Israel - Palestine Conflict

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Damning new evidence of Israel's abuse of Arab children has emerged, adding another tier to the stack of human-rights violations committed over the past six weeks of violence. It comes amid deepening controversy surrounding the visit to the region of Mary Robinson, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, whom Israel's Foreign Minister has refused to meet to discuss accusations of excessive force.

A report by Amnesty International released last week, but barely publicised, describes how Arab teenagers have been arrested in the middle of the night, subjected to high-pressure interrogations including beatings and held behind bars for more than a month.

The focus of Amnesty's latest investigation was not the Palestinians taking part in riots in the occupied territories, many scores of whom have been shot dead by the Israeli army, but members of Israel's one million Arab population. Hundreds of Palestinians living within Israel have been arrested after riots erupted in Arab towns early last month in protest over killings by the Israeli security services in the early days of the intifada. Some have been held in custody, denied bail or immediate access to lawyers.

Amnesty's findings are further evidence that, after moves towards reform, Israel is slipping back into the pattern of widespread human-rights violations that characterised the first six-year intifada.

It includes the story of two young Palestinians in east Jerusalem who say they were beaten, shackled, and kicked while lying on the ground with hoods on their heads. They say they were repeatedly slapped during interrogation. One said that 20 police officers entered their detention cell where he and 30 other young Arabs were held and randomly beat them with batons.

Israel's Arab population a fifth of the total has long complained of sweeping civil-rights violations by the Jewish majority. But the riots, the worst in the 52-year history of the state, dealt a severe blow to the already strained...
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