Gaza Palestinians Denounce Use of Children in Suicide Attacks

Parents and Palestinian politicians in Gaza yesterday expressed shock and dismay over certain political groups sending children to infiltrate settlements, which usually ends in the children being killed.

The Palestinian Preventive Security Services and Hamas both issued statements calling on teachers, politicians and clergy to prevent children from volunteering for "military" operations that mean certain death. Yesterday, three pupils from schools in the Sheikh Radwan refugee camp, killed by IDF troops while they tried to infiltrate Netzarim, were buried.

The three, Yufu Zakut, 15, Ismail Abu Nada, 13, and Anwar Hamduna, 13, attended school as usual on Tuesday and told their parents they were going to visit friends. Instead, they left farewell letters to their parents, and took some makeshift explosives made from firecrackers and knives and headed for Netzarim, where they were killed on its outskirts by soldiers defending the settlement.

A Gazan source told Ha'aretz that Islamic Jihad had sent the three, but the radical group has not claimed responsibility, nor has any other group. Last week, another child, Hitham Abu Shaka, was killed in a similar infiltration attempt.

Parents yesterday expressed shock over such attempts and protested to Islamic activists. Hamas issued a statement and spoke directly to children, asking them to cease such activities and to wait until they have grown up and have been trained. It also called on teachers and preachers to make clear that children should be taught not to go to their deaths on the settlements' fences, "but to grow up and study, so that one day they can fulfill their roles properly."

But the Hamas campaign against child fighters also took pains "not to harm the spirit of jihad and resistance in the children."

A senior officer in the Preventive Security forces, Samir Mashrawi, said some of the organizations irresponsibly exploit the children. He called for a national commission of inquiry and to punish those who encourage children to undertake suicide missions.