Israel has a Long History of Taking Palestinian Children Captive – Yumna Patel 11/30/23


Israel has a long history of taking Palestinian children captive, abusing and scarring them in the process. This mass incarceration of children living under occupation boils down to one thing: control and the deprivation of liberty.

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 Mondoweiss 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 DCIP, most 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.

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. …

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