ARMED CONFLICT: Ban Ki-moon leaves Israel off list of countries that kill or injure children

[8 June 2015] - Ban Ki-moon’s latest list of parties that kill or injure children in armed conflict does not include Israel – as some UN officials had recommended.

But the UN secretary general makes clear in the report circulated on Monday that the number of Palestinian children killed and injured in Gaza and the West Bank last year, in the thousands, is unacceptable. Officials said the UN special envoy for children in armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui, had recommended that both Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, be placed on the report’s list of parties that recruit, use, kill, maim or commit acts of sexual violence against children. But the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the recommendation was not public, said there were differences of opinion among those on the ground on whether Israel should be listed – a key reason why it wasn’t and neither was Hamas.

The annual list is significant because it names and shames governments and insurgent groups engaged in conflicts that lead to children’s rights being violated. The security council resolution that established the list in August 2009 states the council’s intention “to take action” – including possible sanctions – against those that continue violating international law on the rights and protection of children in armed conflicts.

This year, the report includes groups in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Congo, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen as well as government forces in Congo, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen.

The report, covering 2014, includes Israel and “the state of Palestine” in a 33-paragraph section on “grave violations committed against children during armed conflict”. It cites escalating hostilities in Gaza and a significant increase in tensions in the West Bank, “with devastating impacts for children”.

In Gaza, at least 561 children – 557 Palestinians and four Israelis – were killed, and 4,271 were injured, all but 22 of them Palestinians, the report said. In the West Bank, 13 Palestinian boys and three Israeli youths were killed and 1,218 children were injured, it said.

The Secretary-General urged Israel “to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect children, to prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protections afforded to schools and hospitals”.

He also urged Israel to ensure accountability for perpetrators of alleged violations.

Israel maintains that its actions in Gaza were in response to rocket attacks on southern Israel, and were never aimed at children. 

“The UN Secretary-General was right not to submit to the dictates of the terrorist organisations and the Arab states in his decision not to include Israel in this shameful list, together with organisations like Isis, al-Qaida and the Taliban,” said Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor.

“Instead of releasing thousands of reports and lists against Israel,” Prosor said, “the UN must unequivocally condemn the terrorist organisations that operate in the Gaza Strip.”

Ban’s spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric, was pummelled with questions about why Israel was not put on the list because of the high casualty toll in last summer’s Gaza war and attacks on seven schools. He told reporters the list was the “result of a consultative process” and in the end was Ban’s decision.

Dujarric alluded to the intense lobbying before the report’s release by Israel’s supporters, reportedly including the US, and opponents.

“Obviously, it was a difficult decision to take,” he said, adding that UN member states and non-governmental organisations “have never been shy” about expressing their opinions to Ban.

Without naming any country, Ban called into question parties to conflict that say targeting children was never a policy or practice “but merely the unintended consequence of military action”.

“I would like to put all parties to conflict on notice that those that engage in military action that results in numerous grave violations against children will, regardless of intent, find themselves under continued scrutiny by the United Nations, including in future reports relating to children and armed conflict,” he said.

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