Last week the U.S. ratified a U.N. protocol banning child combatants:

Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s report to the Security Council this month lists 23 parties–including governments and rebel groups–in Afghanistan, Burundi, Congo, Liberia and Somalia that recruit and use child soldiers. [Associated Press, 12/24/02]

Did Annan’s report include the Palestinians? Apparently not, as they are not listed in the article, or the Dec. 16 AP article on Annan’s report. With regard to this issue, Fiamma Nirenstein, a correspondent for La Stampa, reports on a November 16 article in Al Quds, the Hezbollah weekly:

After speaking to children in Jenin, the reporter explained that children had been trained from a very young age not only to throw stones, but also to use small explosive devices and grenades–a strategic decision recently supplemented by using children to prepare bombs. The children are divided into three groups: The first helps the grown-ups manufacture explosives, the second plants the devices, and the third–probably the best trained–is charged with carrying out ambushes where they bring along a bag full of explosives, not just stones. […] A 16-year-old told the reporter how he had thrown at least 50 grenades at soldiers. During the first night of Operation Defensive Shield, as the Israelis called it, hundreds of children walked through the streets chanting, “Fight to the death…!”

[…] And Mr. Arafat? Talking about children in August, he lauded Farid Houra, a 14-year-old shahid, saying, “The shahid constitutes the fundamental and victorious force of our people.” And in January, when he was asked what message he’d like to send Palestinian children, he said: “The child who throws a stone, who confronts a tank, doesn’t it send a better message to the world when that hero becomes a shahid?” [New York Sun, 12/23/02]

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