On August 28, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report titled West Bank: Spike in Israeli Killings of Palestinian Children. HRW’s primary accusation is that “The Israeli military and border police forces are killing Palestinian children with virtually no recourse for accountability.” HRW recommends that “The UN Secretary-General should list Israel’s armed forces in his annual report on grave violations against children in armed conflict for 2023 as responsible for the violation of killing and maiming Palestinian children.”
This is another HRW publication on Israeli-Palestinian issues that, as documented in detail, lacks credibility and reflects the organization’s consistent political and ideological objectives.
HRW bases its claims on four selected cases of Palestinian minors killed during operations. While it mentions in passing that the minors were actively involved in violence, HRW blatantly omits their affiliations to terror organizations, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Further, HRW fails to provide the broader context – none of the minors in question were random passers-by; rather they appear to have been radicalized by the incitement of terror groups, and have public records of glorifying violence and death.
Typically, HRW repeats the claims of a number of anti-Israel advocacy NGOs, including PFLP affiliated NGOs Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). Like HRW, these NGOs systematically and completely ignore the context and erase or minimize substantial evidence showing the direct involvement of these Palestinian minors in terror attacks that led to their deaths. Details on all four examples used by HRW are presented in NGO Monitor’s analysis below.
This report is part of an ongoing political campaign, in which HRW plays a major role, that invents and exploits allegations of violations of children’s rights in order to trigger UN sanctions against Israel. In particular, the NGOs have aggressively lobbied the UN Secretary General and the UNICEF-led Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) Working Group, to place the IDF on a UN blacklist of child rights abusers, alongside terrorist organizations such as the Taliban, Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram.
(For more information on the campaign to blacklist the IDF, see NGO Monitor’s “UNICEF and its NGO Working Group: Failing Children,” and “UN Report on ‘Children and Armed Conflict’: Moving the Goalposts on Israel”)
Highlighting its lack of credibility and on-going bias, HRW offers no recommendations to Palestinian authorities and turns a blind eye to Palestinian CAAC violations. For instance, although clear evidence demonstrating the exploitation of minors by Palestinian terror organizations can be seen in the examples provided by HRW, the NGO completely ignores Palestinian recruitment and use of children (a grave CAAC violation). Similarly, HRW is silent regarding “Pay to Slay” – the PA’s program to financially incentivize attacks against Israelis – as well as on on-going Palestinian incitement of children in media, schools, and youth programming.
HRW’s Four Examples:
As detailed below, most of the Palestinian minors included by HRW in this publication were active participants in violent acts, posted support for violence on their social media profiles and/or were eulogized as combatants by various Palestinian terror groups.
Even in the few instances where HRW acknowledges the violent actions of Palestinian minors, it chooses to condemn the response of Israeli forces, but fails to criticize the PA and the terrorist groups that recruit these children and orchestrate the violent clashes in which they partake.
(Information taken from NGO Monitor’s database of Palestinian minors)
According to HRW: “An Israeli officer shot Wadea Abu Ramuz, 17, from behind while he was with a group of youths throwing rocks and launching fireworks at Border Police vehicles in East Jerusalem at around 10 p.m. on January 25, 2023, two witnesses said.”
Reality: Multiple media reports note that, during a violent riot against Israeli security forces, 16-year-old Wadie Abu Ramouz and another Palestinian attacked Israeli policemen with fireworks and Molotov cocktails in Jerusalem’s Silwan neighborhood. In response, police shot the two. Police found a box cutter, lighters, a Hamas flag, and a fireworks rig in their possession.
Following his death, Fatah issued several posters mourning Abu Ramouz, and claiming him as “its hero martyr combatant son…who rose to heaven while defending the pure soil of Jerusalem.”
Hamas also published an official eulogy poster for Abu Ramouz, “the Jerusalemite young martyr.”
Adam Essam Ayyad (15)
According to HRW: “A large Israeli force was withdrawing after a raid on Deheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem at around 5:00 or 5:30 a.m. on January 3, when Adam Ayyad, 15, joined a group of youths who threw stones at Israeli forces on a street below them, three boys who were there at the time said. After another boy threw a Molotov cocktail, an Israeli soldier in a building overlooking the street where the boys were, fired repeatedly at the group, two of the boys said.”
Reality: On January 2, 2023, Adam Essam Ayyad was killed by IDF forces in Dheisheh refugee camp when he participated in violent clashes, in which Palestinians hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails against the forces.
Following his death, the PFLP issued an official statement eulogizing Ayyad, “its comrade ‘cub.’” The PFLP stated that, “The comrade ‘cub’ fighter Adam Essam Ayyad (15-year-old), rose to heaven this morning when he, alongside his comrades, confronted the occupation forces that stormed the camp…he always used to be at the forefront in defending the lands of the camp, and today morning he was able to throw a Molotov cocktail at the occupation forces before he rose to heaven as a martyr…”
The PFLP held an event mourning “the comrade boy Adam Ayyad,” in which “members and leaders of the PFLP in the district and masked men from the martyr Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades [the PFLP’s military wing]” attended. During the event the PFLP lauded Ayyad and stated, “he persisted to implement the motto ‘if there is no escape from death, do not die before you become an adversary, and die only between bursts of gunfire.’”
On January 5, 2023, the PFLP reported that PFLP Deputy Secretary-General Jamil Mezher phoned Ayyad’s family and consoled them “on behalf of himself, the comrade commander Secretary-General Ahmad Sa’adat and all members of the PFLP political bureau and central committee for the passing of this ‘cub’ fighter.” Mezher expressed “his pride and glory in the courage and bravery of this martyr who, alongside his revolutionary comrades…confronted the Zionist occupation forces that stormed the camp…”
Pictures circulating on social media also indicate Ayyad’s affiliation with the terror group and his support for terror. For example, on October 25, 2022, Ayyad changed his Facebook profile cover picture to one showing a PFLP military demonstration. On the same day Ayyad wrote, “If you wish to be men, remember [Uday] Al-Tamimi [who opened fire at Israeli personnel in two separate incidents, killing an Israeli soldier] #Glory_to_the_martyrs.”
Following his death, Ayyad’s will was published, where he wrote, “I am so happy that the Lord has made one of my dreams come true – to become a martyr…martyrdom is not only death, martyrdom is pride for yourself and for the whole world, it is a victory…I tell you: ‘set your compass and aim it at the occupation…”
The PIJ also issued a eulogy poster for Ayyad, calling him “the boy martyr of Palestine…who rose to heaven as a martyr…during confrontations in Dheisheh camp…”
According to HRW: “Israeli forces killed Mahmoud al-Sadi, 17, while he was walking to school in Wadi Burqin, near the Jenin refugee camp, at around 9:30 a.m. on November 21, 2022. The Israeli military did not address or announce any intention to investigate Mahmoud’s killing, but said its forces were conducting arrest raids and exchanged fire with Palestinian fighters. There were no reports that Israeli troops were injured.”
Reality: Reports by international and Palestinian media identify Al-Saadi as 18-years-old at the time of his death, not 17-years-old as claimed by HRW. Mahmoud Al-Saadi was killed by IDF forces during violent riots in the village of Burkin, west of Jenin, which were started when an IDF unit entered the village to arrest a wanted terrorist. According to Israeli media, “During the operation…violent riots broke out with gunmen firing against Israeli forces. Troops responded, killing one Palestinian and wounding four others.”
On October 22, 2022, Al-Saadi wrote, “It’s just life and it ends. Oh Allah, how beautiful is life, but how beautiful is death.”
Following Al-Saadi’s death, the PIJ’s Jenin Brigade stated, “its fighters confronted the invading occupation forces at the target’s area and barraged them with heavy fire…” The PIJ also released at least two posters eulogizing Al-Saadi and referring to him as “the martyr fighter who rose to heaven…while confronting the invasion of Jenin [refugee] camp.”
Hamas and Fatah also mourned Al-Saadi, “the martyr hero.” Fatah’s military wing, Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, listed Al-Saadi as one of the “Jenin martyrs who rose to heaven while defending it and Palestine.”
Mohammed Nidal Salim (15)
According to HRW: ”Mohammed was shot in the back by a bullet that lodged in his right lung. He ran approximately 200 meters, then collapsed in a field. Residents reached him 30 minutes later, found him unconscious, and took him to a hospital in Azzun in a private vehicle. He was transferred by ambulance to a hospital in the Palestinian city of Qalqilya and pronounced dead on arrival.”
Reality: On March 2, 2023, IDF forces searched for suspects who had launched fireworks at Israeli motorists. According to the IDF, during the operation, Palestinians hurled Molotov cocktails at them, and troops responded with live fire, hitting several of the attackers.
15-year-old Mohammed Nidal Salim was shot by IDF forces during the incident.
Following his death, a picture of Salim carrying an assault rifle was shared on social media.