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Israeli rights group says law broken in Palestinian youth arrests

By Kareem Khadder, CNN
  • Rights group B'tselem says legal protections for minors are being ignored
  • Questioning often is done without parents or other adult present, it says
  • Israeli police say all arrests and detentions are done in compliance with the law

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Israel is violating its own laws by arresting an increasing number of Palestinian minors in East Jerusalem for stone-throwing, according to a new report by Israeli human rights group B'tselem.

The group says it has documented the arrest of 81 Palestinian minors in the flashpoint East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan for stone-throwing during a 12-month period, from November 2009 through October 2010.

Thirty-two of these minors were arrested or detained in the last two months of the period, according to B'tselem, and some of the minors were arrested several times.

B'tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said that in some of these cases police were violating Israeli law that guarantees protections for minors.

"We find it very often that children and youth were arrested in nightly arrest raids with armed police officers that are taken from their homes from their beds to the police station for questioning, and very often the questioning is done without the presence of their parents or of an adult on their behalf," she said.

In some cases, she said, minors were subject to physical abuse.

She also expressed concern about the young age of some of those arrested.

"Children as young as the age of 5 have been detained or questioned, and in some cases children as young as 8 were taken from their beds as mistaken identity," Michaeli told CNN in a phone interview.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said all arrests and detentions in Silwan were in compliance with the law and police would continue to arrest those who throw stones and use other forms of violence.

"In the last year there have been a large number of incidents where teenagers and youth have been involved in violence where they have attacked police officers and Israelis who are living in East Jerusalem." Rosenfeld told CNN. "Those teenagers who have been questioned and arrested admitted to carrying out those attacks. Some of them been charged, some of them have been brought to court."

Asked about the reports of Israeli police arrests in the middle of the night, violence, and interrogation of minors without parents, Rosenfeld said, "I am not familiar with that -- all I can confirm in terms of when the arrests were made -- arrests are made according to operational intelligence."

Silwan is a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood and has been at the center of ongoing tension over the future of East Jerusalem.

Israel, which annexed the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967, considers the entire city to be its sovereign capital, a claim not recognized by the international community. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as a future capital of their state.

The reports cites an uptick in violence in the area as a result of an increase in the number of settler-linked Israelis moving into Silwan as part of a concerted effort to boost the Jewish population there.

Peace Now, an Israeli settler watchdog group, estimates that approximately 350 Jewish Israelis live in Silwan amongst tens of thousands of Palestinian

These moves, coupled with a municipal plan to develop an archaeological park in the area, have enraged many residents, who view them as an Israeli provocation.

B'tselem says tensions in Silwan have gotten worse since the shooting of a Palestinian man by an Israeli security guard in September. The guard, who was employed by Israeli residents in the neighborhood, was not charged by authorities.

He said he shot the man in self-defense. Many in Silwan have disputed his version of events.