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UN could blacklist Israel over unjustifiable Palestinian child deaths Open in fullscreen

James Reinl

UN could blacklist Israel over unjustifiable Palestinian child deaths

Thousands of Palestinian children were injured or maimed by Israel last year [Getty]

Date of publication: 1 August, 2019

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The UN wants answers on the thousands of Palestinian children killed or maimed last year.
Israel faces a grilling over the killing and maiming of thousands of Palestinian children last year and could find itself on a United Nations blacklist of offenders within months, the world body's envoy on child rights has warned.

Virginia Gamba, the UN's envoy on Children and Armed Conflict, said on Tuesday she would investigate why 59 Palestinian youths were killed and 2,756 others were injured amid political tensions in 2018 and report back by December.

Speaking at the launch of her annual report, Gamba said she was now authorised to "press ahead with this examination" on Israeli-Palestinian violence, which "could mean" Israel gets a place on the blacklist.

"Naming and shaming is important, it's part of the pressure," Gamba, an Argentine expert on peace, security and justice, told reporters at the world body's headquarters in New York City this week.

Gamba said that neither Israel nor Palestinian factions had helped her gather evidence to date and that she hoped to visit the region, but noted that Israel's September 17 elections could impact her travel plans.

Israel's mission to the world body did not respond to The New Arab's request for comment about Gamba's probe and the latest UN report on children and armed conflict, which is produced at the request of the UN Security Council.

Gamba's latest study, which is attributed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, criticised several parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but noted that more Palestinian children were killed and injured last year than at any other time since 2014.

More than half of the Palestinian child deaths occurred at largely peaceful protests at Gaza's fence, where demonstrators grouped from March 2018 onwards demanding an end to Israel's crippling blockade of their impoverished coastal territory.

Most of the slain demonstrating youths were "shot by live ammunition to the upper body, while reportedly posing no imminent threat of death or serious injury to Israeli forces", UN chief Guterres said in the 43-page document.

In the West Bank, almost 1,400 Palestinian children were hurt by Israeli forces at "demonstrations, clashes and search and arrest operations", the document says. Almost 1,000 of these suffered respiratory problems after inhaling tear gas. 

"I am extremely concerned by the significant rise in the maiming of and injuries caused to children across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, including by tear gas inhalation requiring medical treatment," Guterres said in the report.

Meanwhile, some 203 Palestinian youngsters were detained by Israeli forces over security offences, including 114 who were awaiting trial and 87 others who had been convicted and caged. Many of them complained of "ill treatment", the report said.

Israel must "uphold international juvenile justice standards", abandon the use of "administrative detention" of youths and "cease any attempted recruitment of detained children as informants", the document said.

The report also criticised such armed Palestinian groups as Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades and Islamic Jihad's al-Quds Brigades for recruiting underage soldiers.

Six Israeli children meanwhile were hurt last year, including in an indiscriminate Palestinian rocket attack.   

The UN's annual report on children and armed conflict does not slap sanctions on those listed but rather embarrasses armed groups and governments in a bid to push them to ensure that fewer youngsters are hurt or killed.

Israel was not listed in the annexes of the document, which are dubbed the "list of shame" of armed groups that enlist child soldiers, target schools or carry out military strikes regardless of how many children perish.

Human Rights Watch, a campaign group, said Guterres had failed to be tough enough on the Israeli army and others that killed and hurt children, such as the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

"Previous reports have also found the IDF responsible for killing and maiming Palestinian children, but the secretary-general has yet to include the Israeli forces in his list of abusers," the New York-based organisation said in a statement.

Adrianne Lapar, a program director for Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a monitoring group, told The New Arab that the listing process is "increasingly politicized" and that diplomats have worked behind the scenes to make their governments look clean.

Israeli forces were "conspicuously missing from the latest list of shame", Lapar added.

The annual UN study has long been divisive, with diplomats saying that Israel exerted pressure to stay off the list in recent years. The same goes for other forces that have faced criticism, such as the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

In 2015, the UN left Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas off the blacklist, after they had been named on an earlier draft, but bashed Israel over its 2014 assault on Gaza. Israel denied lobbying then secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on the issue.

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