Child Recruitment

Overview

Child recruitment is the use of any person below 18 years of age, in any capacity, by armed forces or armed groups.

We work to document cases of child recruitment by both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups.

Child recruitment refers to the recruitment or use of any person below 18 years of age, in any capacity, by armed forces or armed groups.

This can include the use of children in combat, including as fighters, informants, human shields, messengers, lookouts, cooks, or porters.

Whether the child’s participation is compulsory, forced, or voluntary, their use by armed forces or armed groups can constitute child recruitment.

Recruiting or using children in armed conflict is illegal under international humanitarian law and international human rights law. It is punishable as a war crime under international criminal law.

Human Shields

Israeli forces used at least eight Palestinian children as human shields between 2011 and 2020.

International humanitarian law explicitly prohibits parties to a conflict from directing "the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objects from attacks or to shield military operations." An October 2005 ruling of the Israeli High Court of Justice also prohibits the practice.

Despite this, DCIP has documented numerous cases where Israeli forces have used Palestinian children as human shields during ground operations.

In 2014, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was forced at gunpoint to search tunnels in the Gaza Strip for five days during Operation Protective Edge. During this time, he was interrogated, verbally and physically assaulted, and deprived of food and sleep.

At least seven children between nine and 17 years old were used as human shields by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip during the Israeli military offensive known as Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009.

Informants

Israeli authorities attempted to recruit 29 Palestinian children between 2011 and 2020.

The primary manner in which Israeli forces seek to recruit Palestinian children is as informants, usually during interrogations.

Informants are recruited to monitor and disclose information to Israeli authorities about the activities of people living in their community. This can include providing the names of children who have thrown stones. Attempts to recruit often involve the use of threats and inducements, such as revoking a family member's work permit or a financial reward or even early release, in exchange for information.

In addition to violating international laws, such attempts violate Israeli law. Due to the sensitive nature of this issue within Palestinian society, the scale of the problem is unclear, as both children and adults may refuse to discuss the matter, fearing ostracization or punishment by their communities. 

Recruitment by Palestinian Armed Groups

Between 2011 and 2020, DCIP documented at least 9 children killed and two injured while aiding Palestinian armed groups.

Palestinian children are also vulnerable to recruitment by Palestinian armed groups. DCIP drafted a written code of conduct, signed by the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces coalition in 2010, declaring “the involvement of children, whether individually or within groups, in armed conflict, is a grave violation of their fundamental rights [...] We stress the fact that effective child protection from the impact of armed conflict is achieved through our unconditional commitment which acknowledges that children have no part to play in armed conflict.”

In 2012, the Palestinian Authority enacted the amended Child Law, which "prohibits the recruitment or use of children in military actions or armed conflict" and requires the State of Palestine to take measures to ensure that children are not recruited or used by armed forces or armed groups. While these changes show progress, they have failed to end child recruitment. 

DCIP has documented Palestinian armed groups recruiting and using Palestinian children during active hostilities, often during active hostilities with Israel.

During Israel’s 2012 military offensive on the Gaza Strip, DCIP documented one case involving a child recruited by Hamas’ military wing to act as a lookout.

In 2014, during the Israeli military offensive known as Operation Protective Edge, DCIP documented the fatalities of six children who were likely affiliated with Palestinian armed groups when they were targeted and killed.

In several cases documented by DCIP, child fatalities that occurred within the context of activity by or involvement with Palestinian armed groups were accidental. 

On May 4, 2020, 17-year-old Adham Mahmoud Mohammad al-Masri, died after sustaining a gunshot wound to his chest while stationed at an Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades reconnaissance site in North Gaza. Information collected by DCIP suggests an accidental death, and that Adham was struck by “friendly fire.”

Similarly, 11-year-old Odai Mansour Abu Hassan died on July 15, 2018, when an improvised explosive device accidentally detonated on his roof. Odai’s father was a field commander in a military wing of the Fatah movement.

On April 11, 2018, 17-year-old Hashem Abdulfattah Othman Kallab, a member of the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, was traveling in a rickshaw with three others near Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip when an explosive accidentally ignited, killing them all.

Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip has created an acute, human-made humanitarian crisis and deteriorating economic context within which children may be more vulnerable to recruitment, forced or voluntary, by armed groups.

What We Do

DCIP works to end child recruitment as well as addressing the root causes.

  • Monitor a written code of conduct to end child recruitment signed by Palestinian armed groups in 2010
  • File complaints with Israeli and international authorities to hold perpetrators to account
  • Document and expose grave violations against children during armed conflict
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