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Israel rejects fresh UN ‘child shield’ claims

    Palestinian children are tortured and used as human shields by Israeli military and police forces, according to a report released on Thursday by a United Nations human rights watchdog.

    The report, published by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, an independent body of legal experts, said that Palestinian children from the West Bank and Gaza are “systematically” subjected to verbal and physical abuse, or threatened with death or sexual assault while in Israeli custody.

    Detained Palestinian minors are coerced into signing confession forms in Hebrew, a language which most do not understand, the report stated.

    The committee also accused Israeli soldiers of using “Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings ahead of them and to stand in front of military vehicles in order to stop the throwing of stones against those vehicles.”

    While it acknowledged Israel’s security concerns as well as death tolls amongst both Israeli and Arab children, the committee also noted that the latter was disproportionately higher.

    Since 2002, some 7,000 minors between the ages of 12 and 17, and some as young as nine, have been arrested, interrogated and placed in Israeli detention, according to the report.

    The Israeli Foreign Ministry has dismissed the report as “Israel-bashing,” and faults it for being executed without Israel’s co-operation.

    “It’s just regurgitating old material,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Paul Hirschson, referring to a report conducted last March by Unicef, which addressed the same issues.

    “We worked very closely with Unicef, and they praised us for our improvements. They also came out with a whole lot of criticism, which we’re working on now,” said Mr Hirschson.

    Although in recent years amendments to military legislation have been put in place to protect Palestinian minors, violations are still widespread, said Sarit Michaeli from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

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