WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 25 2000
Child martyrs from Arafat's school
FROM SAM KILEY IN QALANDIYA REFUGEE CAMP, WEST BANK
STONE-throwing children at the centre of riots on the
West Bank and Gaza have received weeks of training in
guerrilla warfare, including mock kidnappings, from
Yassir Arafat’s Fatah movement.
The children, some as young as 11, took a break yesterday
from an often deadly game of cat and mouse with heavily
armed Israeli soldiers to boast of their exploits on
training camps where they were also indoctrinated with
ferocious anti-Israeli sentiments.
|Over the past four weeks at least 120 Palestinians have
been killed by Israelis. About a third of them were boys
as young as 12, some among the 25,000 youngsters trained
in 90 different Fatah camps earlier this year.
The estimation of number of killed boys of age 12 or less
as a third of total is absolutely incorrect. See the data on Addameer
, Palestinean site. At 26 of October, I have found there only 6 (six)
victims of relevant age among total 120. (Only victims with noted age were
included in my statistics, yet the age was noted for the majority of victims).
This means about 5% instead of 33% in the article.
And what about 33%? That number may be composed by counting
victims of age 19 and less. Makes difference, does not it? (Isr2000
Two young Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip and
West Bank yesterday. A 16-year-old was shot dead at the
Erez Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, killed
by a bullet in the stomach. A man of 22 died in a
confrontation near the West Bank town of Jenin after
being shot in the heart.
Israel has repeatedly accused the Palestinian leadership
of the “cynical use of children in the front line” for
propaganda purposes and has insisted that they often pose
a mortal threat to Israeli soldiers. The revelations that
thousands of children were given guerrilla training in
the months before the explosion of the “al-Aqsa intifada”
reinforces this argument. Human rights groups and the
United Nations, however, have condemned Israel for
excessive use of force in controlling riots, and for the
killing of children in particular.
Asked why they were spending their days darting around
the concrete maze of Qalandiya Camp firing catapults and
throwing stones at soldiers armed with automatic weapons
and rubber bullets, some of the youngsters just shrugged
and said: “It’s fun”.
Hosni Samir Inteir, who turned 12 in September, said: “In
France the young don’t throw stones, they watch TV and
use the Internet because they don’t have enemies. Here we
have enemies so I throw stones and then work on computers
in the evening.”
An unusually bright child, he referred to recent complex
diplomatic and political developments. Standing out of
the rain in the shade of a tin hut he explained that he
“read a lot of newspapers”.
Such a child should be destined for a bright future, but
he says he would be happy never to see his adult years:
“I want to die as a martyr. I will be straight to
paradise if I do that.”
Hosni and his friends had all been to the Fatah camps
earlier this year. They were taught how to strip an
automatic rifle and had a great time tumbling around
assault courses and running through fire. Their camp
differed from the sort of course they could have done
with British Army cadets only in the hate they were
taught to feel and in the ways they were told to express
Trapped in the Qalandiya Camp with few employment
prospects, they had already grown up on stories of how
their ancestors were forced out of their homes by the
Jews 52 years ago. In a concrete jungle with no
playgrounds, they got their kicks by tormenting Israeli
servicemen guarding the Qalandiya airport even before
they were recruited by Fatah’s youth wing, the Tanzim.
Once there, in the bosom of the Palestine Liberation
Organisation, the boys were told: “We’re going to make
What they learnt in the camps was how to direct their
hate for the Israelis. Since then, they have returned to
the streets with their stone age weapons to fight the
But the training the boys have received should not
provide a reason for Israeli soldiers to kill them, human
rights groups said yesterday. They said the Israeli use
of snipers firing live rounds, and the use of
plastic-coated steel bullets which resemble musket balls,
against children who posed no lethal threat, were
particularly bad abuses verging on war crimes.
"No matter how irritating they might be or how they
have been trained, kids throwing stones should not be
shot at all according to the Israeli's own rules, never
mind international law", said Carlos Cordone, the
leader of an investigation team from Amnesty
International in Jerusalem.
Yesterday it was clear that Fatah had prepared its young
supporters for conflict but also that they would have
rushed to the burning barricades anyway. None of the
children said they had been ordered to fight. They
admitted they were throwing stones against the express
orders of their parents and could expect a hiding if they
were found out.
Some told of how they had "passed out" from a
camp near Nablus where they had staged a mock kidnapping
of a senior Israeli officer and pretended to kill seven
of his body guards.
Copyright 2000 Times Newspapers Ltd.