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The recent mass arrest of 27 Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers on March 20, 2013 is a shocking example of the violation of children’s rights in H2 (the portion of Hebron under Israeli Military control) in and near the Old City neighborhood of Hebron. Sadly the event is not an isolated incident. The suddenness of the arrest and the fact that it was not precipitated by a specific incident but was instead an attempt to round up as many children as possible in order to question them make the incident particularly egregious. Unfortunately children living in H2 are subject to experiences which violate their rights as children on a daily basis. Since the start of February human rights workers in Hebron have witnessed and documented 47 detentions and/or arrests of children age fifteen and under by Israeli soldiers. A UNICEF document released in February, 2013 describes the arrest, interrogation and detention by the Israeli army, police and security agents of approximately 700 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17 each year, throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
The following report documents incidents in H2 which were witnessed by international human rights workers during February, March and early April of 2013. It contains only the incidents during which internationals were present and able to provide documentation. Children living and attending school in H2 experience daily interruption of their right to access education, to move freely, to play, to access their communities and to be free from intimidation. The great majority of incidents in which soldiers harass or intimidate children are witnessed only by the children and the soldiers involved.
On multiple occasions during this period internationals observed soldiers detaining and questioning children in the street, inside checkpoints, inside buildings, in the cemetery and in front of schools. In clear violation of international law these detained children were not provided with legal counsel, and were held without a parent or legal guardian present. In some cases they were handcuffed, blindfolded, transported, and confined inside checkpoint containers.
Internationals monitoring checkpoints near schools in the Old City have witnessed the persistent violation of the right of children in H2 to freely access education. Human rights workers routinely see soldiers searching the schoolbags of children, detaining children who are on their way to school, practicing military exercises with weapons while children are present, stopping and questioning children as they pass through checkpoints on their way to school, requiring children to identify people in photographs and detaining children at checkpoints. Soldiers frequently stop, search and detain teachers and school administrators as they walk through checkpoints to work, even though the teachers pass through the same checkpoints to the same schools each day and are well known to the soldiers. On some occasions teachers are held long enough to cause the school day to begin late.
Palestinian children living in H2 are experiencing what can only be described as a human rights crisis. Their treatment by soldiers constitutes an inexcusable violation of international law, which clearly holds state parties responsible for assuring the rights of children as defined by Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child:
Human rights workers in Hebron call upon Duty Bearers to assure the human rights of children are respected. As an Occupying Power the State of Israel is responsible for abiding by international law and for protecting the specific rights of children. It is the duty of the State to police its own military, and assure that soldiers stationed in civilian neighborhoods are informed and respectful of the rights of children.
In order to address the critical nature of the crisis faced by children in Hebron, human rights workers in call upon relevant UN agencies and NGOs to carry out their mandate by providing protection for children, and to pressure the State of Israel to change its policy vis-a-vis children in the Old City and H2.
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