After signing the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OP-CRC -CAC) in November 2002, the government later ended the "early admission" of conscripts and the deployment of under-18s in the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), although it continued to accept 17-year-old volunteers.
Palestinian and Israeli NGOs working with juvenile detainees informally reported to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers that under-18s were recruited as informers by Israeli intelligence agencies, but no published documentation existed. The Israeli government continued to detain suspected members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, including juveniles under the age of 18, holding them in cells with adults in violation of Israel’s international obligations. The youths were held under an Israeli government policy defining Palestinians below the age of 16 in the West Bank or Gaza as minors, while Israeli youths in the same Occupied Territories are considered minors until they reach the age of 18.126
Palestinian children living in East Jerusalem who were suspected of an “Intifada Criminal Offence” such as stone-throwing were often arrested at home in the middle of the night and subjected to interrogation inappropriate to their age and physical or mental state.127 Such interrogations have reportedly included children being blindfolded, bound and beaten.128
There was no evidence that the Palestinian Authority (PA) recruited or used child soldiers. In May 2002, the PA addressed the United Nations Special Session on Children and advocated the application of the CRC-OP-CAC, which prohibits the use in hostilities of those under the age of eighteen.129 In 2002, the PA also reaffirmed its commitment to the Coalition not to use children in hostilities in a private communication.130
In its November 2002 1379 Report, the Coalition recommended UN monitoring of three armed opposition groups, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas), Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Fatah) and Islamic Jihad to determine whether children were being recruited or used as soldiers.
Two 17-year-old boys from the Askar refugee camp in Nablus detonated bombs on their person in two separate attacks on 12 August 2003, killing an Israeli soldier and a civilian.131 Hamas' armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for providing the explosives for suicide bomber Khamis Ghazi Gerwan.132 Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing by Islam Qteishat, whose mother later demanded retribution against whoever sent her son to his death.133
During 2002, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad disavowed the use of children after under-18s were involved in suicide bombings and armed attacks on Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip. A Hamas statement in April 2002 called on mosque imams “to give this issue some mention in their sermons” and on educators “to dedicate time to address this issue without sacrificing the enthusiasm or spirit of martyrdom of our youth [ashbaluna].”134 An Islamic Jihad communiqué of April 26, citing Islamic strictures against the participation of children in war, declared: “We refuse any encouragement given to young people that might drive them to act alone or be pushed by others into action. They are not ready and not able to do so.”135
126 Los Angeles Times, “Israel's Detention of Palestinian Minors Criticized “, 17 August 2003.
127 Submission by the law offices of Usama Halabi on behalf of Defence of Children International – Israel to Israeli Minister of Internal Security and Ministry of Justice Legal Advisor, February 28, 2003.
128 Los Angeles Times, “Israel's Detention of Palestinian Minors Criticized “, 17 August 2003.
129Statement of Dr. Emile Jarjou’i, Head of Delegation of the Observer Delegation of Palestine on the occasion of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Children, May 9, 2002 cited in HRW, “Erased in a Moment”, October 2002.
130 Facsimile to the Coalition from Dr Ahmed Al-Yaziji, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Youth and Sports and General Secretary, Palestinian High Council for Motherhood and Childhood, 7 July 2002.
131 New York Times, “2 Suicide Bombers Fulfilled Their Fathers’ Worst Nightmares”, 14 August 2003 and Agence France Presse, “Hamas says still committed to truce”, 13 August 2003.
132 Voice of America, “Hamas Claims Responsibility for 1 of 2 Suicide Bombings Against Israeli Targets “,12 August 2003.
133 Associated Press, “Two blasts shake Mid-east truce: A pair of 17-year-old Palestinians kill two Israelis”, 13 August 2003.
134 Access to this source at http://www.qassam.org/hamas/bayanat/24_04_2002 is currently blocked. Cited in HRW, “Erased in a Moment”, October 2002.
135 Islamic Jihad communiqué, “Protect our children from being killed,” April 26, 2002. Translated by UNICEF, Jerusalem. Cited in HRW, “Erased in a Moment”, October 2002.