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ISRAEL BLAMED IN CHILDREN’S DEATHS

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A human rights report Thursday urged international protection of Arab children and said 159 were killed by bullets, beatings and tear gas and up to 63,000 were injured during the first two years of the Palestinian uprising.

The study, sponsored by the Swedish Save the Children group, claimed that Israel's army practiced "calculated cruelty" in some cases.The findings were rejected by the office of Brig. Gen. Nachman Shai, the army spokesman, and criticized by Israeli human rights activists as one-sided.

In another development, the World Health Organization's annual assembly Thursday adopted a resolution that cited worsening health conditions of the Arab population in the Israeli-occupied territories.

The vote in Geneva was 105-2, with only the United States and Israel voting against. Five countries abstained and another 55 nations were absent.

The resolution, co-sponsored by 36 nations, expresses concern at the "deterioration of health conditions" and at Israeli's refusal to permit WHO experts to investigate the health situation in the territories.

Israel said the health situation in the occupied territories had improved.

Responding to the allegations by the Swedish group, an army spokesman, Maj. Moshe Fogel, said pro-PLO activists used children as shields during protests and were responsible for their injuries.

"We are faced with an uprising which turns its children into martyrs and actually encourages minors to participate in violent activities against Israeli soldiers, whether actively or passively," he said.

Thomas Hammarberg, head of the Swedish group and a former secretary-general of Amnesty International, said Israeli leaders failed to investigate abuses adequately and gave soldiers the impression they could do as they liked.

"It could be the soldiers believe plastic and rubber-coated bullets are non-lethal," he said in an interview. "But I think it begins to take the form of the intentional if they let it continue when they know the consequences."

The report examined how children 16 and under suffered physical injuries and the effects of collective punishments such as school closures, curfews, house demolitions, raids and economic sanctions.