United Nations officials say Israel and the Palestinians need to take steps to protect children caught in their ongoing conflict. The U.N. Rights of the Child committee has concluded a meeting on the situation in Israel.
Rights of the Child committee chief Jacob Doek says children in Israel and the Palestinian territories are perhaps the biggest losers in the conflict, being robbed of their childhood and uncertain of their future. "We recognize there are acts of terror on both sides including suicide bombers, but also the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, the bombing of civilian areas, extra-judicial killings, disproportionate use of force, demolition of homes, destruction of infrastructure," he said. "We are assessing the situation. The situation is a very serious one."
Some 90 Israeli and 340 Palestinian children have died and many hundreds more have been injured over the past two years. Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yaacov Levy, argues Palestinian terrorist groups are increasing their use of children and minors in acts of violence against Israelis. "We also welcome the committee's recommendations that other non-state actors fully respect the rights of children, refrain from using and targeting children in the armed conflict and also they are urging immediate and all necessary measures to end the violence and ensure that children are not recruited nor participate in the conflict," he said.
Adam Hanieh of the group Defense for Children International disagrees with the Israeli government view. His group works with Palestinian children and other children in conflict in several parts of the world. Mr. Hanieh says most Palestinian children killed in the fighting were innocent bystanders. "We have figures of children who have been killed over the last few years and from our figures 82 percent of Palestinian children killed since September 2000 were killed in situations where there was no confrontation, no demonstrations, no exchange of fire," said Adam Hanieh. "They were either in their houses or playing in their backyards or schools or coming home from school."
U.N. Rights of the Child chief Jacob Doek says the committee is also concerned that Palestinian children aged 15 and 16 arrested and imprisoned by Israeli authorities for stone throwing are treated as adults in Israeli courts. Mr. Doek says Israeli children are not considered to be adults until they reach the age of 18.