Israeli soldiers fire tear gas canisters towards Palestinian protesters during clashes in the West Bank village of Bilin, west of Ramallah, on Nov. 15, 2013 (AFP/Abbas Momani)
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israeli troops in the West Bank detained four Palestinian children aged five to nine years for more than an hour Friday with their hands cuffed, Palestinian witnesses said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said that troops rounded up some minors during rioting in the northern West bank village of Kfar Qaddum but held them only briefly.
“A group of Palestinian children were detected setting fire to tires,” she said. “These riots usually start with burning tires being rolled at security forces.”
“Soldiers rounded up the children to prevent mayhem and when a commander arrived shortly afterwards they were released,” she said.
She did not give their ages or say if handcuffs were used, but said that the incident was being reviewed by the military.
Palestinian activist Murad Ashtiye told AFP that clashes erupted with soldiers in the village during the weekly protest there against Israeli occupation by Palestinians and international activists.
“Four children who were present in the area had stun grenades thrown at them by Israeli soldiers, which frightened them,” said Ashtiye of the village’s Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.
“Then the soldiers arrested them and tied their hands behind their backs using plastic strips,” he added, identifying the children as Tariq Hikmet, 9, Hossam Khaldun, 7, six-year old Malak Hikmet, and Ahmad Abdessalam, 5.
The UN Children’s Fund’s March report, entitled “Children in Israeli Military Detention,” said Israel was the only country in the world where children were systematically tried in military courts and gave evidence of practices it said were “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.”
“Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized,” it concluded, outlining 38 recommendations.
Over the past decade, UNICEF noted that Israel has detained “an average of two children each day.”