Home » Israel has a long history of taking Palestinian children captive – breaking news

Israel has a long history of taking Palestinian children captive – breaking news

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Israel has a long history of taking Palestinian children captive – breaking news

Over the past several days, dozens of Palestinian women and children have been released from Israeli prisons as part of the hostage exchange deal between Israel and Hamas.

As of Thursday, 180 Palestinian women and children were freed from Israeli prisons in exchange for 99 Israeli women and children, as well as foreign nationals, mostly Thai laborers, who were freed from captivity in Gaza.

As more footage rolls in of Palestinian children, mostly young teenage boys, crying and hugging their mothers upon their release from Israeli prison, more and more people have been left wondering: why was Israel holding on to so many Palestinian children in the first place?

Currently, some rights groups estimate that there are some 8,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli jails. But that number is increasing every day, as Israel continues to conduct massive arrest campaigns across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. In fact, at the same time Israel has been releasing Palestinian prisoners, it is estimated by Palestinian rights groups that Israeli forces arrested and newly imprisoned close to 300 Palestinians – nearly double the amount of prisoners that were released in the exchange.

Of the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prisons and detention centers, it is estimated that before the hostage exchange, there were around 80 women, and at least 250 children in Israeli jails.

Rights groups told breaking news that many of the numbers reported over the past few weeks are estimates, as documentarians are struggling to keep up with the overwhelming number of detentions and arrests.

It is unclear after the hostage exchange and the release of dozens of Palestinian children, how many more children remain in Israeli captivity.

So, why is Israel imprisoning hundreds of Palestinian children?

Arrest and interrogation: widespread abuse, coercion, and torture

Every year, hundreds of Palestinian kids are arrested by Israeli forces. According to Defense for Children International – Palestine, an estimated 500-700 Palestinian children are arrested every year by the Israeli military.

While these detentions are referred to commonly as “arrests,” which imply legal authority or suspicion of criminal activity, it is important to note first and foremost that the children are being arrested, charged, and prosecuted in a military system – a military occupation that has been condemned internationally as an illegal occupation.

Under the Israeli military legal framework,  any soldier or police officer can carry out an arrest without a  warrant, even against a child. In fact, according to DCIPmost Palestinian children are arrested on mere suspicion, without arrest warrants.

Most of the children, around 55% of all child detainees, are taken from their homes in the middle of the night by masked and armed Israeli military soldiers and border police officers. These children are taken from their families, blindfolded, tied up, beaten, and moved to Israeli interrogation centers.

According to DCIP, when Palestinian children arrive at the interrogation centers, 80% of them are stripped of their clothing and searched by an adult Israeli soldier. Then, they are subjected to interrogations that can last days and, in most cases, are conducted without the presence of a parent or lawyer.

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Sixty-six percent of the children are not informed of their rights during arrest and interrogation, while an estimated 25% of children are placed in stress positions in order to coerce confessions.

Around 1 in 4 Palestinian children detainees are also placed into solitary confinement as a method of coercion. Others are beaten, subject to sleep deprivation, and other forms of physical and psychological torture.

On the policy of solitary confinement, DCIP said it is used by Israeli forces against children primarily in pretrial detention, with the purpose of extracting confessions.

“Evidence and documentation collected by DCIP overwhelmingly indicate that the isolation of Palestinian children within the Israeli military detention system is practiced solely to obtain a confession for a specific offense or to gather intelligence under interrogation,” DCIP said in a report.

The group added that it has found “no evidence demonstrating a legally justifiable use of isolation of Palestinian child detainees, such as for disciplinary, protective, or medical reasons. Solitary confinement has been used, almost exclusively, during pre-charge and pretrial detention.”

After being tortured and interrogated, a majority of Palestinian child detainees are shown or forced to sign documents in Hebrew, a language that most Palestinian children do not understand. In many cases, after suffering from physical and psychological abuse, children are coerced into giving false confessions.

While the practices listed above have been long documented by rights groups, Addameer says that since October 7, the practice has increased, with an estimated 200 children arrested since that date alone.

“Children are prohibited from visits and communication with the outside world. Additionally, they are deprived of preparing their own food, provided with only two inadequate meals a day as part of a deliberate policy of starvation… Children are also subjected to physical assault and beatings within the prisons,” Addameer said in a report on the conditions of child prisoners since October 7.

Another policy that has emerged since October 7? Israeli forces taking Palestinian children hostage “to pressure their relatives into surrendering themselves to the occupying forces amid ongoing arrest campaigns.”

Charged and tried in ‘kangaroo courts’

Following their arrest and detention, Palestinian children as young as 12-years-old are commonly held in lengthy bouts of pretrial detention as they await trial and sentencing.

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Palestinian children are prosecuted, tried, and sentenced in Israeli military courts, by military prosecutors and military judges – the same military that is carrying out an illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. For reference, Israeli settlers living illegally in the West Bank are governed under Israeli civil and criminal law, and are tried in Israeli civil courts.

In its treatment of Palestinian children, Israel is truly unique: it is the only country in the world that prosecutes minors in military courts. Notably, Israeli military courts have a conviction rate of more than 99% and have been deemed by rights groups as ‘kangaroo courts.’

In Israel’s military court system, one of the most common charges against Palestinian children is stone throwing. Palestinian children who throw stones at Israeli military forces or settlers can go to prison for as little as a few months, and as long as 20 years.

Not all Palestinian children who are taken into Israeli captivity ever get a trial, or are even charged with a crime.

Under Israel’s widely-practiced policy of administrative detention, Israel imprisons thousands of Palestinians, including children, indefinitely without ever charging them with a crime or putting them on trial.

It was estimated that before the hostage exchange that began last weekend, more than two dozen of the Palestinian kids held in Israeli prisons were being held in administrative detention.

Majority of freed prisoners were not charged

As dozens of children have been released from Israeli captivity over the course of the week-long truce, more information has come to light about the child prisoners who were recently freed.

In addition to numerous testimonies from freed Palestinian detainees of torture, physical and psychological abuse, and sleep and food deprivation inside Israeli prisons, it has been reported that a majority of the freed prisoners were not actually charged with a crime.

According to a report from The Interceptanalysis of data provided by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) showed that of the Palestinian prisoners Israel proposed for potential release in the exchange deal, 233 of 300 of them have not been convicted of any crimes, and were simply  categorized simply as “under arrest.”

According to Al Jazeera, the youngest administrative detainee on Israel’s release list was a 14-year-old child.

Rights groups estimate that at the end of November, there were around 2,300 administrative detainees in Israeli prisons, the majority of whom were arrested after October 7.

So, why target children?

Even with the overwhelming documentation of rights abuses and violations carried out by Israel against children and the knowledge that so many children are put through a grueling military system without ever being charged with the crime, for many, the main question still remains: why?

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Despite imprisoning dozens and dozens of children without charge, Israel maintains it imprisons “terrorists” and “criminals.” In reality, the mass incarceration and detention of children boils can simply be explained by one thing: control. To, as DCIP puts it, the “arbitrary deprivation of liberty.”

One of the best tactics Israel’s occupation can use in its subjugation of Palestinians is depriving them of their basic rights and liberties – in this case, through mass arrests and incarceration.

Under occupation, every aspect of Palestinian life is controlled by Israel. From where you can live, to which basic civil liberties you are afforded. Palestinian children grow up in a system where they witness arrests, killings, and collective punishment of family, friends, and community on a daily basis.

As a child, when you grow up with the knowledge that throwing a stone, going to a protest, becoming politically active, or even raising a Palestinian flag can land you in jail, or worse, get you killed, it might make you think twice before you dare to stand up against the violent occupation and apartheid regime that controls you.

If the actual threat of arrest does not succeed in its purpose of subjugation and control, then perhaps the further dehumanization of actual imprisonment will.

Upon leaving Israeli prison, Palestinian children routinely drop out of schooland many fall into a tragic pattern of re-imprisonment as their family and friends struggle to repair their relationships that were affected during the child’s isolation. For those who make it out alive, they face a new set of challengesincluding a “plethora of psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, trouble focusing, introversion, or aggressive behavior.”

The deprivation of the local population’s liberty, humanity, dignity, and civil rights as a method of control is not a novel tactic. It can be traced far and wide back to any historical context of apartheid and colonialism. When it comes to Palestinian children, Israel is no different.

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