] According to the Israel Defense Forces from September 2000 through 2003, 29 suicide attacks have been carried out by youth under the age of 18, 22 shootings attacks and attacks using explosive devices were carried out by youth under the age of and more than 40 youths under the age of 18 were involved in attempted suicide bombings that were thwarted. According to the Coalition, "[t]here was no evidence of systematic recruitment of children by Palestinian armed groups. However, children are used as messengers and couriers, and in some cases as fighters and suicide bombers in attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians. All the main political groups involve children in this way, including Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine."

According to Mahmud Abbas, Palestinian children are given $1 for each pipe bomb they throw. Former UN Under-Secretary General Olara Otunnu declared:

“We have witnessed both ends of these acts:children have been used as suicide bombers and children have been killed by suicide bombings. I call on the Palestinian authorities to do everything within their powers to stop all participation by children in this conflict.”[23]

In 2009, Hussam Abdo, 16, was given $23, a suicide bomber's vest containing 18 kilograms of explosives, and sent to kill Israelis. His family said he was gullible and easily manipulated: "He doesn't know anything (about politics), and he has the intelligence of a 12 year old." [24]

Child indoctrination

Picture of the "Baby Suicide Bomber"

According to the British TaxPayers' Alliance Coalition against Hate Education, bilateral British and EU aid is being used by the Palestinian National Authority to fund textbooks, television programs and educational activities promoting hate and violence.[25][26]According to the report,

"It is especially worrying that Palestinian children are often the main targets of this destructive propaganda. Messages of murder and martyrdom appear in children’s television programmes, radio and TV broadcasts, a school football tournament, and of course, school textbooks. These are the textbooks that UK-funded teachers are using right across the Palestinian territories."[25]

The report cites the case of a television program, in which the female terrorist, Dalal Mughrabi who participated in the murder of 12 children and 25 adults in a bus attack on Israel in 1978 is celebrated as the "beloved bride, daughter of Jaffa, jasmine flower." [25]In another case, in a school in Tulkarem, a soccer tournament was named after Ziyad Da’as, who planned the 2002 Bat Mitzvah massacre in which a gunman opened fire at a Bat Mitzvah celebration in Hadera, killing six and wounding 30.[25]

The Hamas' on-line magazine for children, al-Fatah (The Conqueror), published since 2002, encourages children to become suicide bombers and promotes hatred of Jews. Al-Fateh (Arabic for "the conqueror"). The bi-weekly magazine features stories and columns praising suicide bombers and attacks against the "Jewish enemy." [27]

Accidents by unexploded ordnance

Unexploded ordnance (UXO) has been a low-level but recurrent threat. The majority of incidents involving unexploded ordnance occurred in the Gaza Strip.[28]

Minors under arrest

Between the ages of 12-14, children can be sentenced for offenses for a period of up to 6 months. After the age of 14, they are tried as adults.[29]In October 2004, 338 Palestinian minors were reported by the DCI to be under arrest by Israeli security forces.[30] DCI has estimated that there have been 2,650 Palestinian child prisoners since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in 2000.[15]


In a 2003 United Nations report, Special Rapporteur Jean Ziegler claimed that over 22 per cent of children under 5 in the Palestinian territories were suffering from malnutrition and 15.6 per cent from acute anaemia." According to the World Bank, food consumption in the Palestinian Territories fell by more than 25 per cent per capita, and food shortages particularly of proteins, were reported.[31]

Post-traumatic stress

Researchers are finding high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder among Palestinian children.[32] According to some researchers, the average rate of post-traumatic stress disorder among children from both sides of the Green Line is about 70 per cent.[33][34] Gaza Community Health Programs carried out a study and found that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) rate for children in Gaza was that 54% suffered from severe PTSD, 33.5 % from moderate and 11 % from mild and doubtful levels of PTSD.[33] In a report, published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, it was estimated that the rate of psychological morbidity in the southern region of Bethlehem in the West Bank, to be 42.3% among Palestinian children. The rate was 46.3% for boys and 37.8% for girls. These rates, the study reported, were twice the rate of psychological morbidity in the Gaza strip.[35]

According to an Israeli child psychiatrist, about half of the children in Jerusalem, the city hit hardest by Palestinian violence, experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, two to three times higher than the rate of children suffering from other causes of trauma. A recent study by Herzog’s trauma centre found that 33 per cent of Israeli youth have been affected personally by terrorism, either by being at the scene of an attack or by knowing someone injured or killed by terrorists. Seventy per cent of those surveyed reported increased subjective fear or hopelessness.[36]

About 26% of Israeli minors killed lived in the Israeli settlements in West Bank and Gaza. According to Miriam Shapira, the director of an emergency crisis centre for West Bank settlers, "Almost every school has students who have experienced close losses. One school had 20 students who had lost a parent in terrorist attacks. About half of the teachers also have had a close relative killed or were themselves involved in an attack."[36]

Herzog Hospital's Israel Centre for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, in Jerusalem, and the UJA-Federation of New York held a conference to examine the effects of terrorism on children in Israel and the United States. Their study shows that despite nearly four years of ongoing terrorism, Israeli children have shown resilience for coping with trauma and pressing on with their lives.[37]

Schooling disruptions

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), some 300 Palestinian schools have been damaged in the conflict. In 2003, 580 schools were periodically forced to close, and some schools were closed after being declared military outposts by the IDF.[38]

International and Israeli response

Since the Al-Aqsa Intifada, many human rights and non-governmental organizations have raised concerns over Israel's treatment of Palestinian civilians, specifically children. UNICEF, Amnesty International, B'Tselem and individuals such as the British writer Derek Summerfield, have called for Israel to protect children from violence in accordance with the Geneva conventions. The European Union has linked the suspension of Israel/Europe trade agreement talks to human rights issues, especially in regards to children.[39]

However, Georgetown University professor William O'Brien wrote about the active participation of Palestinian children in the First Intifada: "It appears that a substantial number, if not the majority, of troops of the intifada are young people, including elementary schoolchildren. They are engaged in throwing stones and Molotov cocktails and other forms of violence."[40]

The Code of Conduct of the IDF explicitly prohibits targeting non-combatants and dictates proportional force. It also stipulates that soldiers "use their weapons and force only for the purpose of their mission, only to the necessary extent and will maintain their humanity even during combat. IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property."

The Israeli government and the IDF have expressed sympathy but deferred responsibility and blame to the Palestinians. They say the deaths of children are a regrettable consequence of war; Islamic militants use children as human shields or deliberately locate themselves in civilian areas during fighting; children are used as child suicide bombers by Palestinian militant organizations;t children engage in acts of extreme violence toward Israeli forces and civilians.[41]

Israeli and international human rights groups claim that show the majority (between 64.4% and 87.7%) of Palestinian child fatalities occurred in circumstances in which the children were clearly not involved in hostilities or clashes with Israeli forces.[15]

Israel medical aid to Palestinian children

The quality of medical care in Israel is significantly better than anywhere in the West Bank and Gaza. Irwin Mansdorf, a member of Task Force on Medical and Public Health Issues, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East wrote about routine care that Palestinians continue to receive in Israeli hospitals and from Israeli physicians.[42] "Palestinians receive care in Israel that they could not receive in any neighboring Arab country. In the last few months alone nearly 200 Palestinian children who were referred under a joint Israeli-Palestinian programme to treat children with serious medical conditions have already undergone major surgery at Israeli hospitals at no cost to the families. Another 350-400 Palestinian children have undergone free diagnostic testing."

Saving Children, established by the Peres Peace Center, enables hundreds of Palestinian children to receive free medical care, in particular cardiac surgery, from Israeli surgeons."[43]

"Save A Child's Heart" is a program in which any child with heart problems can receive free medical attention and surgery from select doctors and hospitals within Israel. From 1996 to 2007, 4,591 children had been examined world wide, of the 1848 children treated 828 (45%) were Palestinian.[44]

Organ donation

The families of Yoni Jesner, a Jewish teenager, and Ahmed Khatib, a Palestinian boy, donated their organs to children from the opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[45] Yoni Jesner died in a suicide bombing in 2002, while Ahmed Khatib was killed by IDF gunfire in 2005. [45]Ahmed Khatib's story was the subject of a PBS documentary "Heart of Jenin".[46]

See also


  1. ^ a b c B'Tselem First intifada Statistics
  2. ^ Fatal Terrorist Attacks in Israel Since the Declaration of Principles (Sept 1993), Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 24, 2007.
  3. ^ B'Tselem al-Aqsa Intifada Statistics
  4. ^ a b Israeli MFA
  5. ^ Center of the Storm: A Case Study of Human Rights Abuses in Hebron District, Human Rights Watch, 2001, p. 64. ISBN 1-56432-260-2
  6. ^ "Target: Israeli Children". Israeli Ministry of Education. "On Monday, March 26, 2001 a Palestinian sniper aimed his rifle and opened fire at 10-month old Shalhevet Pass in Hebron, while she was lying in her stroller. Shalhevet was killed by a bullet to the head." 
  7. ^ A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism. By Giulio Meotti. p.187
  8. ^ a b Amnesty International Library Index
  9. ^ Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No (27), PSR - Survey Research Unit, 24-03-2008
  10. ^ Benny Morris, (1993) Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956 ISBN 0-19-829262-7, Oxford University Press p 181
  11. ^ Benny Morris, (1993) Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956 ISBN 0-19-829262-7, Oxford University Press p 184
  12. ^ Hutchison, E. H. (1956). Violent Truce - A Military Observer Looks at the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1951–1955. pp. 12–16. 
  13. ^ "War On Gaza Day 14" (in Arabic). Al-Jazeera. 2009-01-09. Retrieved 2009-01-26. 
  14. ^ Palestine Section of Defence for Children International
  15. ^ a b c Status of Palestinian Children's Rights Defence for Children International/Palestine Section
  16. ^ Breakdown of Palestinian Child Injuries (1 January - April 2003) May 10, 2003 Breakdown of Palestinian Child Injuries, 2002 February 14, 2003 Breakdown of Palestinian Child Deaths and Injuries in 2001 August 30, 2001. The Defence for Children International/Palestine Section
  17. ^ World health organisation Health conditions of, and assistance to, the Arab population in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine 3 May 2004 A57/INF.DOC./1
  18. ^ Amira Hass, Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land under Siege (Owl Books, 2000) ISBN 0-8050-5740-4.
  19. ^ Association of Israeli and Palestinian Physicians for Human Rights (PHR-Israel), Intifada-Related Head Injuries and Rehabilitation of the Head-Injured, Tel-Aviv, July 1995
  20. ^ KILLING THE FUTURE: Children in the line of fire. AI Index: MDE 02/005/2002, 30 September 2002. Israel and the Occupied Territories and the Palestinian Authority.
  21. ^ Arab Journalist Decries Palestinian Child-Soldiers. Special Dispatch 147, November 1, 2000.
  22. ^ Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers p. 292
  23. ^ Radler, Melissa, “UN condemns Palestinians’ use of children in conflict,” Jerusalem Post, January 15, 2003.
  24. ^ Teen Bomber Stopped At West Bank
  25. ^ a b c d Funding Hate pdf British TaxPayers' Alliance
  26. ^ British Aid funds Palestinian Hate Propaganda yet again. Coalition against Hate Education.
  27. ^ Hamas Magazine for Kids Promotes Martyrdom and Hatred
  28. ^ In Gaza, UN teams destroy unexploded ordnance with white phosphorus UN News Centre
    GAZA: Unexploded bombs threaten reconstruction
    Israel and the occupied/autonomous territories: UXO-awareness activities in West Bank and Gaza Strip ICRC 13 June 2002
  29. ^
  30. ^ Children Behind Bars, Administrative Detention Defence for Children International/Palestine Section. October 22, 2004
  31. ^ Economic, social and cultural rights - The right to food Jean Ziegler. United Nations Commission of Human Rights. October 31, 2003
  32. ^ Knafo, Danielle (2004) Living with Terror, Working with Trauma: A Clinician's Handbook Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 0-7657-0378-5 p 220
  33. ^ a b Defense Update Terror related Post-Traumatic Stress: The Israeli Experience By David Eshel Dr. Avital Laufer of Tel Aviv University told the Knesset Committee on the Rights of Children. The committee was discussing the effects of the terror attacks of the past 32 months on children. Laufer's findings were based on a study of some 3,000 children aged 13 to 15, from both sides of the "Green Line". Some 70 percent of the children said that the terror attacks had had a direct impact on their lives, causing them to abandon or avoid certain activities.
  34. ^ Haaretz June 5, 2003 Terror leaves 42% of children with PTSD By Gideon Alon
  35. ^ Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 49, No 1, January 2004
  36. ^ a b[dead link]
  37. ^ Townhall news[dead link] no information to substantiate ref
  38. ^ [1] United Nations Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
  39. ^ Guardian Upgrade Palestinian rights As it freezes an upgrade of relations with Israel, the EU should now demand respect for human rights, especially for children by Seth Freedman 27 February 2009
  40. ^ William V. O'Brien, Law and Morality in Israel's War With the PLO New York: Routledge, 1991 ISBN 0-415-90300-9 page reference required
  41. ^ Defence for Children International 17 February 2009 Update: 12-13 year-olds arrested for throwing stones at the Wall
  42. ^ BMJ journal Derek Summerfield article in reply to Simon Fellerman
  43. ^ BMJ journal Simon Fellerman in reply to BMJ article by Derek Summerfield
  44. ^ Save a Child's Success rates
  45. ^ a b McGreal, Chris (11 November 2005). "Ahmed's gift of life". London: The Guardian. 
  46. ^ Stephen Farrell (July 7, 2009). "Heart of Jenin". PBS. 

See also

  • Violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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