Thursday, November 04, 2004

HRW: Child suicide attacks 'must stop'

An international human rights group has called on Palestinian militants to stop using children in suicide bombings and military attacks.

Human Rights Watch made the call after a 16-year-old bomber blew himself up in a Tel Aviv marketplace on Monday, killing three Israeli civilians.

The New York-based group claimed at least 10 bombers aged under 18 have attacked Israel in the past four years.

The group behind Monday's attack has said it does not recruit children.

'Any attack on civilians is prohibited by international law, but using children for suicide attacks is particularly egregious,' said Jo Becker, advocacy director for children's rights at Human Rights Watch.

'Palestinian armed groups must clearly and publicly condemn all use of children under the age of 18 for military activities, and make sure these policies are carried out.'

A senior member of the political wing of the group behind the Tel Aviv attack, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, admitted to the BBC the group had made a mistake by recruiting 16-year-old Amer al-Fahr.

The organisation was looking at improving checks on applicants' ages, he added. (How any news organization, even the BBC, can write this sentence with a straight face is beyond me. - EoZ)

The other main Palestinian armed groups have also publicly disavowed the use of children in suicide attacks.

Yet the Human Rights Watch report claimed that the three most active militant groups - Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade - have all despatched under-age bombers during the four-year-old conflict with Israel.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade has been accused of sending four child bombers into Israel.

Three attacks by 17-year-olds were linked to Islamic Jihad, Human Rights Watch said.

Hamas and the PFLP have been linked to two attacks each, the group added.

Some senior militant figures have said they consider children of 16 as adults, the organisation said.

Jan 2002: Safwat Rahman, 17
Mar 2002: Ayat al-Akhras, 17
May 2002: Issa Badir, 17
Jun 2002: Hamza Samudi, 17
Mar 2003: Sabih al-Saoud, 16
Aug 2003: Islam Qteishat, 17
Aug 2003: Khamais Gerwan, 17
January 2004: Iyad al-Masri, 17
Source: Human Rights Watch