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OpinionIsrael at War

Who will protect Palestinian children from Hamas?

The use of child soldiers and human shields is part of Hamas's plan.

Palestinian children learn ow to handle rifles at youth summer camps, where they direct violence at Israel, July 25-28, 2022. Source: Facebook.com/gheras.alqud via MEMRI.
Palestinian children learn ow to handle rifles at youth summer camps, where they direct violence at Israel, July 25-28, 2022. Source: Facebook.com/gheras.alqud via MEMRI.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Rabbi Abraham Cooper
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the associate dean and director of the Global Social Action Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Dr. Deborah Soffen
Dr. Deborah Soffen is children’s advocate at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

It is no secret that well before the Hamas-led invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Fatah began recruiting, radicalizing and training children to serve as soldiers in the war against the Jewish state.

Given its professed concern for human rights and international law, we must ask: Why has the U.N. given a free pass to these terrorist organizations, which serially abuse Palestinian children and publicly declare a total lack of concern for all Palestinian civilians?

A senior Hamas official recently made it clear that the terror group does not care about civilian casualties, declaring that it’s up to the U.N. to build shelters in Gaza. Apparently, Hamas was too busy building a 500-mile underground superhighway of terrorism underneath hospitals, mosques and civilian neighborhoods, using children’s bedrooms and kindergartens to store explosives and arms.

Tragically, Arab children and teenagers have been active participants in violence against Jews since before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, dating as far back as the Ottoman and British occupations of Palestine. Youths were at the forefront of the opposition to Jewish immigration and an attitude developed that children had a “duty to sacrifice themselves.”

The practice of training child soldiers picked up with the establishment of the PLO in 1964. During the Second Intifada from 2000-2005, children were used to carry out suicide bombings. Palestinian Authority curriculum used in schools run by the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA became increasingly antismetic and pro-terrorist, encouraging children to follow in the footsteps of “martyrs” in the genocidal struggle to “free Palestine from the river to the sea.” 

Hamas gained control of Gaza in 2007 and established its own military training program for children. The monitoring group MEMRI has reported on Hamas’s military “summer camps,” named “Shield of Jerusalem,” which are attended by some 100,000 children and teens. Recruited from UNRWA elementary and high schools throughout Gaza, children in these camps are indoctrinated with a deadly jihadist ideology. Hamas taught these children how to use various weapons, including AK-47s, sniper rifles, RPGs, mortars and machine guns, as well as how to engage in urban and tunnel warfare. The summer camp director in Rafah said that these camps are part of “Hamas’ activities that focus on the younger generation due to its importance” as “the generation of liberation and victory.”

Hamas knows they’re putting civilians, especially children, in mortal danger, but as far as its concerned, the more dead Palestinian children the better, because it will increase global outrage against the IDF.

Since Oct. 7, the world has seen what these terrorists have done to their own people, but still refuses to condemn them, let alone take action to save the bodies and souls of Palestinian children.

This is utter hypocrisy and a violation of international law. The U.N.’s own website states: “Recruiting and using children under the age of 15 as soldiers is prohibited under international humanitarian law—treaty and custom—and is defined as a war crime by the International Criminal Court.”

The spokesperson for the U.N.’s Special Representative of the Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, declared of the Israel-Hamas war, “As per the implementation of the children and armed conflict, we condemn the recruitment and use, killing and maiming of children by all parties and call for parties to end and prevent these violations.” 

However, even before Oct. 7, Ms. Gamba chose to blame Israel for any harm that befalls Palestinian child soldiers, rather than the terrorist organizations who recruited, indoctrinated and trained them. By blaming Israel for this, the U.N. is encouraging terrorist organizations to continue to abuse their children and teens with impunity.

Who will stop these horrific crimes? Not UNRWA teachers, thousands of whom have been exposed as Hamas functionaries and adherents. Not the P.A., which pays terrorists—including Oct. 7 war criminals—to kill Jews. Not Qatar, which has provided financial support for Hamas and a safe haven for Hamas leaders. And certainly not the U.N., which has contributed mightily to the perfect storm of anti-Israel animus through its silence in the face of terrorist crimes against Israelis.

To change this paradigm, it falls to the U.N.’s primary donor—the United States—to think outside the box, put an end to UNRWA, defang Hamas’s sponsor Iran, and identify and empower those among the Palestinians who want peace.

If this action is not taken, the world will see more child soldiers, who will die on the battlefield in service of war criminals and terrorists who consider children’s lives worthless.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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