We receive regular reports about the detention of Palestinian children from a non-governmental organisation, Defence for Children International. We remain concerned about the detention of children in military jails and the prosecution of children through military courts.
Will the Minister confirm the UK Government’s full support for UNICEF, which is calling for the immediate release of the 164 children in Israeli military prisons? Will he assure the House that as the relevant Minister he will do everything in his power to get these kids reunited with their families?
When I was in Israel a few months ago, I raised this matter directly with the Minister responsible, indicating the UK’s concerns about both the detention and the treatment of children. The Israelis have recently raised the age of criminal responsibility in the territories from 16 to 18, so it is the same as for Israeli children. None the less, I know that the Israeli Government do take seriously the fact that children are detained in circumstances that cause concern to NGOs and UNICEF, and we will continue to press them on this.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the tragedy of some of these Palestinian children in Israeli prisons has arisen because some of them have been groomed as terrorists by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which goes against the Geneva convention and all kinds of international law? [Interruption] Will he take steps with the Palestinian Authority to try to ensure that children are not used in that way?
I hear comments from others, but my hon. Friend makes a fair point; the tragedy is that children have been used. There was a regrettable incident in which a Down’s syndrome youngster was a suicide bomber. It is not wrong for anyone to be alert to those risks. None the less, the majority of these children are not detained for such reasons and it is essential that Israel makes the right distinction between the two in order to retain international credibility and to ensure its own security.