child arrest
The Israeli military has been accused of mistreating Palestinian children in its custody. Above: Israeli soldiers detain a Palestinian boy during clashes following a protest against the expansion of the West Bank settlement of Ofra, Sept. 26, 2014, in the village of Silwad, north of Ramallah. ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images

Palestinian children are routinely being subjected to “abusive arrests” by Israeli authorities, a Human Rights Watch investigation charges. The New York-based organization criticized Israel for subjecting children as young as 11 to beatings and coercive interrogations that stripped them of their rights as supposedly protected by Israeli law.

“Israeli forces’ mistreatment of Palestinian children is at odds with its claim to respect children's rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. “As Israel’s largest military donor, the U.S. should press hard for an end to these abusive practices and for reforms.”

The report was based on the testimonies of several children, but the group said it represents a pervasive problem. Security forces allegedly choked children, threw stun grenades at them, beat them in custody, threatened and interrogated them without the presence of parents or lawyers and failed to inform parents of their children’s whereabouts. Children were also made to sign confessions in Hebrew, a language they said they did not understand.

The findings were consistent with a wider 2013 report published by Unicef, the United Nations' children's welfare organization, which found the “ill-treatment” of Palestinian children in Israeli detention to be widespread and systematic. Responding to allegations, the Israeli military rejected the Unicef findings, and said its criminal proceedings met Israeli and international standards.

Israel’s detention policies have repeatedly come under criticism by human rights organizations. Among the more controversial policies is so-called administrative detention, which lets the military hold Palestinians for six-month renewable terms without trial, as recently reported by International Business Times.

As of April 2015, 164 Palestinian children from the West Bank were being held as detainees, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

Two of the boys interviewed by Human Rights Watch testified to urinating on themselves out of fear at the time of their arrests. Three out of the four children said they suffered nightmares and difficulty sleeping after being released.

“Israel has been on notice for years that its security forces are abusing Palestinian children’s rights in occupied territory, but the problems continue,” Whitson said. “These are not difficult abuses to end if the Israeli government were serious about doing so.”