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The exploitation of children for terrorist purposes

Dinsdag, Januari 14, 2003 / Last Modified: Zondag, Januari 14, 2018

Communicated by Israeli security sources, January 14, 2003

The phenomenon of the exploitation of children by terrorist organizations for the
purposes of carrying out terrorist attacks and suicide bombings has risen to
prominence, once again, following the capture of two children this week (11
January) in the midst of committing an attack.

The children, aged 8 and 14, were armed with knives 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 findings of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) on
the issue of the exploitation of children for the purposes of executing such attacks:

  1. The 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
    youths as the most convenient recruits for suicide bombing missions, since they
    are easily influenced. A considerable number of children and youths have been
    apprehended by Israeli security forces before they could carry out terrorist
  2. The 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. The motivation and scope: On June 27, 2002, the 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 honour 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 one thousand youngsters from
    Gaza, in the 9-16 age bracket. The survey findings indicated that of those
    questioned, 45 per cent had taken an active role in the violence. In addition, 73
    per cent 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.

    During the film, the narrator states that “the hearts of the Palestinian
    children are filled not only with anxiety and fear, but also with a strong will to
    achieve Shahada (martyrdom)”, and that “martyrdom has become the noblest
    aim and most admirable deed of this generation”. The narrator adds,
    “Martyrdom has become the greatest aspiration for many children who believe
    that this is the way to win prestige, and to be immortalized among their people.”

  4. Educating for martyrdom: In addition to 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. The Al
    Quds newspaper carried an article on July 2 by Sheikh Dr. Ahmed Bakhar, the
    Chairman of the Islamic Movement, in which he wrote that the leaders of the
    Movement have made efforts to hold the summer camps in spite of the conflict,
    out of a belief in the values instilled in the Palestinian children at the camps. In
    addition, the Hamas summer camps are popular with children, where they are
    given uniforms, shoes and exercise books. The organizers of the camps also
    show warmth towards the children. Secular children also participate in the
    camps, because of the varied attractions on offer. 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

    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”. There is no doubt that this phenomenon has a destructive influence on
    the education of children who are instilled with the culture of the Jihad. 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. Children’s accessories and toys are used by
    terrorists to disguise their activities. In addition, the terrorists try to camouflage
    their activities by operating close to schools and kindergartens.

    Following questioning conducted by the ISA and in the wake of various
    findings, 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, containing many weapons, explosive
    belts, other explosives and charges, hand grenades and ammunition. Most
    notably, a child’s schoolbag containing explosive charges ready for use was
    also found.

  7. Hiding behind children: During questioning conducted by the ISA, 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

    Salim Haja, a senior Hamas operative arrested during Operation
    Defensive Shield, admitted during questioning that he placed a bomb laboratory
    close to a school, and that the operatives in the laboratory were disguised as
    pupils carrying schoolbags and books. The equipment in the laboratories
    included test tubes, glass instruments, gas masks and raw materials for the
    production of explosives. The laboratories were aired through the opening of
    windows. 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.

    Ahmed Muarbi, a senior Tanzim operative from Bethlehem, arrested on
    May 27, 2002, admitted during questioning by the ISA that he established his
    bomb laboratory in the Dehaishe Refugee Camp next to a kindergarten. Ahmed
    and his fellow operatives prepared explosives and conducted tests in the laboratory.

  8. All the aforementioned activities referred to in this review are prohibited
    by international law, they pose a threat to the well-being and safety of
    Palestinian children and they must be severely and unequivocally condemned.
    Pressure must be brought to bear on the Palestinians to stop this activity

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