Ramallah, 21 March 2013—Israeli forces detained dozens of school-age Palestinian children in the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday just hours before US President Barack Obama arrived in Tel Aviv for three days of meetings.
Israeli soldiers rounded up 27 backpack-wearing children on their way to school, DCI-Palestine and other news sources said, roughing up several of them in the process. At least seven of them were between 6 to 10 years old, falling below the age of criminal responsibility, DCI-Palestine confirmed. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem released raw footage of the arrests captured by an international activist.
In a statement to the Hebrew- language daily Yedioth Ahronoth, the Israeli army said it carried out the arrests “due to recent stone-throwing incidents toward the security forces and citizens in the city.”
“We are outraged by the Israeli army’s mass arrest and ill-treatment of Palestinian schoolchildren in Hebron, some as young as 6,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCI-Palestine. “There can be no justification for detaining children below the minimum age of criminal responsibility. Such traumatic experiences stay with them long after the incident.”
Most of the children were released later that day, but “seven have been taken for a police interrogation,” according to the Israeli army statement.
February registered the highest number of Palestinian children detained in Israeli jails since October 2010, DCI-Palestine research showed, reaching a total of 236, including 39 minors between the ages of 12 and 15.
In recent months, DCI-Palestine documented an increase in physical assault of children arrested and detained by Israeli forces. UNICEF released a report this month backing Palestinians claims that ill-treatment of children was widespread and systematic within the Israeli military detention system.