Israel and State of Palestine

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/69/926–S/2015/409) issued on 5 June 2015.

In 2014, the security situation significantly deteriorated in the State of Palestine with another escalation of hostilities in Gaza and a significant increase of tensions throughout the West Bank, with devastating impacts for children. Palestinian and Israeli children continued to be affected by the prevailing situation of military occupation, conflict and closure.

The reporting period saw a dramatic increase in the number of children killed and injured, especially in Gaza. At least 561 children (557 Palestinian; 4 Israeli) were killed and 4,271 injured (4,249 Palestinian; 22 Israeli).

In the West Bank, 13 Palestinian boys, aged 11 to 17 years, were killed. Twelve were killed by Israeli security forces live ammunition (11) and “sponge round” bullets (1) during demonstrations and military search and arrest operations, and one boy was killed by settlers. On 15 May, two Palestinian boys, aged 16 and 17 years, respectively, were shot and killed with live ammunition during clashes with Israeli soldiers near Beituniya checkpoint. Reports indicate that the children killed by the Israeli security forces did not appear to have posed a lethal threat. On 19 March, a 14-year-old boy was fatally shot by the Israel security forces when crossing the West Bank Barrier. In another example, a ten-year-old Palestinian boy was fatally shot in the back with live ammunition by the Israeli security forces in Al-Fawwar camp. The Government of Israel reports that investigations were or are being carried out on these cases.

On 13 June, three Israeli youths, two of whom were 16-year-old children, were abducted, and on 30 June, their bodies were found near Halhul in northern Hebron. The Government of Israel reported that three Hamas members were identified as suspects, two of whom were killed during a fire fight with the Israeli security forces. It was also reported that hundreds of Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank during large search operations carried out by the Israeli security forces between 13 and 30 June. On 2 July, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was abducted in Shu’fat and burned alive in apparent retaliation for the kidnapping and killing of the Israeli youths. Three Israeli civilians, two of them under the age of 18 years, were arrested and charged.

Of the 1,218 children injured in the West Bank, more than half were under the age of 12 and 91 per cent were injured during confrontations in Hebron and East Jerusalem, with 231 of them hit by live ammunition and 530 by rubber-coated bullets. 84. Violence committed by Israeli settlers, and related incidents involving the Israeli security forces, remained high, resulting in the injury of 63 Palestinian children. For example, on 18 April, a group of settlers shielded by the Israeli security forces reportedly attacked the Urif Secondary School for Boys near Nablus, which resulted in the injury of 12 students from stones, bullets and a gas canister. The school was attacked in four instances, reportedly by Israelis living in the Yizhar settlement.

Sixteen Israeli children, (14 boys and 2 girls) were injured in the West Bank as a result of stones and Molotov cocktail thrown and shots fired at vehicles by Palestinians.

In Gaza, civilians, including children, have borne the brunt of the third major military offensive in Gaza in six years, namely, “Operation Protective Edge”. In Gaza, in the 50-day period between 8 July and 26 August, at least 540 Palestinian children were killed (340 boys and 200 girls between the ages of 1 week and 17 years, with almost 70 per cent of that number being younger than 12 years). The number of child casualties exceeds the combined number of Palestinian children killed during the two previous escalations. Hundreds of homes, some of which belonged to alleged members of armed groups, were directly hit by Israeli airstrikes. The Israeli bombardments resulted in the destruction of or severe damage to residential properties, schools and hospitals, causing civilian deaths and injuries. This is in addition to reports of Palestinian civilians and civilian objects being directly hit in circumstances where there was allegedly no rocket fire or armed group activity in the vicinity. This raises serious concern over the observance of the rules of international humanitarian law concerning the conduct of hostilities, including the principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality.

On average, between 8 July and 26 August, more than 10 children were killed daily in Gaza. More than 80 per cent of them were killed between 17 July and 5 August during the ground incursion by the Israeli security forces. At least 13 children in Gaza were reportedly killed as a result of rockets fired by Palestin ian armed groups towards Israel that fell inside Gaza.

At least 2,955 Palestinian children were injured in Gaza. Preliminary estimates indicate that up to 1,000 of them will be permanently disabled. Apart from the July – August Israeli military operation, another 76 children were injured.

On 16 July, four children, 9 to 11 years of age, were killed on a beach in Gaza City. According to eye witnesses and video footage, one child hid in an empty building and was killed by an air strike. The other three children were hit by a shell fired from the sea, which killed them and injured two others. No military targets could be identified in the apparently calm area and no rockets had been fired towards Israel from that location at that time.

On 20 July, an Israeli air strike hit a residential building in Bani Suhaila, killing 25 family members, including 19 children and 3 pregnant women. Surviving family members testified that they had received no prior warning from the Israeli security forces. The Military Advocate General opened a criminal investigation.

Palestinian children were also killed in drone strikes. On 10 July, a five -yearold boy was hit by a missile fired by a drone in Deir Al Balah. On 23 July, a drone killed a nine-year-old boy seeking shelter in Beit Lahiya. At the time of the attacks, there were no reports of military activity near the homes.

The indiscriminate firing of rockets by Palestinian armed groups from populated areas in Gaza towards Israeli population centres endangered b oth the civilian population in Israel and the Palestinian civilians in Gaza. This raises concern over the observance of the rules of international humanitarian law on the conduct of hostilities, particularly the principles of distinction and precaution. On 22 August, a four-year-old Israeli boy was killed by mortar shelling in Sha’ar Hanegev region. At least six Israeli children between 3 months and 17 years of age were reportedly gravely injured as a result of rocket fire from Gaza. In addition, 159 children were injured on the way to shelters, 33 were injured by building debris, and 18 were injured in traffic incidents after the activation of warning sirens. In addition, on 22 October, a three-month-old Israeli baby, among others, was killed when a Palestinian man deliberately drove his car into a light rail train station in East Jerusalem.

Allegations of nine instances of child recruitment and use by Palestinian armed groups, including by the Al-Qassam Brigades, were reported. The following five cases were verified: on 21 July, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was injured and captured during an ambush by the Al-Qassam Brigades on Israeli forces near Kibbutz Nir Am/Erez. Two boys aged 17 years were killed in targeted attacks by Israeli drone strikes in Jabaliya and Khan Younis on 12 and 14 July, both reportedly associated with Palestinian armed groups. On 22 July, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy, reportedly recruited by the Al-Qassam Brigades, disappeared and his family was informed of his death on 26 July. A video shows the boy giving his last statement, including his full name. On 2 August, a 17-year-old boy who was reportedly used by the Al-Qassam Brigades, was killed in the shelling of his home by Israeli security forces. A video uploaded by Al-Qassam Brigades shows him undergoing military training and giving his last testament.

On 23 July, a 17-year-old Palestinian boy was taken from his home near Khan Younis by the Israeli security forces and forced at gunpoint to search for tunnels. The boy reported being interrogated, abused and used to extract information about Hamas members.

Palestinian children continued to be arrested and detained by the Israeli security forces and prosecuted in juvenile military courts. According to the Israeli Prison Service, 151 children between 14 and 17 years of age were in Israeli military detention for alleged security violations at the end of December. A monthly average of 188 children were in Israeli military custody.

The United Nations obtained the affidavits of 122 Palestinian children from the West Bank, who had been detained by the Israeli security forces, in which they stated that they had been subjected to ill-treatment, such as beatings, being hit with sticks, being blindfolded, being kicked and being subjected to verbal abuse and threats of sexual violence. At least 700 children were arrested in East Jerusalem, 70 of whom were under the age of 13 years. The United Nations received 18 affidavits from Palestinian children reporting ill-treatment by the Israeli police and the border police.

Since February, IDF Central Command for the West Bank have implemented a pilot summons procedure to halt the practice of night arrests and tackle some of the protection issues. There are concerns regarding the delivery of summonses at night, arrests following appearance at police stations and reports of violations during the interrogation process.

In Gaza, between 8 July and 26 August, at least 262 schools were damaged in Israeli air strikes. Three public schools were completely destroyed and at least 23 were severely damaged. In addition, 274 kindergartens were damaged.

Of the 83 school buildings of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) that were damaged owing to Israeli airstrikes and shelling nearby, 7 being used as shelters were hit either directly or by air strikes or shelling, resulting in the death of at least 42 persons, including 16 children, and in the injury of about 230 persons. In May, the United Nations shared a list of its facilities with the Government of Israel, which was further discussed with government entities in July. During hostilities in July and August, UNRWA provided the Israeli authorities with real-time information identifying installations that were being used as designated emergency shelters and places of temporary refuge. Despite such information, on 24 July, the UNRWA Beit Hanoun Elementary Coed A and D school, which at the time was sheltering some 450 internally displaced persons, was hit by IDF mortar fire, resulting in the death of at least 12 persons, including 6 children, and in the injury of more than 90 others. The location of the school had been provided to Israeli authorities by United Nations staff on 12 separate occasions over the seven days leading up to the incident, including the day of the incident itself. Intense military activity was reported in the vicinity of the school prior to, but not at the time of, the incident. IDF launched a criminal investigation.

On 30 July, artillery projectiles struck the UNRWA Jabalia Elementary Girls A and B School, killing at least 17 persons, including one United Nations staff member, and injuring 99 persons sheltering inside. The school’s coordinates had been formally conveyed to the Israeli authorities on at least 28 occasions over a 14-day span, including the night before the incident.

On 25 August, two Government schools were attacked and destroyed by air strikes. In addition to the July and August incidents, seven instances of attacks on schools were reported throughout the rest of the year.

During its routine inspections, UNRWA discovered that weapons or weapons components had been placed by Palestinian armed elements in three vacant UNRWA schools in Gaza.

In the West Bank, in 21 cases, the Israeli security force entered and used schools. On five occasions in the West Bank, UNRWA school premises were entered without the permission of the United Nations.

On 10 November, the Secretary-General decided to establish a United Nations Headquarters Board of Inquiry into ten incidents in which death or injury occurred and damage was done to, or weaponry was found at, United Nations facilities during the conflict.

Between 8 July and 26 August, 17 of the 32 hospitals in Gaza were damaged by Israeli air strikes or shelling. One hospital and 58 primary health clinics were destroyed. For instance, on 21 July, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital was directly hit numerous times, killing three persons and injuring 40. Reportedly, no warning of the attack was given. The Israeli security forces claimed that the target was a cache of missiles in the hospital’s immediate vicinity. That attack raises concerns about observance of the special protection accorded to hospitals under international law.

Three hits on schools were recorded in Israel by rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian armed groups, resulting in damage to the school facilities, with no fatalities. The blockade of Gaza since June 2007 continued to take a heavy toll on humanitarian assistance for more than 80 per cent of the families in Gaza. It has impacted the provision of health services, which suffered from a lack of adequate equipment, instruments and essential medicine. The Erez checkpoint with Israel and the Rafah crossing with Egypt, serving 1.7 million people, remain the only two humanitarian access points.

The Military Advocate General requested the IDF fact-finding and assessment mechanism to examine a number of “exceptional incidents” that occurred during the Gaza crisis. As at April 2015, the Military Advocate General had conducted an initial examination of more than 100 incidents and opened criminal investigations for 13. Since the focus of the Mechanism is on “exceptional incidents”, concerns remain over its not addressing failures to ensure respect for international law at the policy level and the State’s duty to investigate all incidents, policies or tactics that may violate international law.

The Israeli and the Palestinian authorities have an obligation to ensure that allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are promptly, effectively, independently, and impartially investigated, and that those responsible are brought to justice.

Israel has repeatedly claimed that its military operation in Gaza was in response to rocket fire into Israel and that it was conducted in full compliance with its international obligations. However, I am deeply alarmed at the extent of grave violations suffered by children as a result of Israeli military operations in 2014. The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of the impact on children in 2014 raises grave concerns about Israel’s compliance with international humanitarian law, notably the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack, and respect for international human rights law, particularly in relation to excessive use of force. It is of particular concern that “Operation Protective Edge” was the third major Israeli military operation in Gaza within six years. The cumulative impact on children and the civilian population in general of these military operations, and the ongoing military occupation in the State of Palestine, is devastating. As indicated earlier in the present report, the number of Palestinian children killed (557) is the third highest in 2014, after the number of children killed in (a) Afghanistan (710) and (b) Iraq (679), and before the number of children killed in (c) Syrian Arab Republic (368) and (d) Darfur (197). The number of schools damaged or destroyed in the State of Palestine (at least 543) was the highest recorded number of all situations in 2014.

I urge Israel to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect children, to prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protections afforded to schools and hospitals. An essential measure in that regard is ensuring accountability for perpetrators of alleged violations. I further urge Israel to engage in a dialogue with my Special Representative and the United Nations to ensure that there is no recurrence in grave violations against children