TEL AVIV (Feb. 23)
— Defense For Children International blames the Israel Defense Force for the deaths of 70 Arab children — from teen-agers to youngsters under 6 years old — during the first year of the Palestinian uprising which began in December 1987.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin disputed the figure.
“Only 22” minors were killed, Rabin wrote in response to a complaint by the president of the Israeli branch of the organization, former Supreme Court Justice Moshe Etzioni.
Rabin said he took a “grave view” of Etzioni’s allegations, and maintained that most of the 22 youths killed had participated in disturbances.
Speaking at a Labor Party municipal election rally in Haifa on Wednesday, Rabin insisted that the IDF does not kill innocent people.
He said that when there were deviations from the norms of conduct, the guilty parties were put on trial and their offenses publicized to prevent a recurrence.
But a Defense For Children International source in Jerusalem questioned Rabin’s figures.
The organization has compiled a report on child deaths related to the intifada, which it says it will release officially soon.
According to the source, 35 of the 70 Arab children died from gunshot wounds, 31 from tear gas inhalation, one from beatings and three in other incidents.
One of them was crushed to death by a gasoline drum while dismantling a barricade on army orders.
Another was electrocuted when ordered to remove a Palestinian flag from an electric pylon, the source said.
He said the vast majority of tear gas-related deaths were of children under 6.
The source said he wondered how many of those youngsters had indeed threatened the lives of soldiers.
He said their protest actions were not all stone-throwing but included demonstrations and flag-waving.
Rabin, meanwhile, told his Haifa audience that 370 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF and 8,000 wounded in the 14 months of the uprising.
Arab sources claim a much higher number of dead and wounded.
Rabin said 6,200 Palestinians are presently being held in IDF detention centers for offenses related to the intifada or terrorist acts. Another 4,000 have had trials and are in prison, he said.