The “overwhelming majority” of Palestinian minors held in Israel’s Megiddo and Ofer prisons have been tortured during their detention and interrogation, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said Tuesday, amid a marked increase in the incarceration and mistreatment of Palestinian children by Israel.
Lawyer for the committee Luay Ukka said in a statement that, after a visit to Ofer prison, he had noticed that the number of juvenile prisoners there had noticeably increased over the past month.
As of mid-October, he said, the number of Palestinian prisoners in Ofer under 18 years old reached 28, 14 of whom were under 14 years old.
According to rights group Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP), Israel has also dramatically increased the use of administrative detention -- internment without charge or trial -- against minors.
According to DCIP, over the last year 19 Palestinian minors were administratively detained. Prior to October 2015, Israel had reportedly not held a Palestinian child from the occupied West Bank in administrative detention since December 2011.
“The overwhelming majority” of juvenile prisoners held at Ofer have been “tortured, beaten, and humiliated” during the raids carried out by Israeli forces to detain them as well as during their interrogation, according to Ukka.
Ukka also said that the majority of juvenile prisoners at Ofer prison were from Aida refugee camp and the town of al-Ubeidiya, both in the southern occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem.
Just last week, undercover Israeli forces detained eight Palestinian children from Aida refugee camp, as residents of the camp -- particularly minors -- have recently been subject to an intensification of violent military raids.
Fourteen-year-old Tamir Abu Salem, who was detained about a year ago in Aida, told Ukka that the raid sparked clashes between local youth and Israeli soldiers, and that he was shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet before he was taken into custody, when he was also punched in the face.
Tamir said that the bullet rifted his skull bone and that "when I breathe part of my scalp puffs up and down."
The 14-year-old reported that the only treatment he had received from the Israel Prison Service (IPS) were occasional pain killers -- a common complaint among sick and wounded Palestinian detainees as part of a deliberate policy of medical neglect by Israeli prison authorities.
Separately, Hiba Masalha, another lawyer who also works with committee, reported in a statement on Monday that the number of juvenile prisoners at Megiddo prison had also recently increased.
"Most of the juvenile prisoners are being tortured and humiliated during detention raids," she said, adding that Palestinian minors were also being strip-searched when they arrived to Israeli detention centers.
The release of the testimonies came a day after DCIP published a report saying that at least five Palestinian minors have been imprisoned by Israel without being charged in recent months over Facebook posts that Israeli authorities alleged amounted to “incitement.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said in a September report that at least 1,000 Palestinian minors between the ages of 11 and 18 had been detained by Israel since January, a number of whom reported being abused and tortured while in detention.
According to prisoners’ rights groups Addameer, a total of 340 Palestinian minors are currently being incarcerated by Israel as political prisoners.
Interrogations of Palestinian children can last up to 90 days according to Addameer, while in addition to being beaten and threatened, cases of sexual assault and placement in solitary confinement to elicit confessions are also reported, while confession documents they are forced to sign are in Hebrew -- a language most Palestinian children do not speak.