RAMALLAH: Israeli security forces arrest about 1,000 Palestinian children from the streets, schools and homes of the West Bank each year, and about the same number from East Jerusalem on suspicion of involvement in attacks or protests.
Children’s rights organizations say such practices are abusive and harm youngsters’ physical and mental health. They are prohibited by international laws and agreements related to children’s rights, to which Israel is a signatory.
According to the organizations, Israeli practices against Palestinian children include arresting them in the dead of night; arresting them without a court order and without explanation; handcuffing and blindfolding them; preventing their parents, family members or lawyers from accompanying them; and subjecting them to beatings and insults.
The bodies say that children are exposed to physical pain and psychological pressure, and go through experiences of loneliness, intense fear, confusion, humiliation, helplessness, and sometimes a sense of danger of death.
They add that many children report severe post-traumatic symptoms following their release.
Jessica Montell, executive director at Israel-based human rights organization HaMoked, told Arab News: “Israel ignores its legal obligation to consider the child’s best interests when it comes to Palestinian children wanted for interrogation.
“Traumatic night arrests remain the default method for bringing in Palestinian children. HaMoked has petitioned the Israeli High Court against this practice. We are demanding the Israeli military send a summons to parents when children are wanted for questioning.”
Qadoura Faris, director of the Palestinian Prisoners Club, told Arab News that the Israeli military authorities five years ago introduced amendments to the law of military occupation in the West Bank and the civilian law in East Jerusalem to allow the arrest and trial of children aged 12 and upwards.
Faris added that a series of alternative punishments have been adopted in East Jerusalem, such as fines, release on bail, or house arrest of one or two months in which the child’s family deposits $6,000 with the court, and the amount is confiscated if the child leaves his home during the period of house arrest.
Faris said: “House arrest for children is more difficult than ordinary imprisonment as this method makes parents jailers for their children so they do not lose the money.
“Many children who are detained at home hate their parents, who have to ensure they remain imprisoned in the house until the end of their sentence.”
A total of 160 Palestinian children are currently serving sentences in Israeli prisons after being arrested for joining protests, raising the Palestinian flag, or throwing stones.
An Israeli settler shot dead a Palestinian on Friday. Ala’a Qaisyieh, 28, was killed in the settlement of Tana Omrim, in Al-Dhahiriya, southwest of Hebron.
The shooting brought the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli occupation forces and settlers since the beginning of the year to 157 — including 36 in Gaza during May. The total includes 26 children.
Four Palestinians were wounded by live bullets during clashes with the Israeli military forces, while settlers burned five vehicles and 270 bales of straw between the villages of Turmusaya and Al-Mughayer, east of Ramallah.
The Israeli army has begun arresting members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Israeli intelligence officers are texting PFLP members, warning them not to participate in the military activities of the organization.
A former prisoner and member of the PFLP confirmed to Arab News that he had received a message, adding that warnings had recently increased from the Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet.
It has been reported that more than 100 Palestinians affiliated with the PFLP have been arrested in recent weeks.