Reports & Researches

(Witness): Israeli occupation's targeting of Palestinian children brings them to the brink

The Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Witness) strongly condemns the ongoing attacks against Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territories, indicating the serious systematic violations of Israeli occupation forces. Throughout decades, the occupation has been adopting oppressive policies resulting in the establishment of a culture that disregards human rights. This has been manifested through various forms of violations against Palestinian human rights, particularly the right to life, as no one has been spared from its violent assaults.

On November 29, 2023, Adam Samer Al-Ghoul, 8, and Basel Suleiman Abu Al-Wafa, 15, were deliberately shot and killed in Jenin and were left bleeding to death as the Israeli occupation forces prevented citizens and paramedics from reaching them. The incident occurred during the military operation that was carried out on Tuesday evening in Jenin and its camp.

(Witness) points out that the Israeli occupation consistently violates the rights of Palestinian civilians, especially children, without facing accountability while following a systematic policy of killings and detentions in full view of the world for many years. According to United Nations office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, the number of martyrs in the West Bank since the beginning of 2023 has reached 402, including 200 killed since October 7 of the same year[1].

In this context, as part of the exchange deal between Palestinian factions in Gaza and Israel, 210 Palestinian women and children have been released to date. It is noteworthy that not only do they face brutal treatment, but they are also subjected to unlawful confinement and imprisonment. Palestinian children endure a legal system that lacks fair trial standards allowing the detention of those as young as 12 years old, along with arbitrary home confinement and various forms of abuse in prisons as testified by many who have been released.

The Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Witness) affirms that the international humanitarian law prohibits the targeting of civilians and children in armed conflicts. Targeting unarmed individuals or causing them undue harm is considered a crime against humanity. This in accordance with Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989, and the four Geneva Conventions, in particular Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 concerning the protection of civilians at times of wars.

(Witness) indicates that targeting children can amount to a war crime. Media reports that the two children were shot with a gunfire although they were unarmed and didn’t pose a real threat. In fact, actions of the Israeli occupation forces clearly violate crucial principles of the international law, including the principle of necessity which stipulates that the use of force must be necessary to achieve a legitimate objective, and the means employed should be incapable of achieving this objective with less cost. Additionally, the principle of proportionality urges the avoidance of excessive or unjustified use of force.

Article 85(5) of the Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1977 states that serious violations of the conventions and this protocol are considered war crimes. Furthermore, Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court stipulates that intentional killing, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack – a careful examination of the occupation's behavior confirms its systematic and widespread targeting of children over many years – is considered a war crime. It is noteworthy that the International Criminal Court is the judicial body responsible for pursuing and prosecuting perpetrators of such crimes.

The international community should take action to exert pressure on the Israeli occupation authorities to cease these violations and ensure the rights of Palestinian children to lead a dignified and secure life. Human rights organizations, media outlets, and all concerned parties should monitor and document these violations to achieve justice and accountability.

The legal and ethical responsibility necessitates a thorough and transparent investigation into the tragic incident of Jenin ensuring accountability for those responsible for this heinous act based on legal and ethical standards. The parties involved should bear full responsibility for protecting the rights of children and take decisive measures to prevent the recurrence of such tragedy. Therefore, the Palestinian Association for Human Rights (Witness) recommends the following:

1.Special Rapporteur on the Rights of the Child at the United Nations, Ms. Mama Fatima Singhateh, to issue a clear condemnation of the violations that the Palestinian children face.

2.Child-focused organizations, including UNICEF, to provide immediate protection and care for Palestinian children.

3.United Nations, the international community, all human rights organizations, and media to condemn this criminal act and call for holding the Israeli occupation accountable for its ongoing crimes.

4.Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. António Guterres, to include the Israeli occupation in the "List of Shame" issued by the United Nations for states and entities violating the rights of children in conflict zones.


The Palestinian Association for Human rights (Witness)

Beirut November 30, 2023