Skip to main content

2023 is 'deadliest year' for a child in occupied West Bank

2023 is 'deadliest year' for Palestinian children say human rights groups
5 min read
West Bank
06 October, 2023
Since 2000, Israeli forces have killed at least 2,287 Palestinian children.
Escalating Israeli raids and lack of accountability are behind the rise of violations against PAlestinian children in the West Bank, say human rights groups. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

This year has witnessed the highest number of attacks on Palestinian children by Israeli forces, either by killing, maiming, or arresting, the Defence of Children International - Palestine (DCI-P) human rights group told The New New Arab on Thursday, 5 October.

According to DCI-P, the targeting of Palestinian children by Israeli forces has spiked since last year, mainly due to the increasing Israeli raids into Palestinian cities, towns, and refugee camps in the West Bank.

On Tuesday, Israeli forces arrested nine Palestinian children aged between eight and 13 and wounded one 13-year-old child in the head with a rubber bullet in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

"Israeli forces detained the nine children on a checkpoint in the old city on their way back from school", a human rights activist based in Hebron, who asked not to be named, told TNA.

"Seven of the children were released hours later, and two were released later in the night, after being interrogated", said the source. "the occupation forces accused the children of damaging an electronic gate earlier, at a checkpoint in the old city", they pointed out.

According to the human rights source, "Israeli army often arrests children in Hebron, sometimes as young as eight, but they are always released hours later".

"However, Israeli forces never allow any family adult to accompany the children, and they are usually interrogated without any adult company", they noted. "The trauma caused to the children is permanent, and this is a way of intimidating and breaking the young generation by Israeli forces".

Escalating Israeli raids on Palestinian cities have killed 47 children since January, wounded dozens and traumatised many more, according to human rights groups, local social workers and families in the Jenin refugee camp. [Qassam Muaddi /TNA]

The same day, 13-year-old Yazan Qweider was wounded in the head by Israeli forces in Hebron's old city. Palestinian media reported that confrontations were occurring between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers in the same area.

"Yazan was playing outside with other children when occupation soldiers stormed the neighbourhood and opened fire", Naji Qweider, Yazan's father, told TNA. "The rubber bullet caused him a skull fracture, and he needed surgery to save him, but now he is stable".

"In Hebron's old city, children live in fear all the time, and parents too", the father said. "Being surrounded by occupation soldiers and settlers all the time puts children at risk of arrest, shooting or harassing constantly", he added. Hebron's old city is under direct Israeli control, as hundreds of Israeli settlers occupy part of the ancient city.

In mid-September, Israeli forces wounded two Palestinian schoolboys aged 12 and 14 during a raid on the refugee camp of Aqbat Jabr in Jericho.

Local sources told TNA that Israeli forces had raided the camp around 7:30 a.m. when children were on their way to school and that Israeli soldiers opened fire randomly on their way into the camp, wounding the two boys.

According to DCI-P's figures, most casualties occurred in the northern West Bank, especially in Nablus and Jenin, where Israeli raids have been concentrated since 2021.

Earlier in July, Israeli forces raided the refugee camp of Jenin for 48 hours, killing 10 Palestinians, five of whom were under 18.

The director of the women's and children centre in Jenin camp told TNA after the raid that "the psychological impact on children is greater than we expected, and it doesn't only come from the killing of fellow age-peers or family members, but from the constant violent atmosphere that imposes itself on life in the camp, including in between raids".

Live Story

"The general destruction in the camp's streets continues to traumatise children, which is why we need to take them out of the streets and away from their destroyed homes", she added.

Two days after the raid on Jenin ended, TNA met the Abu Karam family in Jenin, including three children under the age of 5 who had been forced to leave their home during the raid, fleeing Israeli air strikes.

"The children were traumatised, as they didn't understand what was happening", said the mother. "The youngest, Yousef, keeps having nightmares and wakes up at night crying, thinking that an air strike was hitting our house", she detailed, as the 4-year-old approached her asking, "Do we still have a house?".

In August, Human Rights Watch said in a report that 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinian children in the West Bank in 15 years.

"This year is even worse, as 45 children were killed by the occupation forces in 2022, but already 47 have been killed in 2023, and the year is not over", said Ayed Abu Qteish from DCI-P.

"The main reason for this spike is the fact that the complete lack of accountability, as there hasn't been a single case of accountability in the occupation army for the killing or maiming of a child", remarked Abu Qteish.

Currently, Israeli forces hold 160 Palestinian children in its jails, including 32 under 15. Since 2000, Israeli forces have killed 2,287 Palestinian children.