Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem has revealed that this week Israeli soldiers arrested twenty-seven young Palestinians in route 160, Hebron, whilst they were on their way to school. At least 14 of them were under the age of 12 and some were as young as eight. Though they are loosely suspected of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, many of them are under the age of criminal responsibility. Video documentation of the incident, filmed by an international activist, reveals disturbing images of the screaming children being brutally dragged away by soldiers.
According to a recent UNICEF report, Israeli forces arrest around 700 Palestinians between the age of 12 and 17 every year in the occupied West Bank. Many are ripped from their beds in the middle of the night when they are sleeping or taken from their schools. According to the Israeli Youth Law, minors are entitled to have parents with them throughout the interrogation. As B’Tselem pointed out, parents should always know their child is in custody before he is questioned, an adult must be present and the detention of any child under the age of 12 is illegal. But in Palestine these laws do not apply.
The incident comes not long after a photograph of a Palestinian child, framed in the crosshairs of an Israeli sniper’s rifle, stoked fury across the world. Israeli soldier Mor Ostrovski uploaded the photo onto social networking site Instagram, symbolising the Israeli army’s stance on Palestinian children as legitimate targets. Though the Israeli army’s official line was that Ostrovski’s actions “are not in accordance with the spirit of the IDF or its values”, research would suggest otherwise.
Israeli organization, Breaking the Silence, is formed of veteran combatants who expose the Israeli public to what life is really like for soldiers in the Occupied Territories. Last year they published a report, compiled of the testimonies of more than 30 soldiers, which clearly indicates systematic abuse of Palestinian children at the hands of the Israeli army. Often they are arrested on suspicion of stone throwing, though their detention can also be a tactic to retrieve information about friends or other family members.
Revealed in the report are accounts of Palestinian children being used as human shields to enter houses to make further arrests (the neighbour procedure), or hung in front of soldiers to shelter them from stone throwers. Handcuffs are secured and tightened until their hands turn blue; they are beaten severely and often prevented from using the bathroom whilst in detention. In some cases, through sheer boredom, soldiers prevent anyone from moving around Hebron until Palestinians become so frustrated they react, and a riot ensues.
Contrary to the protestations of the Israeli army, such disturbing reports would suggest that the photo uploaded on Instagram, and the arrests disclosed by B’Tselem this week, are very much in accordance with the Israeli army’s values and operational methods.