Defense For Children International, (DCI) Palestine Branch, announced the opening of the four National Child conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. The conference will focus on “Child Neglect, Exploitation, and Abuse” and will involve one hundred boys and girls from all over the West Bank, in addition to Occupied Syrian Golan Heights, Nazareth and Jerusalem.

Children from several west Bank areas, villages in the occupied Golan Heights are participating in the activities of the conference, yet, Gaza children could not participate as a result of the Israeli restrictions on movement in an out of the Gaza Strip.

“This conference coincides and overlaps with the ongoing Palestinian Campaign to End Corporal Punishment against Children, launched by DCI/PS at the beginning of 2006. Four position papers, tackling the issues of child sexual abuse, child neglect and maltreatment, corporal punishment and legal protection and defence mechanisms, will be presented by specialists in the above mentioned fields. In addition, children will present position papers on the same issues in parallel”, DCI Palestine reported on their website.

The conference takes place from August 21 and 24 in the Shepherd Hotel in Bethlehem. The official opening was in the main hall at 10  am on 22 August.

“Recalling that the Gaza Strip has been under belligerent occupation by Israel since 1967, and that it remains under occupation despite the 12 September 2005 ‘disengagement’ of Israeli troops, the attacks by both the Israeli army and Palestinian armed groups in the past month have been characterized by their lack of respect for the customary international law principle of distinction”, the DCI stated on their website.

“This principle requires combatants at all times to distinguish between civilians and civilian objects, and military objectives. The Israeli tactics in Gaza have also been condemned as disproportionate by the EU and the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator in that the incidental loss of Palestinian lives, injury of Palestinians and damage to Palestinian civilian infrastructure has been excessive in relation to the military advantage understood to be gained by Israel . Israeli air, sea and ground troops have opened fire in civilian areas in the dense population centers of Gaza cities and refugee camps, including near hospitals, schools, and in crowded residential housing complexes on numerous occasions:, the DCI added.

The DCI reported on its website that the following children have been killed by the Israeli attacks in Gaza since 26 June 2006:

   1. Anwar Isma’el Atallah, 12 years old
   2. Saleh Sleman Al Jemasi, 16 years old
   3. Ruwan Fareed Hajjaj, 5 years old
   4. Khalid Nidal Abed Al Karim Wahbeh, 1 year old
   5. Mahfouth Farid Nasseer, 15 years old
   6. Ahmad Ghaleb Abu Amshah, 16 years old
   7. Ahmed Fathi Odah Shabat, 16 years old
   8. Waleed Mahmoud Al Zinati, 12 years old
   9. Salah Adeen Hammad Abu Maktuma, 17 years old
  10. Ibrahim Ali Khatoush, 15 years old
  11. Mahmoud Muhammad Al Asar, 15 years old
  12. Ibrahim Ali Al Nabaheen, 15 years old
  13. Ahmad Abdil Mina’m Abu Hajaj, 16 years old
  14. Nasrallah Nabil Abu Selmieh, 5 years old
  15. Aya Nabil Abu Selmieh, 7 years old
  16. Iman Nabil Abu Selmieh, 11 years old
  17. Yahya Nabil Abu Selmieh, 9 years old
  18. Huda Nabil Abu Selmieh, 13 years old
  19. Basma Nabil Abu Selmieh, 15 years old
  20. Sumaia Nabil Abu Selmieh, 16 years old
  21. Raji Omar Deif Alla, 16 years old
  22. Muhanna Sa’ed Mesleh, 16 years old
  23. Ahmad Rawhee Abdo, 13 years old
  24. Ali Kamil Al Najar, 13 years old
  25. Fadwa Faisel al ‘Urouqi, 13 years old
  26. Mohammad Awad Muhra, 17 years old
  27. Khitam Muhammad Tayeh, 11 years old
  28. Nadee Habib Al Ataar, 11 years old
  29. Saleh Ibrahim Nasser, 13 years old
  30. Ashraf Abdullah Awad Abu Thaher, 14 years old
  31. Bara’ Naser Habib, 2 years old

The DCI – Palestine called on international political actors to return to the logic of ‘durable solutions’ and to stop the current escalation in violence.

Also, the DCI added that any solution to the current and future crisis in occupied Palestine must include a reiterated commitment to the principles of international humanitarian law, especially all laws that call for the protection of civilians and children, and civilian infrastructure in the time of war.

For more information,  and to know more about the DCI, please click on teh link below to be directed to their website;