Israeli forces killed and maimed some 2,800 Palestinian children in 2018, the highest number in years, and yet were not mentioned on an annual United Nations blacklist of armed forces that commit atrocities against youth.
Some 59 Palestinian children were killed last year and 2,756 more were injured — the highest number since 2014, according to a report by UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres that will be published this week, an advance copy of which was seen by Mondoweiss.
While Guterres called for a probe into the deaths and blasted Israel for endangering Palestinian youths, the UN chief did not embarrass Israel by naming it on his “list of shame” in the annexes of the survey.
“I am extremely concerned by the significant rise in the maiming of and injuries caused to children across Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, including by tear gas inhalation requiring medical treatment,” Guterres said in the report.
The UN chief directed his envoy on Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, to investigate the deaths and urged Israel “to immediately put in place preventive and protective measures to end the excessive use of force.”
More than half of the deaths of Palestinian children occurred during demonstrations at the Gaza fence, where protesters massed from March 2018 onwards demanding an end to an Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the narrow coastal strip.
Most of slain young protesters were “shot by live ammunition to the upper body, while reportedly posing no imminent threat of death or serious injury to Israeli forces”, the UN chief said in his 43-page report.
In the West Bank, some 1,398 Palestinian children were hurt by Israeli forces during “demonstrations, clashes and search and arrest operations”, the report says. Almost 1,000 of these were injured by inhaling tear gas.
Meanwhile, some 203 Palestinian children were detained by Israeli forces over security offences, including 87 who were serving time and 114 others awaiting trial. Most of them had “reported ill treatment”, the document said.
Israel must “uphold international juvenile justice standards, as well as to cease the use of administrative detention for children and end all forms of ill-treatment in detention, and to cease any attempted recruitment of detained children as informants,” the report said.
The document also criticised armed Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad’s al-Quds Brigades and Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades, for recruiting child fighters. Six Israeli children were injured last year, including two girls hurt in an indiscriminate Palestinian rocket attack.
The UN’s annual report on children and armed conflict does not subject those listed to action but rather shames parties to conflicts in the hope of pushing them to implement measures so that fewer youngsters get hurt and killed.
Israel was not listed in the annexes of the document, which are dubbed the “list of shame” of armed groups that enlist child soldiers, target schools or carry out military strikes regardless of how many children get hurt.
Adrianne Lapar, a program director for Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a monitoring group, told Mondoweiss that the UN should not have downplayed Israel’s careless disregard for Palestinian children.
“Last year was one of the most dangerous for children in Israel-Palestine, with the Israel Defense Forces responsible for thousands of child casualties. Yet they have not been listed in the annexes,” Lapar said.
“Unfortunately the listing process is increasingly politicized, including Israel-Palestine … Efforts by states to politicize the process undermine one of the strongest mechanisms for accountability in the UN’s toolbox and downplay the suffering of child victims and their families.”
Israel’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request from Mondoweiss for comment about the latest UN report on children and armed conflict, which is produced at the request of the UN Security Council.
The annual document has long been controversial, with diplomats saying that Israel exerted pressure to stay off the list in recent years. The same goes for other forces that have faced criticism, such as the Saudi Arabia-led coalition fighting in Yemen.
In 2015, the UN left Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas off the blacklist, after they had been included in an earlier draft, but criticized Israel over its 2014 military operations. Israel denied lobbying then secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on the issue.