1 October 2002

Response to Amnesty International’s Report – "Killing the Future: Children in the Line of Fire"
(Communicated by the IDF Spokesperson)

For the past two years ,the IDF has been engaged in difficult and intensive fighting against Palestinian terrorist factions. During this period of fighting, which was imposed upon the State of Israel and the IDF, Palestinian terrorist factions perpetrated over 14,500 terror attacks, claiming the lives of 624 Israelis.

All IDF operations adhere to international humanitarian law, in strict compliance with the highest moral and legal standards. In glaring contrast, Palestinian terrorist factions defy all norms, be they moral or legal, deliberately attacking civilians only because they are Israeli, as described at length in the report. Amnesty International has labeled the Palestinian suicide attacks as crimes against humanity.

As part of its adherence to the rules of the conduct of war, the IDF goes to great lengths to avoid harming civilians, especially children. This concern is an integral part of soldier training, of the regulations governing when to open fire, of orders issued by commanders, of operational plans, and of the message conveyed by the highest-ranking officers.

Regrettably, some civilians, including children, have been injured during the fighting against the Palestinian terrorist groups. In no case were these injuries intentional. Those hurt were either individuals involved in Palestinian terrorist activity, or civilians who were unintentionally hurt when they entered a live-fire zone.

The Palestinian terrorists are solely and unequivocally responsible for the injuries caused to Palestinian children. Since the beginning of the conflict two years ago, the Palestinian terrorist factions have cynically exploited children in terrorist activity, in violation of international law. Children are groomed and dispatched to carry out suicide attacks in the centers of the Israeli civilian population; positioned at the front lines of demonstrations to hide snipers behind them; and used to plant explosives and deliver weapons. Moreover, the terrorist factions have transformed Palestinian civilian population centers into terrorist activity headquarters.

One must keep in mind that the Palestinian society and several international organizations have denounced the abuse of children by Palestinian terrorist factions. For one, the UN Secretary General condemned the phenomenon in his report of Operation Defensive Shield. It must be mentioned that the Palestinians publicly acknowledged that terrorist organizations paid Rafah Palestinian children 5 NIS (roughly equal to $1 each) to thrust explosive charges towards IDF soldiers. Forty of those children were injured and became amputees (Al-Rai newspaper, 20 June 2002). Unfortunately, the UN report does not mention this particularly abominable Palestinian practice. Those who use children to perpetrate terror attacks and those who use houses where children reside to coordinate and perpetrate attacks are responsible for these childrens’ injuries.

Authors of the Amnesty report compare IDF operations in which Palestinian children were killed to Palestinian terror attacks in which Israeli children were killed. This comparison is unjustified and baseless. Palestinian terror attacks, especially suicide bombings, are designed to cause the death of Israeli civilians, including children. This is ruthless, unprecedented, inhuman terror. On the other hand, IDF activity is conducted in accordance with the laws of war and is not aimed at injuring civilians. Injuries are occasionally sustained only because Palestinian terrorists act from within Palestinian civilian population centers. Hence, equating the two sides is baseless, and indicates a fundamental lack of fairness amongst authors of the report.

The authors falsely claim the IDF does not investigate incidents in which Palestinian children are injured, and grants immunity to the soldiers involved. The fact is that IDF commanders do investigate incidents in which Palestinian civilians were injured. When suspicion of criminal misbehavior by soldiers arises, the Military Police launches an inquiry. Since September 2000, the beginning of operation Ebb and Flow, over 220 inquiries have been launched by the Military Police, including incidents in which Palestinian minors were injured. As examples, the Military Police launched inquiries regarding the following incidents: the death of Palestinian children near Khan Yunis on 22 November 2001; the death of Yasser Kassabi from Kalandia on 8 December 2001; the death of Muhamad Hassan Altalalaka near Beit Hanoun on 1 March 2002; the death of children in Jenin on 21 June 2002; as well as many other incidents. The claims that incidents are not investigated and soldiers enjoy immunity are false. The fact that the IDF investigates and establishes commissions of inquiry, even while in the midst of intense fighting, is part of its identity as a professional army.

The IDF is dedicated to upholding "purity of arms" and preserving human dignity, and regrets any injuries to innocent children. The IDF emphasizes that the cynical use of Palestinian children by Palestinian terrorist factions is the main cause of their injuries. The IDF applauds the report’s implicit condemnation of Palestinian terror attacks against the Israeli civilian population.