JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs head Issa Qaraqe announced on Tuesday that Israeli forces have detained 560 children from occupied East Jerusalem since the beginning of 2016, and that 110 minors were still being held in Israeli prisons, including four girls and 10 boys in juvenile detention centers.
Qaraqe made the statement Tuesday at the Al-Quds Charitable Society for Disabled and Special Education in the Shufat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem, where he spoke with families of Palestinian children being held in Israeli jails.
Qaraqe added that despite releasing many of the children, Israeli authorities imposed house-arrest orders on 60 children, and highlighted the fact that Israeli authorities have detained Palestinian children younger than 12 years old, which is a violation of human rights and international law.
The head of the Jerusalem Committee for Families of Prisoners, Amjad Abu Asab, said that most children held in Israeli jails were beaten and assaulted by Israeli forces.
Some of the minors, Abu Asab added, were injured and subsequently denied the right to have a family member present during interrogation. He warned that children held in Israeli prisons undergo numerous physical and psychological pressures that have “long term effects on their psyche.”
Joining Qaraqe and Abu Asab were families from occupied East Jerusalem whose children had been arrested by Israel, some of whom are still being held in prison.
The children's families discussed the many difficulties they face during family visitations, adding that Israeli courts impose expensive financial fees on the families and deprive injured children of proper medical care.
The father of Zayd al-Husseni, who was detained by Israeli forces, said that his son was “beaten monstrously while 100 Israeli soldiers raided their home and also let their police dogs assault [Zayd].”
Saif and Zayd al-Taweel's father recounted how Israeli forces broke his son Saif’s jaw after beating him while he was detained, adding that Zayd had been put under house arrest.
The father of Majd Saaeda, a minor who fell into a coma in Israel’s Megiddo prison, urged international and human rights organizations to “interfere immediately” to save his son’s life, and to release all children being held under Israeli detention in contravention of international human rights law.
An ongoing crackdown
has taken place in recent months on Palestinian children by Israeli police in East Jerusalem, as Palestinian communities in the occupied city have begun to feel the impact of Israeli legislation
passed between 2014 and 2015 increasing penalties for rock throwing, which allows for stone throwers to receive a 20-year prison sentence where intent to harm could be proven, and up to 10 years where it could not.
Rights group Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP) cited in a report last month
a number of recent cases of Palestinian minors being handed prison sentences for periods ranging between 12 to 39 months, with up to three years’ probation.
The widespread arrests put a spotlight on the well documented abuse of Palestinians children by Israeli forces and the harsh interrogation practices used to force their confessions, which has long been the target of criticism by the international community.
Despite “on paper” having more rights than Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank who are subject to a draconian military detention system, in practice, Jerusalem minors “do not enjoy their enshrined rights” under the Israeli civilian court system, according to DCIP.
Out of 65 cases documented by DCIP in 2015
, "more than a third of Jerusalem youth were arrested at night (38.5 percent), the vast majority (87.7 percent) were restrained during arrest, and only a slim minority of children (10.8 percent) had a parent or lawyer present during interrogation."
According to affidavits taken by DCIP for last week’s report documenting the recent arrests and sentencing of Palestinian minors for rock throwing, two of the teenagers “both had maintained their innocence and confessed only after they had experienced physical and psychological abuse.”
The youth described being kicked and punched while handcuffed, choked, and having a door slammed in their face.
Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP, was quoted in the report as saying: “The changes in the penal code and policy guidelines since 2014 are discriminatory and target Palestinians, specifically youth. Israel is a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child and we call on them to uphold their responsibilities.”
Interrogations of Palestinian children can last up to 90 days according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, during which in addition to being beaten and threatened, cases of sexual assault and placement in solitary confinement to elicit confessions are also often reported, while confession documents they are forced to sign are in Hebrew -- a language most Palestinian children do not speak.
According to Addameer, as of July 2016, 7,000 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 350 of whom were children.