In her report to the 40th Session of the Human Rights Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict highlights the recruitment and use of children, arguing that “Child recruitment and use by parties to conflict contributes to fuelling conflicts.” In her conclusions and recommendations, she “calls on Member States to prevent child recruitment and use by non-State armed groups, including those using violent extremist tactics, and hold the perpetrators accountable.”1
However, despite this and other clear statements by the international community regarding the emphasis placed on combating this grave violation, the UNHRC, UNICEF, and other UN bodies continue to turn a blind eye to Palestinian abuse of children.
The violence along the Israel-Gaza border demonstrates this particular failure.
Since March 2018, Hamas has organized hundreds of thousands of individuals to amass along the Israel border with Gaza and carry out violent attacks. This military campaign, disguised as “peaceful protests,” is not only intended to attack Israeli military installations and abduct IDF soldiers, but it is also intended to terrorize, to cause wanton destruction, and to inflict bodily harm to Israeli civilians, including children. Civilians living in the “Gaza envelope” (communities that abut the border) have been particularly hard hit.
One of the most egregious violations committed by Palestinian armed groups in this context has been the recruitment of children for these attacks. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, and others encourage children, as young as 10, to carry out acts of violence or serve as cover for such acts along the border fence in hopes that they will be injured or killed, cynically providing Palestinian leaders with a macabre PR victory.2 This abuse occurs in several ways:
- Recruiting and using children to participate in the hostilities, including using them as decoys along the border fence, using them to bait IDF soldiers into the range of Palestinian snipers, launching incendiary devices, throwing stones, burning tires, or employing them to destroy the border fence;
- Exposing Palestinian children to a culture of violence and incitement;
- Allowing children to be present at the border violence, thus placing them in grave danger.
For example, on March 25, 2018, Hamas sent a 7-year-old girl to the Gaza security fence during the protests. The IDF thankfully ensured she was safely returned to her parents.3 Photos taken throughout July and August show children making and launching incendiary balloons from Gaza into Israel attached with IEDs.4 These balloons not only put Palestinian children at risk, but were designed to appeal to Israeli children who might find such balloons. On July 25, the IDF explained that an incident of “deadly violence” began with a “bait” riot staged by children, intended to lure Israeli soldiers into Hamas and other terror groups’ sniper range.5 In September, videos surfaced of Palestinian children attempting cut the border fence and light tires to create a smoke screen to facilitate Palestinian armed infiltrations into Israeli territory.6
- United Nations, “Children and armed conflict: Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict,” December 26, 2018: https://documents-ddsny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G18/446/72/PDF/G1844672.pdf?OpenElement
- Yoav Zitun, “Lieberman: Hamas heads to blame for death of Palestinian teen,” YNet,” April 21, 2018: https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5236527,00.html
- Judah Ari Gross, “IDF: Hamas cynically sent a 7-year-old girl to breach Gaza border,” Times of Israel, March 30, 2018: https://www.timesofisrael.com/idf-hamas-cynically-sent-7-year-old-girl-to-breach-gaza-border/
- Joe Truzmah (@Jtruzmah), “Children making and launching incendiary balloons from #Gaza into #Israel,” July 9, 2018: https://twitter.com/Jtruzmah/status/1016242874042572801
- Yoav Zitun, Elior Levy, and Elana Curiel, “IDF: Children used in ‘trap’ terror attack before deadly Gaza border violence,” YNet, July 25, 2018: https://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-5317024,00.html
- Joe Truzmah (@Jtruzmah), “Seeing children at the #Gaza border has become a common sight I’m afraid. I come across it a lot in the work I do. This was taken several days ago. A child attempting to light a tire on fire that’s wedged in the razor wire at the border,” September 25, 2018: https://twitter.com/Jtruzmah/status/1044815148433756164; StandWithUs (@StandWithUs), “Children (!!!) at the #Gaza border cutting the fence in the midst of Gaza riots near Beit Lahia yesterday. The trend of #Palestinian child endangerment continues. This is #NoWayToTreatAChild! H/t @Jtruzmah,” September 25, 2018: https://twitter.com/StandWithUs/status/1044738320436203526