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OPT: DCI/PS Annual Report 2002

Format
Situation Report
Source
Posted
Originally published


Introduction

This report presents the activities of Palestine Section though 2002, which was probably one of the most difficult years in the organization’s history. This year, which should have been a celebration of the organization’s tenth anniversary, was unlike any year in our experience. It was the year when Israeli troops invaded, putting us right back to first base, namely occupation, with all that this entailed in terms of loss of will and freedom, not to mention the killing, closures and abrogation of other core human rights.

The year 2002 also represented an enormous challenge for human rights defenders in general, and defenders of child rights in particular. Indeed 192 children, including 83 under the age of 8 years old, were killed in 2002, probably the largest number of child deaths in any year since the start of the Israeli occupation. In addition, 2,500 children were injured, 43% of whom suffered injuries to the upper body and 40% of whom were under the age of 12.

Meanwhile, 33 schools were subjected to Israeli shelling and 18 schools were transformed into military bases and detention and interrogation centres. Hundreds of children were deprived of their liberty and thrown into the depths of Israeli prisons and detention centres. All of this, not to mention the destructive effects of Israeli attacks on Palestinian children’s mental health.

However, it is not the purpose of this introduction to list specific rights violations against Palestinian children, as these are mentioned in the report. Rather we wish to highlight some of the most flagrant human rights abuses to show the scale of the task faced by human rights organisations in addressing the effects of this situation.

Despite this bleak picture of Palestinian childhood in 2002, the DCI-PS team was able to improvise and use its capabilities to record a clear picture of the situation and thereby lobby and advocate for Palestinian child rights. In the midst of the Israeli reoccupation of Palestinian lands and the subsequent shelling, killing, destruction, closure and curfews, the DCI team continued to work within their homes. In this way, we were able to publish daily updates to the world under the title “Palestine Under Siege,” creating a historical document to authenticate the worst violations of children’s rights during the invasion.

Also in the midst of the siege, the DCI team succeeded in putting forward an alternative report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which played a large role in exposing Israeli practices and prompting the Committee to highlight Israeli practices against Palestinian children’s rights in its concluding remarks.

Also during the siege, DCI went to the UN Headquarters in New York to participate in the World Children’s Summit (UNGASS), where we had the honour of representing more than 270 NGO’s and Arab regional networks by speaking in front of the UN General Assembly and putting the spotlight on crimes committed against Palestinian children’s rights on a daily basis.

For this reason, on its tenth anniversary, DCI-PS was able to celebrate in its own particular way, by renewing its commitment to the cause of the Palestinian child. We do this by working in a responsible way, guided by a strong unbending desire to heal our children’s wounds which were inflicted during the invasion and its aftermath. In this way, we had the honour of working with children from Jenin and the surrounding camps and putting a smile back on their faces. The DCI team also worked with children in other Palestinian areas, in Nablus, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron and in villages, towns and camps, carrying out various projects to alleviate the effects of Israeli attacks on our people and our children.

In the field of mental health and crisis intervention, our work has concentrated on the Jenin camp and the Hebron area, particularly the old city and the camps, where there have been continuous army and settler attacks. It is worth mentioning here that in the period following the invasion, a number of Palestinian children were injured by UXO and mines, which led us to renew our landmine awareness campaign in different areas of the West Bank.

Within the girl-child project and the Palestine future project, DCI played an active role in organizing activities with boy and girl children across different areas, all of which played an important part in reducing the tension and alleviating the impact of the traumatic experiences of the invasion. The projects also helped children to articulate their expectations of the Palestine of the future.

Finally, in our work with Palestinian child prisoners, DCI extended its activities and put into place an emergency plan to offer legal services to the largest possible number of children appearing before the Israeli military courts. DCI also established a prison visit program in order to monitor and follow up the treatment of child prisoners in various detention and interrogation centres and prisons. Meanwhile, the Research and International Advocacy unit was able to mobilize international support on this issue on an unprecedented scale, among organizations and friends in an impressive number of countries, putting Palestinian child prisoners on the core agenda of a number of international organizations.

On this tenth anniversary of the foundation of DCI-Palestine, we can do no more than renew our pledge and our continuing commitment to our initial mission. We will not falter or turn back because we have a fierce determination to carry out our objectives in promoting the rights of Palestinian children.

Nevertheless, all of us hope that the day will come when children can live in peace and security and with justice in these Holy Lands.

George Abu Al-Zulof
Director

The Documentation Unit

Introduction: As the Second Intifada continued, the year 2002 was characterized by a further increase in the trend towards Israeli human rights violations against Palestinians in general, and against the rights of the Palestinian child specifically.

During this year, Israeli occupation forces attacked and reoccupied all areas under Palestinian Authority control in the West Bank, and made incursions into PA-controlled areas in the Gaza Strip. These actions were accompanied by the bombing of civilian areas, extended closures and curfews in all areas, house demolitions and the destruction of land, in a clear breach of international humanitarian law and the norms of human rights.

The effect was hundreds of civilian fatalities, thousands of injuries, thousands of civilian arrests and the enforced expulsion of hundreds of Palestinian families due to the destruction of their homes.

Faced with this devastating number of violations against Palestinian children’s rights, and despite obstacles to safe travel and freedom of movement, the DCI Documentation Unit was able to carry out its objectives by working in two principal ways:

a. Recruiting volunteer field researchers throughout the West Bank and Gaza strip to undertake field research, all of whom have experience in this area.

b. Coordination with local government and non-governmental institutions to enable the unit to monitor and follow-up on violations against Palestinian children’s rights.

Unit Aims

1. Field documentation of all violations of Palestinian child rights.

2. Collection of information and field investigations from various sources

3. Creation of confidential files on all cases of child fatalities and other cases where there have been clear breaches of children’s rights.

4. Continuous development and updating of the information base on these violations

We will now discuss some of the most blatant violations of Palestinian child rights carried out by Israeli occupation forces in the year 2002, which have been monitored, followed up and documented by the Documentation Unit.

Activities

The Right to Life and Physical Security

The Fourth Geneva Convention relating to the protection of civilians in time of war (1949) prevents all kinds of attacks on the life and security of protected civilians. Article 147 states that an attack on the right to life is a grave breach of the treaty, while Article 6 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990) states that “States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life” and in the second paragraph that “States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.”

A. Child Deaths:

In 2002, the Israeli occupying forces increased their unprecedented use of excessive force, inflicting the largest number of casualties over the course of the al-Aqsa Intifada so far. Since the start of this Intifada, Israeli forces have used warplanes and gun-ships to bomb populated civilian areas and live/exploding bullets and heavy artillery to suppress opposition and quell peaceful Palestinian marches, despite the fact that these weapons were designed for use in war . Moreover, Israeli occupation forces continued to use these weapons to attack civilian areas, and frequently, civilians themselves.

This excessive use of force has been a large reason for escalating child casualty figures. From the start of the Intifada (September 28, 2000) until the end of 2002, DCI has documented 384 Palestinian child deaths (i.e. under 18) at the hands of Israeli occupying forces or settlers. This figure includes 192 deaths in 2002, near double the 98 in 2001 and 94 in the period 28/9/ 2000 to 31/12/2000.


Palestinian Child Deaths Caused by Israeli forces or settlers, 28/9/00 to 31/12/02:

Source DCI


On more than one occasion, Israeli officials have repeated the broken record that the families of Palestinian children and others are using children as human shields in demonstrations in order to increase the number of child fatalities and positively influence world opinion. However, through the documentation of Israeli rights violations against the Palestinian child’s right to life, we can strongly refute these claims, and show that most deaths have occurred away from demonstrations and two-sided clashes.

Circumstances Surrounding Palestinian Child Deaths:
Circumstances/ Period of Time
2002
2001
28.9.2000-31.12.2000
Total
No.
%
No.
%
No.
%
No.
%
Clashes
30
15.63
42
42.86
80
85.11
152
39.58
Air and ground attacks
67
34.90
17
17.35
4
4.26
88
22.92
Assassination Attempts
19
9.90
12
12.24
31
8.07
Various Other Attacks
50
26.04
17
17.35
9
9.57%
76
19.79
Closure
9
4.69
3
3.06
1
1.06
13
3.39
UXOs
12
6.25
7
7.14
19
4.95
House Demolitions
5
2.60
5
1.30
Total
192
100
98
100
94
100
384
100
Source DCI

The above table shows the sharp rise in child deaths during 2002 as a result of one-sided actions, such as the random shelling of civilian areas and policies such as extralegal killings, closures and strict curfews. There has also been an increase in the number of fatalities caused by items left behind by Israeli troops, including unexploded ordinance. All of these fatalities occurred when children were not in the vicinity of demonstrations. Indeed, we note that there has been a continuous decrease in the number of children who were killed while taking part in demonstrations or marches, or in the vicinity of these events. We will now take a look at the principal circumstances surrounding child deaths in 2002.

i) Victims of Random Shelling:

The number of children killed as a result of random shelling over the course of the Intifada to end-2002, has reached 88, equivalent to 23% of total child fatalities during this period. This figure includes 4 children who were killed between 28 September 2000 and 31 September 2000, or 4.26% of total deaths in this period. That percentage increased approximately fourfold in 2001, to 17 children, or 17% of total child deaths, rising again to 67 children in 2002, comprising 35% of total child deaths.

ii) Victims killed during demonstrations or opposition marches:

It is evident from the information gathered by DCI that there has been a tangible decrease in the number of children dying as a result of their participation in demonstrations and marches or due to their presence in the vicinity of these actions. The number of children killed in these circumstances throughout the al-Aqsa Intifada is 152, or 40% of total fatalities to end-2002. This figure includes 80 fatalities in the period 28/9/2000 to end-2000, or 85% of total child deaths in this period, almost halving in 2001, to 42 children, or 43% of total fatalities. This decrease continued into 2002, when 30 children died in these circumstances, or approximately 16% of total deaths.

It is also worth mentioning that not all children who died during clashes and popular opposition events were participating in these actions. Indeed, 16 children who died in these circumstances in 2002 were not taking part in these events.

iii) Victims of Extra-Judicial Killings:

The fourth paragraph of Article 38 of the UNCRC states that “in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect the civilian population in armed conflicts, States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict.”

According to information gathered by DCI, it is clear that there has been a continuous increase in the number of children who have died as a result of the extra-judicial assassination policy followed by Israeli forces to kill Palestinian activists. Whether the operations are successful or not, according to the Israeli sense of the word, a number of Palestinian children have been among its victims.

Since the start of the Intifada to end-2002, 31 children have died as a result of this policy, equivalent to 8% of total deaths during this period. Among them, 12 children died during 2001, representing 12% of fatalities, and 19 children died in 2002, representing 10% of fatalities.

The most shocking example of this was the death of 8 children during an operation to assassinate Salah Shihada in Daraj, Gaza on 22 July 2002. On this occasion, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet bombed a civilian apartment block, causing a large number of casualties, including children.

iv) Victims of Closure and Curfew:

DCI information shows an incremental increase in the number of children who have died as a result of the stifling closures and continuous curfews imposed on Palestinian areas by Israeli forces. Thirteen children have died as a result of closure since the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada to end-2002, equivalent to 3% of total deaths. In 2000, one child died as a result of this policy, increasing to 3 children in 2001 and 9 children in 2002.

v) Victims of Landmines and Unexploded Ordnance:

There has been an increase in the number of children killed as a result of landmine explosions and unexploded ordnance, outside minefields and military training grounds (including areas where there have been armed clashes between Israeli and Palestinians and areas and locations taken over by Israeli forces).

From the start of the Intifada to end-2002, 19 children have died as a result of unexploded ordnance left behind by Israeli troops, equivalent to 5% of total deaths in this period. Within this, seven children were killed in 2001, representing 7% of total deaths, and a further 12 children in 2002, representing 6% of total deaths.

vi) Victims of House Demolitions:

Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states that “the extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly...(represents) a grave breach.” In 2002, rising numbers of house demolitions, either to clear a secure path for Israeli forces or to punish families of “terrorists,” have not only led to homelessness for the victims, but sometimes death. For the first time, 2002 witnessed five Palestinian child deaths in these circumstances, equivalent to 3% of total child fatalities in 2002 or 1% of fatalities over the course of the Intifada. The excessive use of force or the failure to ensure that occupants have left the property was the principal reason for these casualties.

One such case was the family of Samir Sha’by, who was living with members of his family in the old city of Nablus. The household included Samir, his wife who was 7-months pregnant and their children, ‘Abdullah Samir Sha’by (8), ‘Uzzam Samir Sha’by (6), Anis Samir Sha’by (3). On 20 April 2002, after Israeli troops had entered the city of Nablus, they began destroying houses in the old city to enable bulldozers and transporters to enter into the alleys and streets of the city. This resulted in the demolition of the home on top of all of its occupants, claiming the lives of the whole Sha’by family.

vii) Victims in Places that Should Be Safe:

In 2002, the number of children killed in or around their homes reached 65, constituting 34% of total deaths. Moreover, 85 children were killed on the way to or from school or when they were carrying out personal or family errands, equivalent to 44% of all child fatalities.

viii) Victims of Various Other Attacks:

DCI has documented 76 child deaths from the start of the Intifada to end-2002 as a result of various other attacks by Israeli forces, outside the context of clashes. This is equivalent to 20% of total deaths throughout this period, and includes 9 children in 2000 (from September 28 to end year) or 10% of total deaths, rising to 17 deaths or 17% of total deaths in 2001, and 50 deaths or 26% of deaths in 2002.


Breakdown of Palestinian Child Deaths according to Age:
Age Group
2000*
2001
2002
Total
No.
%
No.
%
No.
%
No.
%
0-8 years
4
4.26
13
13.27
50
26.04
67
17.45
9-12 years
9
9.57
21
21.43
33
17.19
63
16.41
13-15 years
34
36.17
31
31.63
62
32.29
127
33.07
16-17 years
47
50
33
33.67
47
24.48
127
33.07
Total
94
100%
98
100%
192
100%
384
100%
Source DCI

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