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Children and armed conflict
Report of the Secretary-General
1. The present report, which covers the period from January to December 2015, is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2225 (2015). It highlights recent global trends regarding the impact of armed conflict on children and provides information on grave violations committed against children in 2015. The main activities with regard to the implementation of relevant Council resolutions and the conclusions of the Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict are outlined. In line with the resolutions of the Council, the annexes to the report include a list of parties that engage in the recruitment and use of children, sexual violence against children, the killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools and/or hospitals and attacks or threats of attacks against protected personnel. Under Security Council resolutions 1998 (2011) and 2143 (2014), protected persons are considered to be teachers, doctors, other educational personnel, students and patients. and the abduction of children.
2. All the information provided in the present report and its annexes has been vetted for accuracy by the United Nations. In situations in which the ability to obtain or independently verify information is hampered by such factors as insecurity or access restrictions, it is qualified as such. The preparation of the report and its annexes involved broad consultations within the United Nations, at Headquarters and in the field, and with relevant Member States.
3. Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1612 (2005), and in identifying situations that fall within the scope of her mandate, my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict has adopted a pragmatic approach on the issue, with an emphasis on humanitarian principles aimed at ensuring broad and effective protection for children. Reference to a situation is not a legal determination and reference to a non-State actor does not affect its legal status.
III. Information on grave violations committed against children during armed conflict and progress made by parties on dialogue, action plans and other measures to halt and prevent violations against children
A. Situations on the agenda of the Security Council
Israel and State of Palestine
68. In 2015, the situation was marked by heightened tensions that translated into widespread violence, especially in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in the second half of the year. The detrimental impact of grave violations and an increasingly violent and oppressive environment continued to mark the lives of children. Palestinian and Israeli children were affected by the prevailing situation of military occupation, conflict and the blockade.
69. In 2015, 30 Palestinian children (25 boys and 5 girls) were killed and at least 1,735 injured (1,687 boys and 48 girls), predominantly in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
70. A total of 27 Palestinian children (23 boys and 4 girls) were killed in the West Bank, almost double the number killed in 2014. Most of the killings took place in the fourth quarter of 2015. Twenty-five deaths were attributed to Israeli forces, one to Israeli settlers and one to both Israeli forces and settlers. The number of Palestinian children injured also increased, predominantly as a result of clashes with Israeli forces and military-led operations. In the fourth quarter of 2015, 121 stabbing attacks against Israelis were carried out by Palestinians, including minors. From October to December, 14 Palestinian children involved in or suspected of stabbing attacks were shot dead by Israeli forces. I have repeatedly condemned the stabbings and other attacks. In addition, a number of the incidents raise concerns about the excessive use of force and unlawful killing, given that there are indications that the children posed no imminent or immediate threat to life that would justify the use of lethal force. For example, on 25 October, a 17-year-old girl was stopped at a checkpoint in Hebron, searched and shot at least five times. The Israeli authorities alleged that she had attempted to stab a police officer, yet an eyewitness stated that she had held her hands in the air and had posed no threat.
71. Violence by Israeli settlers and related incidents involving Israeli forces resulted in the injury of 54 Palestinian children (45 boys and 9 girls), with 20 cases of direct injury by settlers. An 18-month-old Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli settlers in an arson attack on 31 July that also claimed the lives of his parents and seriously injured his 4-year-old brother. Two Israelis, including a minor, were charged in relation to the crime.
72. A total of 13 Israeli children (9 boys and 4 girls) were injured by Palestinians. An Israeli girl who had sustained critical injuries in 2013 in a car accident involving stone-throwing by Palestinians died of complications. Furthermore, it was reported that a 17-year-old Israeli male had been shot dead in November.
73. In Gaza, three Palestinian children were killed by Israeli forces. Two boys were killed near the fence with Israel and one girl was killed in an air strike. In addition, 65 boys were injured, predominantly in the access-restricted areas along the fence with Israel and at sea.
74. Limited information is available about the recruitment or use of children. The Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades reportedly ran a military camp for 25,000 children and young people between 15 and 21 years of age in Gaza from 25 July to 5 August. On 30 August, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine reportedly held a graduation ceremony during a camp for girls, which included training in weapons.
75. An increased number of Palestinian children were arrested and detained by Israeli forces and prosecuted by juvenile military courts in the West Bank. In East Jerusalem, 860 Palestinian children were arrested, including 136 between 7 and 11 years of age, under the age of criminal responsibility. The monthly average number of children held in Israeli custody, according to the Israel Prison Service, increased by 15 per cent compared with 2014. A worrisome development was the recommencement of administrative detention of children, which had not been used in East Jerusalem since 2000 and elsewhere in the West Bank since 2011. Between October and December, six children were placed in administrative detention by the Israeli authorities. The United Nations and partners continued to document cases of ill-treatment of children by Israeli forces during their arrest and detention in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
76. In the West Bank, attacks on schools and protected personnel, and a pervasive environment of violence, harassment and intimidation, continued to have an impact on children’s access to education. The United Nations documented 283 incidents relating to education, including 96 cases of schools coming under fire during military-led operations and clashes, 46 attacks and threats of violence against students and teachers by Israeli security forces and settlers, and 62 instances of interference with education owing to the closure of schools or the arrest and detention of staff and students. In Gaza, of the 262 schools and 274 kindergartens damaged or destroyed during the hostilities in 2014, 96 per cent of non-United Nations schools, all United Nations schools and 65 per cent of kindergartens have been repaired or rebuilt through the assistance of humanitarian organizations and donors.
77. Ten incidents of interference with health care were documented in the West Bank, with half involving the Makassed hospital in East Jerusalem. Incidents included the forced closure of clinics, search-and-arrest operations and Israeli security forces entering hospitals to obtain files and interrogate medical staff, resulting in the disruption of medical services. In addition, the Palestine Red Crescent Society reported that more than 131 paramedics and volunteers had been wounded and 76 ambulances damaged while undertaking their work in the West Bank and that access by medical teams to sick and wounded persons had been denied or delayed by Israeli security forces on 70 occasions.
78. In my previous report (A/69/926-S/2015/409), I urged Israel to take concrete and immediate steps to protect children, schools and hospitals, in particular by ensuring accountability for alleged violations. Of the 190 cases of alleged violations of international humanitarian law during the hostilities in Gaza in 2014 referred to the Israeli Defense Forces Fact-Finding Assessments Mechanism, the Israeli Military Advocate General has indicted three soldiers for looting and theft. Investigations into numerous incidents, including the killing of four children on a beach in Gaza City on 16 July 2014, were closed without criminal or disciplinary proceedings.
79. I am concerned that actions have been taken by the Government of Israel in 2015 that further restrict the rights of Palestinians, including children. For example, the Knesset passed temporary amendments to the Penal Code to increase the maximum sentence for throwing stones to 20 years, and the State Prosecutor directed that all prosecutors should seek the detention of suspects charged with stone-throwing until the end of legal proceedings. I also reiterate my concerns regarding the practice of punitive demolitions of the homes of Palestinians accused of attacking Israelis, which have rendered their families and neighbours, including children, homeless.