Israel military detainment of West Bank children shows pattern of abuse

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5-year-old West Bank boy detaineed by Israeli troops
A still from July 2013 video footage taken by Israeli human rights watchdog group B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories shows five-year-old Wadi Maswadeh and his younger sister with an unknown adult surrounded by soldiers before Wadi’s arrest. Wadi was arrested after someone witnessed the five-year-old throwing stones at cars on a Hebron street in the West Bank.  Image: B’Tseleem

(WNN) Jerusalem, ISRAEL, WESTERN ASIA: Mistreatment of West Bank children who are brought into custody by Israeli military forces has revealed a pattern of “ill-treatment” says UNICEF – United Nations Children’s Fund in a recent report outlining the problems for children under incarceration.

2013 data from attorneys working with UNISPAL – United Nations Informati0n System on the Question of Palestine now reveals that 180 children continue to be detained by Israel’s military. Out of these child detainees, 31 of the children are under the age of 16.

Stating that children in Israeli military detainment are facing a pattern of mistreatment and abuse, global advocates continue to speak out on issues that include unjust arbitrary arrests and incarceration of Palestinian children.

“Since November 2009, B’Tselem has received testimonies from dozens of Palestinian residents of the Bethlehem and Hebron districts, most of them minors, alleging that they were subjected to threats and violence, sometimes amounting to torture, during their interrogation at the police station at Gush Etzion. The station is located within the jurisdiction of the SHAI (Judea and Samaria) District of the Israel Police. The testimonies describe interrogations in which the minors were forced to confess to alleged offenses, mostly stone-throwing. In almost all cases, the interrogators stopped using violence against the interrogatees once they confessed,” says B’Tselem an Israeli based watchdog group.

“The interrogator ‘Daud’ took me outside with a soldier. They blindfolded me. The plastic cable ties were still on my hands. They put me in a car and started driving,” said former child detainee M.A. a resident of West Bank city of Husan approximately 4 miles west of the city of Bethlehem. M.A. who was 15-years-of-age at the time of his arrest.

“I don’t know where they took me. We reached some place outside Etzion and they forced me out of the car. My hands really hurt because of the cable ties. They took off my blindfold. I didn’t know where I was. They tied me to a tree, and then they raised my cuffed hands and tied them to the tree, too. It hurt a lot. ‘Daud’ started punching me. After a few minutes, he took out a gun and said: “I’ll murder you if you don’t confess! Out here, no one will find you. We’ll kill you and leave you here,” M.A. continued.

Documenting specific abuse cases of child detainees since 2009 B’Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories was established in February 1989 by a group of journalists, attorneys, prominent academics. To date they have documented 64 accounts of abuse of children who were under the age of 16.

Abuse in the treatment of children has occurred during the arrest, transfer and incarceration of Palestinian children by Israeli military troops stationed in the West Bank, outlines UNICEF. In response to the UN agency’s formal release of information outlining abuse of children, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel as well as the Office of the Israeli Military Advocate General has agreed to study the report and its highlighted recommendations.

“Israeli authorities are now taking steps towards addressing some of UNICEF recommendations,” says UNICEF.

In spite of this, as of October, documentation of abuse of children under detainment have continued.

Below are recommendations that have been made by UNICEF to Israel’s IDF – Central Command for the West Bank:

1. In September 2013, the IDF Central Command for the West Bank has agreed to pilot test in two areas in the West Bank, a new approach: to issue summons of children in lieu of night arrest at home, which can be traumatic for children and their siblings. This is a critical development, in line with one of the paper’s most important recommendations, which states that “arrests of children should be conducted during daylight, notwithstanding exceptional and grave situations”.

2. In April 2013, Israeli Military Order 1711 came into effect, reducing the time a Palestinian child can be detained prior to appearing before a military court judge for the first time. The new order reduces the time from four days to 24 hours for children aged 12-13, and from four to two days for children aged 14-15. There is no change for children aged 16-17. This measure is in line with the report’s recommendation that children “in detention shall, within 24 hours of their arrest, have prompt and effective access to an independent judicial review of the legality of their arrest and detention”. However these time periods can be extended if “special circumstances” are alleged.

3. In The Military Prosecutor stated that since June 2013, the remand hearings for children were held separately from the adults, as the result of a verbal agreement between the prosecution and the judges.

“UNICEF will continue to engage with Israel’s Military Advocate General and advocate for the implementation of all 38 recommendations of the briefing paper, to improve protection for children in conformity with international standards,” said the United Nations organization that continues today to work worldwide as a strong and ongoing advocate for children.

The recommendations that have been highlighted include the prohibition of physical abuse against children before, during or after arrest that uses painful restraint, blindfolding, strip searching and solitary confinement. Children should not be arrested at night, “except in extreme circumstances,” stressed UNICEF in its recommendations.

A lawyer or family member should be present during interrogation of child suspects; and a video-recording should be made, added UNICEF.


For more information on this topic:

Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations,” UNICEF, February 2013,

Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations Bulletin No. 1,” UNICEF, October 2013.


In February 2013, 15-year-old Odai Saleh sustained a gunshot wound to the head during clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers outside Aida refugee camp, near Bethlehem. The rubber-coated bullet is still lodged in his head, leaving him with impaired physical and mental function. Odai chooses to fight the moment that changed his life forever by focusing on getting better. This video is a production of Defense for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-Palestine), a non-governmental organization dedicated to preserving child rights. 


Five-year-old Wadi Maswadeh was arrested by Israeli soldiers for throwing stones in the street – his father was also detained, handcuffed and blind-folded until Palestinian Police arrived on the scene. This video was produced anonymously and placed on Youtube by LIVELeak.


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