Embassy of Israel Briefing:
Palestinian Exploitation of Children by Islamic Extremists
The phenomenon of the exploitation of children by Palestinian terrorist organizations for the purposes of executing terrorist attacks and suicide bombings has increased once again following the capture of two children last week in the midst of committing an attack. The children, ages 8 and 14, were armed with a knife and were apprehended in the community of Netzarim as they attempted to stab passersby.
In recent months, hundreds of Israeli civilians have been killed and many more wounded as a result of Palestinian terrorist attacks. The following is a review of the issue of Palestinian terrorist organizations exploiting children to execute terrorist attacks.
Please note: All activities referred to in this review are prohibited by international law, pose a threat to the well-being and safety of Palestinian children and must be severely and unequivocally condemned. Pressure must be brought to bear on the Palestinians to stop this activity immediately.
Current Islamic Teaching of
Terrorism to Children
1. Guiding principle: Terrorist organizations exploit the innocent appearance of children, who do not arouse suspicion and can easily blend in among the crowds. Furthermore, the terrorist organizations view children and youth as the most convenient recruits for suicide bombing missions since they are easily influenced. Israeli security forces apprehended a considerable number of children and youth before they could carry out terrorist attacks.
2. Indoctrination: The terrorist organizations uproot the children from their homes and families. Resorting to brainwashing and religious indoctrination, they incite the children to carry out terrorist attacks. The children are persuaded that if they do so, they will be granted paradise in the hereafter.
Salah Shehadeh, one of the Hamas leaders in Gaza, who was killed recently, stated in an interview on the Internet site Islam Online (May 26, 2002) that children should be trained properly prior to the execution of terrorist attacks, and that they should be enlisted in a special branch of the military arm of the organization so that they are imbued with the values of the armed Jihad, and are taught to distinguish between good and evil. Remarks of this kind are an important factor in the persuasion of parents to send their children to carry out terrorist attacks.
3. Motivation and scope: On June 27, 2002, official Palestinian television broadcast a film entitled "Child Martyrs and Lovers of their Homeland." Dr. Fatal Abu Hin, a lecturer in psychology, was interviewed during the film and spoke about the growing phenomenon of the involvement of children in violent incidents. Abu Hin noted that the word Shahada (martyrdom) carries a number of meanings for the Palestinian child specifically and for Islamic society in general. He maintained that the Palestinian child understands that through Shahada, he can win honor and respect, and that this phenomenon drives children to take an active part in violent events.
Abu Hin presented a survey carried out by the Islamic University in Gaza in April 2001 which focused on a group of 1,000 youngsters from Gaza in the 9-16 age bracket. The survey findings indicated that of those questioned, 45% had taken an active role in the violence. In addition, 73% of the youngsters stated that they wanted to become martyrs. These findings clearly indicate that children and youth in the West Bank and Gaza have been radicalized, and that they are easy prey for the terrorist organizations that exploit them to perpetrate terrorist atrocities.
4. Educating for martyrdom: As well as the encouragement of children through the media, the Palestinian educational institutions and summer camps are also involved in inciting, brainwashing and indoctrinating Palestinian children and youth. Children are indoctrinated with extreme Islamic ideas, calling for support and encouragement of the Jihad against Israel. At the beginning of July, the Islamic Movement in Gaza launched its summer camps, named The Al Aqsa Intifada Martyrs Summer Camp. In addition, the Hamas summer camps are popular with children, where they are given uniforms, shoes and exercise books. At the camps, the children are taught about the history of Islam, and pictures of martyrs are hung in every place. In this way, the seeds of hatred towards Israel are planted in the children.
5. Official and parental complicity: The Palestinian Authority Ministry for Youth and Sport also oversees summer camps that are designed to recruit children to carry out attacks against Israel. At the camps, the children are subject to incitement, and are trained to use weapons for future attacks against Israel.
In many cases, Palestinian children dress up as a shaheed (martyr) with their parents' consent. Indeed, these children are often encouraged to do so by their parents. More and more cases are coming to light of children participating in processions, wearing replicas of explosive belts and inscriptions declaring that they are martyrs. This brings to mind the photograph of the baby recently discovered in Hebron. The photograph showed a baby wearing a replica explosive belt and a headband declaring that the baby was a martyr for "Allah." These children are then easily recruited by terrorist organizations for the purpose of carrying out attacks.
6. Childhood as terrorist camouflage: It is not only the children who are exploited by the terrorists. To disguise their activities, terrorists use children's accessories and toys. In addition, the terrorists try to camouflage their activities by operating close to schools and kindergartens.
It has emerged that the various terrorist organizations have used children's schoolbags and toys to conceal explosives. At first glance, these innocent looking items did not appear suspicious, yet they contained explosives, and were intended for use against Israeli civilians and other targets. Thus, during an IDF operation in the town of Kalkilya on April 26, 2002, three explosives laboratories were found. Most notably, a child's schoolbag containing explosive charges ready for use was also found.
7. Hiding behind children: Senior terrorist operatives revealed that they tend to locate the explosives laboratories close to schools and kindergartens in order to conceal their terrorist activity. In this way, the terrorist organizations directly endanger the lives of Palestinian children. By locating the bomb laboratory close to the school, the pupils nearby were exposed to many dangers, including exploding charges during tests, work accidents in the course of the production of explosives and exposure to hazardous materials. The operatives exploited the innocent appearance of the pupils arriving at school in order to conceal their activities.
Research: Embassy of Israel Briefing: Palestinian Exploitation of Children
www.brookings.edu/views/op-ed/fellows/singer20050120.htm - 65k