Israeli forces refuse to disclose number of Palestinian child detainees from Gaza

Apr 26, 2024
A Palestinian child checks the rubble of a house hit by overnight Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 20, 2024. (Photo: AFP)

Ramallah, April 26, 2024—Israeli forces are carrying out the enforced disappearance of Palestinian children as they detain children from Gaza and refuse to disclose their numbers and whereabouts.

Israeli forces have detained around 3,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip since October, according to estimates by Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. Around 1,650 Palestinians, including children, from Gaza are currently detained by Israeli forces under the Unlawful Combatants Law, according to Al Mezan. The number of Palestinian children from Gaza detained by Israeli forces is unknown.

“While news media has reported Israeli forces detaining and torturing Palestinian men, women, and children from the Gaza Strip, little to no information is available about these detainees, their locations, or when they will be released,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, accountability program director at DCIP. “There are an unknown number of Palestinian children detained from Gaza, likely being tortured by Israeli forces at Israeli detention centers and military bases in southern Israel.”

Israeli forces have released 1,506 Palestinian detainees, including 43 children, back to Gaza through the Karem Abu Salem crossing as of April 4, according to UNRWA. Testimonies collected from released detainees included reports of sexual violence, attacks from military dogs, strip searches, extended time in stress positions, severe beatings, and other forms of ill-treatment and torture. In addition, detainees reported that Israeli forces deprived them of food, water, sleep, medicine, and access to the bathroom. Many detainees suffered injuries from tight handcuffs.

Israeli soldiers detained a Palestinian family from their home in the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City, according to Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor. The father was eventually released while Israeli forces continue detaining his wife and two children, ages four years and six months. Israeli forces told the father that his children would be assessed to confirm they are not Israeli hostages.

This claim was repeated with the parents of a 12-year-old Palestinian girl, according to Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor in the same report. Despite the fact that the girl spoke Arabic and was with her parents, Israeli forces detained her under the false pretense that she was an Israeli hostage. 

The conditions in Israeli prisons have deteriorated rapidly since October 7 as Israeli forces crowd Palestinian children into cells, serve rotten food, and deprive children of family visits, according to documentation collected by DCIP.

24 Palestinian children from Gaza are detained in Megiddo prison in northern Israel, according to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society.

Whether they are civilians or combatants, Israel is holding Palestinians, including children, from Gaza under Israel’s 2002 "Unlawful Combatants Law." This Israeli civil law permits the state to detain as claimed “enemy fighters” for extended periods of time without following the standard legal procedures, and to hold them without granting them the status of prisoners of war. Therefore, for those imprisoned under this law, a detention order may only be issued within 45 days following their arrest. Furthermore, the law permits Israeli authorities to forbid detainees from meeting with a lawyer and postpone judicial review for up to 75 days, or up to six months with a judge's approval.

Transfer of Palestinian detainees, including children, to prisons and interrogation and detention facilities inside Israel, even for brief periods, constitutes an unlawful transfer in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and constitutes a war crime in violation of Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

According to the 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the “enforced disappearance” is considered “to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty ... followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person ...” and actions that resemble forced disappearance are considered international crimes punishable by law, depending on its extreme seriousness.

According to the Convention, forced disappearance qualifies as a crime that rises to “crimes against humanity” if it is carried out extensively or systematically on a large scale, which is exactly what the Israeli army forces are practicing by penetrating in all areas of the Gaza Strip, where they have arrested hundreds, and continue to held many of them in Israeli military prisons, along with thousands of Palestinian people whose fate is still unknown. 

The enforced disappearance of Palestinian children amidst the ongoing war in Gaza is a serious breach of international law. The Israeli practice of forcibly disappearing against the Palestinian children is prohibited under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which Israel has not ratified, but is still bound by customary international law. However, Israel has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forbids the ill-treatment and torture of children, and instructs that deprivation of liberty should only be used as a last resort.

News | Military Detention
Please wait...

Never miss an update.

Read the privacy policy.

We will never share your email address and you can unsubscribe at any time.