Palestinian children experience frequent violence by Israeli soldiers and settlers on their way to and from school.
In the West Bank, education is compulsory for children under 15. However, Israel’s network of military checkpoints impedes the movement of all Palestinians, meaning that otherwise short journeys can take several hours. For Palestinian children that must pass through Israeli military checkpoints to reach school, this results in missed class time, as well as subjecting children to violence, intimidation, and arbitrary arrest as children must interact with Israeli military personnel on their way to school.
Palestinian children living near illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank report being subject to harassment and violence from Israeli soldiers and settlers as they travel to and from school. Settlers have also been known to attack schools with weapons and stone-throwing during the school day, creating an environment of fear at school that can impede the ability of children to learn and play.
Israeli forces' attacks on schools and other education-related incidents, including attacks on educational personnel, threats of attacks, military use of schools, and other interferences with education, significantly impacted Palestinian children's right to access education. In 2019, the United Nations documented 257 education-related incidents in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip that impacted children's right to access education.
Repeated Israeli military offensives on the Gaza Strip have severely damaged its educational infrastructure, including through the targeting of United Nations-run schools. In the last major military offensive on Gaza in 2014, Operation Protective Edge, Israel damaged at least 232 schools and destroyed 29 others.
Israel’s protracted closure of the Gaza Strip prevents essential materials for rebuilding damaged schools and constructing new facilities from entering the Gaza Strip, as well as learning materials. Fuel restrictions and poverty caused by the closure also prevent children from concentrating at school and some children drop out of school altogether as a result. Frequent power cuts force many Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip to complete their schoolwork by candlelight. Near-complete closure also prevents young people from leaving the Gaza Strip to study elsewhere, including children and young people who have acquired scholarships abroad.
Palestinian children experience prolonged periods of instability, disruption to schooling, and mental ill-health following home demolitions.
In the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities utilize a discriminatory housing, land, and property legal regime to justify the dispossession of Palestinian lands and the demolition of Palestinian homes and essential infrastructure, including water systems, livestock pens, and solar panels.
Israeli authorities do not consider the socio-economic status of Palestinian families ahead of issuing demolition orders, rendering many of them homeless in the wake of demolitions.
Home demolitions against Palestinians reached the highest on record in 2019, when Israeli authorities demolished 275 homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, displacing at least 677 Palestinians, including 342 children, according to B'Tselem.
For Palestinians, the process of obtaining building permits from Israeli authorities is lengthy, prohibitively expensive, and highly unlikely to result in success. Consequently, Palestinians are forced to build homes and other necessary structures without permits, leaving homes at constant risk of confiscation or demolition by Israeli authorities. Palestinian homeowners are at risk of arrest under Israel’s Planning and Building Law of 1965.
Israeli authorities also utilize unlawful and discriminatory zoning policies in the occupied West Bank to expropriate Palestinian land. Much of the occupied West Bank has been designated as closed military firing zones, nature reserves, state land, and land for illegal settlement expansion. This zoning is often the legal justification for Palestinian home and property demolitions in the occupied West Bank.
Punitive home demolitions
Punitive home demolitions amount to collective punishment in violation of international law.
Israeli authorities have implemented a punitive home demolition policy against Palestinians alleged to have committed or attempted an attack against Israeli civilians or soldiers, destroying more than 2,000 Palestinian homes since 1967. While Israeli authorities ceased punitive home demolitions in 2005, the policy was renewed in mid-2014, according to B’Tselem. Punitive home demolitions against Palestinians amount to collective punishment in violation of international law.
Collective punishment is prohibited by international humanitarian law, recognizing responsibility is individual and an individual may only be punished where it can be proven they have personally committed the offense. Israel’s punitive home demolition policy punishes individuals that are not individually responsible for an offense but are family members of an alleged attacker, according to B’Tselem.
Denied access to healthcare
Israel’s closure policy toward the Gaza Strip denies Palestinian children the right to life and health
Palestinian children are denied access to health care and their right to health is negatively impacted due to Israeli closure policies, prolonged military occupation, and repeated military offensives.
Palestinian children are unable to access sufficient healthcare in the Gaza Strip, including many children left permanently disabled and with long-term trauma following Israel’s repeated military offensives on the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s closure of the Gaza Strip has plunged Gaza’s health sector into crisis. The closure restricts essential and lifesaving medical and pharmaceutical resources from entering the Gaza Strip as well as patients and companions leaving Gaza. Israeli authorities have maintained strict restrictions on travel to and from the Gaza Strip, as well as the import of vital materials, and the export of goods, blighting the economy. Egypt, too, has kept its crossing with the Gaza Strip in Rafah closed for the most part since 2013, opening it only intermittently.
Repeated Israeli military offensives, including three particularly devastating ground and aerial assaults in 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014, devastated the Gaza Strip's infrastructure, including its healthcare system. This regular obliteration of Gaza’s infrastructure, combined with Israel’s closure policy, has created a human-made humanitarian crisis characterized by acute water and electricity shortages, further compromising the health of patients, who cannot expect treatment in sanitary conditions, or for vital and lifesaving electricity-powered machines to run without interruption. In 2018, when back-up generators failed at the Pediatric Specialized Hospital in Gaza City, medical teams had to manually ventilate four children until the machinery was fixed.
Between Israel’s decade-long closure limiting the entry of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and specialized staff, and large-scale damage to medical infrastructure during Israel’s 2014 offensive, some treatments are now entirely unavailable in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli closure policies prevent disabled Palestinian children from accessing resources that would enable them to live a full life, and traumatized children from accessing the psychosocial support they need to recover. Children who require medical treatment that cannot be provided within Gaza are frequently denied permits by Israeli authorities to leave Gaza.