The Palestinian Center For Human Rights – PCHR: 5 April 2023 marks Palestinian Child Day, the day when the late President Yasser ‘Arafat announced the State of Palestine’s voluntary commitment to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) at the first Palestinian Child Conference on 05 April 1995. This day was designated for the Palestinian child, noting that the State of Palestine officially ratified CRC on 02 April 2014.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), children in Palestine represent 44% of the total population (41% in the West Bank, and 47% in Gaza Strip). Citing Dr. ‘Ola ‘Awad, the President of PCBS, the number of children is expected to be 2.39 million in Palestine by mid-2023, (1.22 million males and 1.17 million females.)
5th April comes this year while the Palestinian children suffer from the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF)’s escalating violations and ongoing racist measures and colonial policies against the Palestinian people, which include military attacks and daily Israeli incursions into Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps, recurrent Israeli offensives on the Gaza Strip, house demolitions and more land confiscations in favor of establishment of more settlements, suppression of peaceful protests and shooting at the protestors, restriction on freedom of movement, the Israel inhuman closure on the Gaza Strip, isolating Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), and establishment of military checkpoints in the West Bank.
The Palestinian children were absolutely away from these arbitrary measures practiced by the Israeli occupation authorities, rather they were the first victims to fall, despite all international conventions and treaties that guarantee provision of security, protection, and human care for children.
According to PCHR’s documentation, IOF directly targeted children as in 2022, 41 children were killed (33 in the West Bank and 8 in the Gaza Strip) while 254 children were wounded (212 in the West Bank and 42 in the Gaza Strip). Meanwhile, during the first quarter of 2023, 17 children have been killed by IOF, and 54 others have been wounded.
According to a report published by Palestinian prisoners’ organizations, in 2022 IOF arrested 882 children and were subjected during all stages of arrest to physical and mental torture and cruel treatment in inhumane conditions.
Some of these arrestees were shot during detention as 19 children were referred to administrative detention while there are still 150 children detained in the Israeli prisons, including 7 children who are under administrative detention. According to PCHR’s documentation, during the first quarter of 2023, IOF arrested nearly 158 children.
2023 has witnessed practices and measures by the Israeli government that are more racist and led by a group of extremist settlers, who called on settlers to carry weapons and provided them protection and support when attacking villages and cities in the West Bank and during their raids on Palestinian houses and burning their property like what happened in Huwwara village. PCHR recalls the statement of Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s Finance Minister, during a conference that “the village of Huwwara needs to be wiped out” and that the State of Israel should do it”.
Such a statement from a very senior official in the Israeli government reveals the true face of the Israel occupation which intends to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homes and lands and shows the suffering of the Palestinian children and status of their rights in Palestine as well as the violations they are exposed to.
At the internal Palestinian side, the ongoing Palestinian political division, failure to hold elections, absence of the legislative council that enacts legislations and laws to provide protection and care for children, and the deteriorating economic and social conditions affect the lives and future of children, and hinder realization of their rights.
Children are still exposed to different forms of violence, from school dropouts to child labor. The Social Development Ministry’s non-disbursement of social affairs dues to poor families on regular basis, and the Palestinian Government’s inability to find solutions and address the closure of schools and suspension of the educational process due to the teachers’ strike have contributed to a noticeable decline in the status of the Palestinian child’s rights.
On this occasion, PCHR expresses its full support for children in Palestine in the face of all forms of violations of their rights and reiterates its support for their just causes and rights. PCHR calls on:
- The international community to provide protection for the Palestinian children and exert pressure on Israel to end their recurrent crimes and attacks against the Palestinian children.
- The international community to take immediate action to Israel accountable and end the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory.
- The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open an investigation into the crimes committed against the Palestinian children and bring the perpetrators to justice.
- The Palestinian Government to set a national protection mechanism for children by enacting laws and legislations that guarantee their protection from all forms of discrimination and violations, and to provide a safe environment that protects children from all forms of exploitation and extortion.
- The Palestinian Government to involve children in developing plans and policies, and to allocate budgets necessary for the realization of children’s rights.
- The Palestinian Government to put an end to the suffering of children, and work to provide the necessary intensive support, whether at the psychological and health level or food supply, especially for the poorest children, children with disabilities, and victims of violations.