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The Forgotten Palestinian Child Soldiers

By The Coalition to Save Palestinian Child Soldiers, February 17, 2021

Save Palestinian Child Soldiers

While many people are aware of the child soldier issues that’s plaguing places like Africa, little has been done to address the same horrific phenomenon happens every day in the Palestinian Territories. The evil of using child soldiers has afflicted Palestinian society for decades. This injustice cannot continue to go unnoticed or unaddressed by world powers.

Several Palestinian terrorist and militant factions use children in their operations. PFLP, Hamas, Fatah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad blatantly abuse these child soldiers in the face of weak condemnation. Unless awareness is brought to this issue, Palestinian children will continue to be used as war resources.

Palestinian Kids in Combat

The ruling power of the Gaza Strip, the terrorist organization called Hamas, has child training camps in which it trains children as auxiliaries and militia members. Approximately 10,000 children and teens are trained each year with terrorist “summer camps” which are grueling basic training boot camps. There, children learn to march, combat maneuvers, weapon operation, and terrorist tactics. This is not watered down as showcase or theatre, but are practical lessons meant to be implemented.

In combat, children from 17 to as young as 9 have been pushed into the battle fray, to fight and die alongside adult militants and terrorists. While in some cases the youngest of these casualties has been covered up with older, fake ages on casualty lists, Hamas and PIJ have been proud of the teenagers that have been “martyred” in battle.

​This injustice is even more heart-breaking when it comes to the use of these children in terrorist attacks. Dozens of children have been used as suicide bombers, disposal human munitions for these groups to use and discard. Often, children do not even understand the consequence of their suicidal actions, and that they are going to be killed when the bomb explodes. Beyond direct recruitment, organizations like Fatah actively encourage children to engage in suicidal stabbing attacks, which often results in severe injury or death for the child and their victims.

​Similarly, children are encouraged to engage in violent riots. Palestinian are often taught by radical organizations to throw stones at passing cars and people. Such low-tech acts of violence greatly danger others, and help warp children's perception toward violence. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of stone-throwing incidents occur every year at the behest of Palestinian organizations. Sent to the front of riots, children are used as human shields to protect adult rioters or even armed elements within the hosts. Children are systematically used as riot fodder, their school days canceled and school children bused to the front lines to be used as a modern day shield-wall. Further, children are bribed with as little as $83 to rush security fences and try to sabotage them.

​Using desperate economic situations to manipulate children is not isolated to riots. Children are also employed in dangerous child labour projects. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have long been building tunnels into neighbouring territories for purposes of attack and smuggling military equipment. These tunnels are being built with a child labour force, operating in lethal sweatshop conditions. By 2012, over 9 children have been buried alive and killed while digging terrorist tunnels. There has been no indication that this practice has stopped.

​These practices have lead to a strategic culture that views children as resources, and denies them their childhoods. This is demonstrated not only in the way that schools are constantly used as storage sites for munitions or as launch sites for rocket terrorism, but also in the media that children are exposed to. Hamas and Fatah television stations are rife with incitement to violence, dehumanization to Jews, and glorification of Jihad and martyrdom. This leaves children primed for child soldier practices, as demonstrated above.

​For the future of the Palestinian people as a whole, and for these children as individuals with rights according to international law and decent moral doctrine, the above practices must be stopped.