Ramallah, March 26, 2015—Three Palestinian children shot with live ammunition as Palestinian security forces battled gunmen from Balata refugee camp, near to the West Bank city of Nablus, this month.
Hussein Rakez Suleiman Abu Asab, 11, and Mohammad Raed Abdel-Hamid al-Haj, 14, sustained serious gunshot wounds on Friday when Palestinian security forces clashed with a group of stone-throwing youth. A third boy, Jihad Mohammad Ahmad Badran, 17, also fell victim to the violence earlier this month with injuries to his left eye and hand from live fire. Both the Palestinian security forces and the gunmen denied responsibility for the shootings.
“We’re appalled that children wound up the targets of violent clashes between Palestinian security forces and gunmen in Balata refugee camp,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at Defense for Children International Palestine. “We demand a prompt, transparent and impartial investigation to hold those responsible for shooting these three children with live ammunition accountable.”
The violence stems from the refusal of several gunmen wanted by the Palestinian security forces to surrender themselves. They fear that Palestinian authorities will hold them indefinitely and without charge as they claim happened recently with others in their group, according to local media reports. Nablus governor Akram al-Rajoub has publicly said that the arrest operation will continue until security forces capture all the wanted men.
Recent weeks saw Palestinian youth and children from Balata refugee camp throw stones at Palestinian forces and block the main road to Nablus with burning tires and public trash receptacles. Palestinian forces responded with crowd dispersal weapons, witnesses told DCIP. The violence intensified at night with gunfights erupting between Palestinian forces and gunmen in the camp.
Several times Palestinian youth paid children token amounts to join the riots, according to DCIP sources. In at least one incident, a child participated in a gunfight against Palestinian forces. Another incident involved a gunman storming the Balata elementary school to force students out into the streets.
“We strongly condemn the use of children in these clashes, and demand that all parties ensure that children are not involved or encouraged to participate in them,” said Abu Eqtaish.
Doctors have treated several children suffering from psychological trauma because of the persistent violence in the camp. Residents remain in a state of panic and fear as the battling sides appear in a deadlock over resolving the situation peacefully.