While recruiting children for terrorist activities, mega-terror outfit Hamas says the youth need to be ready to make “sacrifices” and be prepared to participate in suicide attacks and other forms of terrorist activities. Despite such notorious acts of Hamas, global media in particular are maintaining silence in exposing Hamas’s cruelty on children.
During the recent Hamas notoriety on Israel, according to media sources, at least one child killed in the fighting was an active member of the mega-terror outfit. A Jerusalem Post report noted that teenagers undergo “summer camp training” and that militant and terror groups in Gaza have published photographs of child soldiers they recruit who appear to be under the age of 18.
A report published by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center – and confirmed by Joe Truzman, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy’s Long War Journal website, who focuses on terrorist groups in Gaza and the rest of the Middle East – found that at least one the children on the list of those who were killed during last month’s fighting, was a member of a terror group. The children killed in the May fighting received greater attention this year because The New York Times published a front-page story on them with photos of each one.
Commenting on it, Seth J. Frantzman wrote in the Jerusalem Post: Once it became clear that Hamas had recruited child soldiers to fight in their wars, the questions about the fate of these children took on less urgency among reports that were seeking to highlight their deaths at the hands of Israel. In short, a child killed by an Israeli airstrike is important; a child recruited by Hamas or another terror group and whose life is put at risk receives less attention. There are no front-page stories about Hamas child soldiers who have been recruited.
According to UNICEF, the UN agency responsible for providing humanitarian and development aid to children, the recruitment of children is a violation of international humanitarian law. Their website notes that “thousands of children are recruited and used in armed conflicts across the world. Often referred to as ‘child soldiers,’ these boys and girls suffer extensive forms of exploitation and abuse that are not fully captured by that term.
“Warring parties use children not only as fighters but as scouts, cooks, porters, guards, messengers and more. Many, especially girls, are also subjected to gender-based violence,” the site says.
“Children become part of an armed force or group for various reasons. Some are abducted, threatened, coerced or manipulated by armed actors. Others are driven by poverty, compelled to generate income for their families. Still others associate themselves for survival or to protect their communities. No matter their involvement, the recruitment and use of children by armed forces is a grave violation of child rights and international humanitarian law”.
But unfortunately, the UN organizations are shy in exposing the real face of Hamas and its dangerous practices of recruiting children for terrorist activities. No one will find even a single article on the UNICEF website on the topic of Hamas’s recruitment of children. But they however have articles on the 28 community-level centers in Gaza that they work with. They note that familied often send children to the labor market and that many children are pushed into child marriage, with 29 percent of girls married before reaching adulthood.
“Another important part of the UNICEF project is changing practices that perpetuate ad hoc handling of abuse,” the 2016 report says.
“Traditionally, some people in the Gaza Strip tried to solve problems of sexual abuse by using informal justice mechanisms instead of bringing cases to court, or would try to justify domestic violence, for example, by using religion”.
It may be mentioned here that, UNICEF and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) have done programing about youth and children being recruited for war in the past. In Jordan, for example, there were posters showing a child at a refugee camp looking in the mirror and seeing himself in uniform. The message was that the child should not be recruited to fight in Syria.
There is an international day devoted to struggling against the use of child soldiers. In February 2021, European Union High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell and Special Representative Virgina Gamba, who is tasked with monitoring children and armed conflicts said: “Despite global commitments and efforts, children around the world continue to suffer from the consequence of conflicts and are still being used as expendable fuel of war”.
According to the Office of the Special Representative for the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, tens of thousands of children are recruited and used in conflict. In 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding the involvement of children in armed conflict, to protect children from recruitment and use in hostilities; it entered force in 2002.
But mega-terror outfit Hamas does not follow any international protocol. Its only agenda is spreading terrorism inside Israel and cause harm to the Israeli populace. The only option of saving the children from becoming terrorists and suicide attackers would be to impose harsher sanctions on Hamas and stop any sort of financial help or funding to this group. At the same time, connections between Hamas and Iran should be investigated. Iran must face stern punishment for sponsoring terrorism.