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Palestinian Terrorism: Amnesty International Condemns Use of Children for Terror

(Updated May 2005)

Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned suicide bombings and other attacks against civilians by Palestinian armed groups as crimes against humanity. Using children to carry out or assist in armed attacks of any kind is an abomination. We call on the Palestinian leadership to publicly denounce these practices.

Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs's brigades, must put an immediate end to the use or involvement of any kind of children in armed activity. There have been numerous cases in which Palestinian children have been used by Palestinian armed groups to carry out or attempt to carry out suicide bombings or other attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers.

In January 2004, a 17-year-old Palestinian detonated an explosive belt he was wearing as he was being tracked down by Israeli soldiers, killing himself and without hurting anyone else. The boy apparently intended to carry out a suicide attack to revenge the killing the previous week by the Israeli army of his 15-year-old brother and his cousin, neither of whom were armed when they were shot dead by Israeli soldiers. He had reportedly been given the explosive belt by members of the Palestinian armed group Islamic Jihad.

Palestinian armed groups have pressured families of those who have been killed while carrying out attacks, including children, not to condemn but to welcome and endorse their relatives' actions.

In March 2004, a 14-year-old Palestinian child was found to be carrying explosives when attempting to pass through the Israeli army checkpoint at Huwara, at the entrance of the West Bank town of Nablus. Reports indicate that the boy was wearing an explosive belt, which would suggest that he was knowingly carrying it. According to Israeli army reports the boy may have intended to detonate the explosive belt, and thus commit suicide, near soldiers manning the checkpoint.

In February 2004, Israeli soldiers discovered a bag of explosives in the possession of an 11-year old Palestinian child at the same checkpoint. The boy, who regularly carried bags for travellers from one side of the checkpoint to the other, was reported not to have been aware that one of the bags on his cart contained explosives.

“Palestinian armed groups must not use children under any circumstances to carry out armed attacks or to transport weapons or other material,” Amnesty International said.

On May 22, 2005, a 15-year-old Palestinian child carrying explosive was arrested by the Israeli army at the Huwara military checkpoint, at the entrance to the West Bank town of Nablus.

This was the third such incident in 2005 in which Palestinian children have been arrested at Israeli military checkpoints while carrying explosives or munitions. On February 3, a 17-year-old was arrested at the same checkpoint while carrying explosives and bullets, and on April 27, two 15-year-olds also carrying explosives and bullets were arrested at a military checkpoint at the entrance of the West Bank town of Jenin.

Palestinian armed groups have repeatedly shown total disregard for the most fundamental human rights, notably the right to life, by deliberately targeting Israeli civilians and by using Palestinian children in armed attacks. Children are susceptible to recruitment by manipulation or may be driven to join armed groups for a variety of reasons, including a desire to avenge relatives or friends killed by the Israeli army....

“The exploitation of children, who are often particularly vulnerable or traumatized, by armed groups and armed forces must cease at once, as must the killing of children, and those responsible for such crimes must be brought to justice,” said Amnesty International.

Sources: Amnesty International