The file photo shows Israeli soldiers arresting Palestinian youths during a protest north of the West Bank city of Jenin in support of the Palestinian prisoners. ©AP
The number of Palestinian minors held in Israeli prisons has reportedly seen a dramatic rise since the beginning of what observers call the third Palestinian Intifada (uprising) last October.
The number of minors in Israeli custody grew from 170 in September 2015 to 438 in January 2016, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday, citing figures by the Israel Prison Service.
The number of prisoners aged 16-18 soared from 143 to 324 during the same time span, while it increased from 27 to 98 for those aged 14-16.
A 12-year-old girl is the youngest of the Palestinian teens incarcerated in Israel.
She was arrested in early February in possession of a knife outside the illegal settlement of Karmei Tzur, near West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron), and sentenced to four and a half months in prison.
However, the Palestinian child is set to be released later on Sunday at the request of her parents.
Itamar Barak, a researcher for the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, criticized Israel’s policy of jailing minors, saying “This is an oppressive system based only on incarceration. There is no attempt to provide alternatives to imprisonment.”
“The question is what a 14- or 16-year-old who spends a year in prison with security prisoners learns about life, the world and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It only sends them back to the cycle of violence,” Barak added.
Palestinian protesters gather to ask for the release of Palestinian minors held in Israeli jails in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 17, 2015. ©AFP
Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch also expressed concerns over the rising number of Palestinian minors being arrested, saying Israeli forces are abusing Palestinian children in various prisons and detention facilities.
The New York-based rights group said the regime forces resort to excessive force in detaining Palestinian minors and hold them captive in unsafe and abusive conditions.
Israelis regularly interrogate Palestinian children in the absence of a parent, hence infringing upon international laws that demand special protection for detained kids, the rights group added.
More than 7,000 Palestinian prisoners are currently held in some 17 Israeli jails, dozens of whom are serving multiple life sentences.
Over 500 detainees are under the so-called administrative detention, which is a sort of imprisonment without trial or charge that allows Israel to incarcerate Palestinians for up to six months.
Palestinian detainees have continuously resorted to open-ended hunger strikes in an attempt to express their outrage at the illegal and unfair administrative detention and to demand an end to the policy.
At least 210 Palestinians, including children and women, have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces since last October amid escalating tensions in the occupied territories.