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UN Session Asked to Demand Israeli Protection of Young Palestinians - 2002-05-10

Supporters of Palestine have asked a special United Nations session on children to adopt a resolution demanding that Israel protect young Palestinians in the occupied territories. The three-day U.N. meeting ends Friday.

The Palestinian envoy to the U.N. special session drew a grim picture of the plight of Palestinian children, accusing Israel of refusing them a state of their own, forcing them to live as refugees in their own land, and often murdering them by stealth in the night. A resolution sharply critical of Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza would demand that Israel protect the youngsters living under occupation.

In formal remarks to the U.N. gathering, Israel's Minister of Justice, Meir Sheetrit, referred to the Palestinian youth engaged in suicide bombings inside Israel. He asked, in effect, if Palestinian leaders care so much for their children, why do they send them to their death so readily. "How come such young boys are coming to commit suicide? How do these things happen? How do they happen in the 21st century of the world, unless there was a very strong, constant incitement, given by the Palestinian Authority, day by day, on television, in textbooks?"

Supporters of Palestine hope to put the resolution to a vote Friday. The Israelis accuse them of trying to "hijack" the children's meeting. U.S. officials also frown on the possibility of a vote, saying the special session is not the proper forum for another Middle East debate.

Meanwhile, the three-day session is expected to close with broad agreement on new goals for governments to improve the lives of the world's children, not just in the Middle East, but in all developing regions.

A final document is expected to make special mention of the impact of armed conflicts on children. The topic has been a big focus all week, with youngsters from war zones presenting their own declarations about the horrors they have endured and the limited options of their lives going forward.