Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has decided to keep Israel and Hamas off the UN's blacklist of states and groups that violate the rights of children in conflict. His decision went against his official's recommendation.
Ban's decision contradicted advice from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui. She had recommended Israel and the Palestinian Hamas group in Gaza be categorized as a systemic violator of childrens' rights.
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that Ban had ruled against adding Israel to the list because of "intense pressure" from Tel Aviv and Washington.
Algerian Zerrougui had included the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas in the draft of the report she had previously sent to Ban, UN sources said. Ban had the final say on who was included on the blacklist. Zerrougui confirmed to international television that the final decision was Ban's and that she only made recommendations.
The 43-page report went to members of the Security Council on Monday. It did criticize the impact that Israel's 2014 military operations had on children in the Gaza Strip. "The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of the impact on children in 2014 raises grave concerns about Israel's compliance with international humanitarian law ... particularly in relation to excessive use of force," Ban wrote.
UN sources said Ban's decision to override Zerrougui's recommendation was highly unusual.
Ban urged Israel "to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect children, to prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protections afforded to schools and hospitals."
He also urged Israel to ensure accountability for perpetrators of alleged violations and to engage in talks with Zerrougui, "to ensure that there is no recurrence."
Israeli ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor issued a statement on Monday saying that Ban was "right not to submit to the dictates of the terrorist organizations and the Arab states, in his decision not to include Israel in this shameful list, together with organizations like ["Islamic State"], al Qaeda and the Taliban."
There were 540 children among the mostly 2,100 Palestinian civilians who were killed during last year's Gaza war between Hamas militants and Israel. A UN inquiry found that Israel fired on seven UN schools.
In Israel 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed during the 50-day war in 2014.
Africa and the Middle East
Ban said that in conflicts in Central African Republic, Iraq, Israel and the Palestine territories, Nigeria, South Sudan and Syria, "children were affected to a degree which is an affront to our common humanity."
The report noted the five deadliest conflicts for children had been Afghanistan where 710 children died, Iraq with 679 casualties, the Palestinian Territories with 577, Syria with 368, and 197 in Sudan's Darfur region.
jm/msh (AP, Reuters)