GENEVA - Thousands of Palestinian children in Gaza and the occupied West Bank have been systematically tortured and used as human shields by Israel over the past decade, the United Nations has said.
"Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture," the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) said in a report cited by Reuters on Thursday, June 21.[They] are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released.
The CRC report said up to 7,000 Palestinian children aged 9 to 17 were arrested and interrogated by Israel and kept captive.
The report cited at least 14 cases of abuse that have taken place in the past three years.
"Hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed and thousands injured over the reporting period as a result of the state party military operations, especially in Gaza where the state party proceeded to (conduct) air and naval strikes on densely populated areas with a significant presence of children, thus disregarding the principles of proportionality and distinction.
The report, carried out by 18 independent experts, examined Israel's record of compliance with a 1990 treaty as part of its regular review of a pact signed by all nations except Somalia and the United States.
It said most Palestinian children arrested by Israel are accused of having thrown stones, an offence which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Many are brought in leg chains and shackles before military courts, while youths are held in solitary confinement, sometimes for months, the report said.
The CRC report accused Israel of using Palestinian children as human shields.
"Almost all those using children as human shields and informants have remained unpunished and the soldiers convicted for having forced at gunpoint a nine-year-old child to search bags suspected of containing explosives only received a suspended sentence of three months and were demoted.
The CRC voiced deep concern at the "continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants".
Moreover, the report condemned the effect of Israel's "illegal long-standing occupation" of Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan Heights.
It also voiced concerns over the continued expansion of "unlawful" Jewish settlements, construction of the Wall into the West Bank, land confiscation and destruction of homes and livelihoods "constitute severe and continuous violations of the rights of Palestinian children and their families".
Israel occupied the holy city of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) and the West Bank in the 1967 war and later annexed it in a move not recognized by the international community or UN resolutions.
There are more than 164 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, eating up more than 40 percent of the occupied West Bank.The international community considers all settlements on the occupied land illegal.