The call to the UN agency follows reporting by The Jerusalem Post on Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad running “training camps” to recruit child soldiers.
The Israel-based NGO International Legal Forum (ILF) has called on UNICEF to investigate allegations of Palestinian children being trained as child soldiers in Gaza, following a report by The Jerusalem Post.The NGO, which is a network of over 3,000 lawyers and activists in over 40 nations worldwide, stated that they have “grave concern” following reports that the Gaza-based Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) were training and recruiting children.Arsen Ostrovsky, director of ILF, told The Post that UNICEF’s ongoing failure to act on this issue is an “unconscionable dereliction of duty in its central mission to protect and defend children’s rights.”
As reported by the Post, Hamas announced in late June its annual summer camp, where it trains children to take up arms.
According to Post analyst Seth J. Frantzman, the terrorist group says the youth need to be ready to make “sacrifices,” which appears to be the language used to describe recruiting them to be killed. The speech by Hamas members said the camps include religious indoctrination and “security” training.An English video was released by Hamas with an explanation that it intended to “prepare the youth,” calling the summer camps “training camps” that were named after the “Sword of al-Quds (Sword of Jerusalem).” This is the term they used to refer to the 11-day Hamas-Israel conflict in May, dubbed by the IDF as Operation Guardian of the Walls.
As reported by Post correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh, around 50,000 children had registered.The Meir Amit Intelligence Terrorism Information Center published a report that at least one Palestinian child killed in Gaza during the conflict was a member of Hamas. This is especially notable, as an entire front-page story in The New York Times with photos of each child killed in Gaza during the conflict drew significant attention.
UNICEF, the UN agency responsible for humanitarian and developmental aid for children, has stated that recruiting child soldiers violates international humanitarian laws.
“Thousands of children are recruited and used in armed conflicts across the world. Often referred to as ‘child soldiers,’ these boys and girls suffer extensive forms of exploitation and abuse that are not fully captured by that term,” UNICEF’s website states.
“Warring parties use children not only as fighters but as scouts, cooks, porters, guards, messengers and more. Many, especially girls, are also subjected to gender-based violence,” it said.
“Children become part of an armed force or group for various reasons,” the website explained. “Some are abducted, threatened, coerced or manipulated by armed actors. Others are driven by poverty, compelled to generate income for their families. Still others associate themselves for survival or to protect their communities. No matter their involvement, the recruitment and use of children by armed forces is a grave violation of child rights and international humanitarian law.”
The ILF released a statement including a selection of pictures from the training camp showing children receiving “military terror training” by PIJ and Hamas.
“Hamas and PIJ are committing a war crime under customary and treaty international law as appears in the Rome Statute (Article 2(b)(xxvi) and Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding the involvement of children in armed conflict, inter alia,” the statement reads.
The citing of the Rome Statute is notable, as it is under this jurisdiction that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a war crimes probe into both Israel and Hamas for their 2014 conflict, Operation Protective Edge.
According to International Legal Forum advocate Russell Shalev, “As an organization committed to protecting and defending child rights, it is incumbent upon UNICEF to act immediately and without reservation to prevent the continuation of such unconscionable atrocities and abuse of children in Gaza, as well as to hold Palestinian terror groups Hamas and PIJ, accountable for these heinous crimes.”
Nope Seth J. Frantzman contributed to this report.