Every child deserves to live in a harmonious atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding. This is recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child for all children and it is the desire of the State of Palestine for our children. Regrettably, for over 48 years, Israel’s military occupation has denied Palestinian children this harmonious atmosphere, denied their most basic human rights. The vulnerability of our children is deepening as they continue to bear the brunt of increasingly oppressive, violent and illegal Israeli policies and practices and settler terrorism being systematically waged against them. Tragically, we know all too well that their suffering will not end if Israel continues with its illegal occupation of Palestinian land and continues to remain immune from consequences for its human rights violations and crimes.
The daily reality faced by Palestinian children is of life threatening danger from Israeli occupying forces. The Palestinian children do not live normal childhoods; they exist in a world where human suffering is the norm, their fundamental human rights are grossly violated and they are suffocated by oppressive policies and measures by an occupying Power whose aim is to control every aspect of Palestinian life through collective punishment, intimidation and dehumanizing tactics. Recently, the Israeli Government even legislated this lack of respect for Palestinian life in new laws relaxing the rules of engagement for occupying forces encouraging the shooting and killing of Palestinians, including children, with de facto impunity.
The ramifications of this live-fire policy are fatal, exacerbating violence across Occupied Palestine. I would like to share just two recent stories where this deadly policy has tragically resulted in the murder of two innocent Palestinian children. Abdelrahman Obeidallah, a13 year old Palestinian boy, was a resident of Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. He was coming home from school and had been playing outside his family home when Israeli occupying forces sent a bullet through his little heart, killing him and devastating yet another Palestinian family.
Similarly, Fadi Alloun, a 19 year old Palestinian from Occupied East Jerusalem, was filmed fleeing for his life from Israeli settlers attempting to attack him and screaming “Shoot him! He’s a terrorist! Shoot him!” and “Don’t wait! Shoot him!”. Israeli occupying forces immediately shoot Fadi with at least ten bullets throughout his body, killing him. As his limp body falls to the ground, the group of Israelis cheer and begin to kick and stomp on him. Only after shooting him does an Israeli occupying force ask the group of Israelis, “Did he [referring to the now deceased Fadi] stab anyone?”
Someone in the violent group then clearly replies, “No”. Such gruesome violations against Palestinian children, such as Abdelrahman and Fadi, are numerous and Israel, the occupying Power, continues to act with impunity, exempt from its international obligations by the collective failure to uphold the law and apply it to the question of Palestine.
In tandem with the rising tensions, Israeli settler terrorism is also on the rise under the protection of Israeli occupying forces, with no Palestinian child considered too young to be spared harm. I am compelled to share one of the many stories of heinous Israeli terrorism. On July 31, in the early morning, a group of terrorist Israeli settlers smashed the windows of the Dawabsha family home and threw flammable liquids and Molotov cocktails into the home. The fire spread, trapping the family inside killing Ali, an 18-month infant and severely burning his parents Saad and Riham, who later died of their wounds. Ahmad, age 4, is the only member of the family that lived. He remains in the hospital today struggling to survive from the severe burns to his small body.
Ahmad, like so many Palestinian children, is now an orphan without a mother, father or siblings. This is the sad fate for many Palestinian children who are victims of Israeli terrorism, which continue with impunity. Considering all the violations and crimes committed against the innocent and defenseless Palestinian children, in the context of the Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, we reiterate our call for listing the Israeli Government, the Israeli occupying forces and Israeli settler militias on the list of grave violators of child rights.
Palestinian children also continue to be kidnapped, arrested, detained and tortured by Israeli occupying forces, often in violent and traumatizing night raids. This was made apparent in the viral video of the attempted detention of Mohammed Tamimi, age 11 where a fully armed occupying force wrestled Mohammed down, pinning him to the ground as Mohammad’s mother, aunt and sister struggled to rescue him. Mohammed’s family resisted and the world saw the ugly face of the Israeli occupation and its detrimental effects on our children. Had Mohamed been detained that day, as is the case for so many children, he would have been thrown into the terror of Israel’s prison system and military courts that systematically prosecute children in the only juvenile military court in the world in total disregard of child rights. As of this August, an estimated 1,322 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17 were in Israeli detention centers. We reject this illegal Israeli policy used against the Palestinian children and demand that the occupying Power comply with its international legal obligations, including those enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Now turning to the situation in occupied Gaza, my delegation believes that it is important to recall the tragedy that befell the Palestinian people, including 1 million children, last summer, a tragedy whose impact was immense and lasting. For more than fifty days, Israel, the occupying Power, attacked the civilian population from land, air and sea, killing and injuring Palestinian children, and their families and devastating their communities. At least 540 Palestinian children were killed, 340 boys and 200 girls, and at least 2,955 Palestinian children were injured. Residential neighborhoods were also leveled and UN schools and hospitals were destroyed by Israel’s abhorrently excessive use of force. Palestinian children continue to suffer the ramifications of this bombardment with approximately 100,000 people, including children, remaining internally displaced today. This is further magnified by Israel’s illegally imposed blockade now in its 8th year. We condemn this inhuman, illegal blockade, which is a gross form of collective punishment and we call on the occupying Power to immediately lift the blockade in order to give the children of Gaza and their families the opportunity to rebuild their communities and lead normal lives.
For many, colonialism and military occupation are a thing of the past, studied in history books. For the State of Palestine, the Palestinian people and their children are living through the longest military occupation in modern history. The consequences of this belligerent occupation and the despicable violence and crimes emanating from it weigh heavily on Palestinian children and their families as they fall victim to the occupying Power’s violations and abuses with complete neglect for their safety and well-being, guaranteed under international law. In this context, we demand an end to the illegal Israeli occupation and the immediate cessation of every violation and abuse against Palestinian children. We call on the occupying Power to comply with its obligations under international law, including, inter alia, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Israel, the occupying Power, must be held to account for its violations of international law, especially laws intended to protect children’s rights.
The Palestinian leadership aspires to protect the rights of Palestinian children, but to fully safeguard the Palestinian children from the vile consequences of the illegal Israeli occupation, we reiterate our call to the international community to be relentless in their efforts to end the occupation and provide international protection to the Palestinian people until they can finally live in peace, dignity, freedom and security, free from occupation and oppression in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.