Palestinian minors are being treated harshly and as if they are adults by Israeli security services, according to a report released this week by the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence.
Entitled “Children and Youth — Soldiers’ Testimonies 2005-2011”, the report includes statements from 30 IDF soldiers concerning violent treatment of Palestinian youths that they say they witnessed, or took part in, during their service in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The report says that the testimonies “depict a routine in which Palestinian minors, often under 10 years of age, are treated in a manner that ignores their young age”, adding that “the most disquieting tendency emerging from the soldiers’ testimonies relates to the wounding and killing of children in the West Bank and Gaza, whether by ignoring them at the scene of events, or by targeted shooting.”
The testimonies describe the use of rubber bullets against minors to quell “disturbances of peace”, as well as what one soldier called “vendettas” in which soldiers would track down and beat kids they believed had thrown rocks at them.
In addition, two soldiers describe using children as human shields against rock-throwers, and sending them to search houses for wanted men, the so-called “neighbour procedure”.
In response to the report, an IDF spokesman criticised the Breaking the Silence for not revealing the testimonies ahead of publication so they can be investigated by the IDF.
“By compiling testimonies over long periods of times and refusing to provide additional details, the organisation proves its true intentions — rather than facilitating proper investigation, the organisation seeks to generate negative publicity regarding the IDF and its soldiers.”
Breaking the Silence was founded in 2004 by a group of IDF veterans who served in the Second Intifada. Their stated goal is to inform the Israeli and international public about the daily reality in the West Bank.