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Evidence update: night arrests and summonses (2022)

[28 February 2022] – Each year Israeli soldiers conduct between 3,500 - 4,500 search and arrest operations in Palestinian communities in the West Bank.[1] This averages out at 10-12 operations each day. In over 80 percent[2] of these cases the operations occur at night and involve the arrest of between 250-500 children.[3] Israel justifies this practice on the basis that the territory is subject to military rule (temporarily since 1967) as permitted under the Fourth Geneva Convention, although it continues to apply a separate legal regime (civilian law) to its citizens living in the same territory in violation of the principle of non-discrimination.[4] 

It is well documented that sending heavily armed soldiers into civilian homes at night to arrest children instils fear and causes trauma.[5] The detrimental impact of this practice prompted UNICEF in 2013 to recommend a prohibition against the night arrest of children and a delegation of lawyers to call for the use of summonses as a practical alternative.[6] Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it would consider these recommendations and a pilot study to use summonses was introduced in 2014.[7]
The results from the pilot scheme since introduction are not encouraging. First, during the past 8-years summonses have been used, on average, in just 8 percent of cases, falling to 2 percent in 2021.[8] Secondly, in cases where summonses were used, they were mostly delivered in night-time military raids on the family home - largely defeating the purpose of using a summons - and were frequently written in Hebrew.[9] Finally, the military authorities have confirmed that they kept no records relating to the study, casting doubt on whether it was ever implemented in good faith.[10]  
On 1 August 2021, the military authorities stated that they have introduced new procedures for summonsing children in lieu of night arrests. While the procedures remain classified, the authorities have indicated that summonses will not be used if:
  1. The child is wanted for interrogation by an agency other than the police; or
  2. The child is suspected of a "severe offence" (undefined) or has a record of committing "severe offences".
Based on the most recent evidence (50 testimonies), half of all children arrested (50 percent) continue to be detained at night and in just one case (2 percent) was a summons issued.[11] It should be noted that the current level of night-time arrests is about the same as when UNICEF and the lawyers issued their recommendations nearly 10-years ago.  It is not coincidental that while a number of concerned States engage with Israel on the issue of child detention and night arrests, some of these states, as a matter of policy, rule out any question of legal accountability or consequences arising out of these circumstances.[12] The results of this policy speak for themselves.  

[1] Information collected by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories (OCHA oPt) and presented in the Protection of Civilians Reports (2018-2021).
[2] See Yesh Din, Breaking the Silence and Physicians for Human Rights, A Life Exposed: Military invasions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank)November 2020), page 12 ("88% of the recorded invasions began between midnight and 5:00 A.M.").
[3] Based on the assumption that between 500 - 1,000 children are arrested each year and applying a night-time arrest rate of 50 percent based on 50 testimonies collected in 2021.
[4] Pursuant to this reasoning, Israel established military courts in the West Bank on 7 June 1967 relying on the Fourth Geneva Convention (Military Order No. 3). Over 53 years later the military courts are still prosecuting Palestinian civilians, including children (12-17 years) and Israel is still relying on the Fourth Geneva Convention to justify the practice. See briefing paper distributed by the military authorities at Ofer military court, near Jerusalem - "The Military Courts Unit (Judea and Samaria) - Updated December 2019 - The Military Courts Unit in Judea and Samaria.
[5] See, for example: UN Committee Against Torture - Concluding Observations (2009); Breaking the Silence: Occupation of the Territories (2000-2010); UN Human Rights Committee - Concluding Observations (July 2010); US State Department human rights report (April 2011); B'Tselem, No Minor Matter, (July 2011); Adalah, PHR(Israel) and Al Mazan, False Confessions of Palestinian Children and Adolescents under Coercion, (November 2011); Children in Military Custody: A report written by a delegation of British lawyers on the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law, (June 2012); UNICEF: Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations, (February 2013); UN Secretary General's Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, (May 2013); UN Committee on the Rights of the Child - Concluding Observations, (June 2013); B'Tselem, Abuse and torture in interrogations of dozens of Palestinian minors in the Israel police Etzion facility, (August 2013); UN Human Rights Council: Draft report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review (Israel), (November 2013); ACRI, One Rule Two Legal Systems, (October 2014); UN Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Makarim Wibisono, (January 2016); ACRI, Arrests, interrogations and indictments of Palestinian minors in the Occupied Territories: Facts and figures for 2014, (February 2016); B'Tselem, Minors in Jeopardy, (March 2018); Hamoked, Childhood in Chains, (April 2018); Military Court Watch, Annual Report, (June 2020); Hamoked, Under cover of Darkness, (October 2020); Yesh Din, PHR-Israel and Breaking the Silence, A Life Exposed, (November 2020); The Independent, Bound, Blindfolded and Beaten by Israeli Troops, (June 2009); CNN, Israel accused of mistreating kids, (September 2010); The Guardian, Hundreds of Palestinian minors jailed for throwing stones, (July 2011); The Australian, Stone Cold Justice, (November 2011); Haaretz, Nearly 100% of all military court cases in the West Bank end in conviction, (November 2011); The Guardian, The Palestinian children, alone and bewildered, in Israel's Al Jalame jail, (January 2012); The New York Times, Palestinian's trial shines light on military justice, (February 2012); The Guardian, Israel subjecting Palestinian children to 'spiral of injustice', (June 2012); Chanel 4 News, Israel 'breaches rights of Palestinian children', (June 2012); The Jewish Chronicle, Israel 'in breach of law' over child detainees, (June 2012); BBC News, Israel 'breaching UN convention on child rights', (June 2012); The Sydney Morning Herald, Israel sees Palestinian children as 'potential terrorists', panel finds, (June 2012); Mondoweiss, Arrest of Palestinian children - 'A boy in leg irons' - is becoming a big story in the UK, (June 2012); The Daily Beast, Where's the shame? (July 2012); The Times of Israel, UN report says Israel routinely abuses Palestinian minors, (June 2013); ABC Four Corners: Stone Cold Justice, (February 2014). Etc, etc, etc. - For more media links see -
[6] UNICEF: Children in Israeli Military Detention: Observations and Recommendations, (February 2013) - recommendation no. 3(i); and Children in Military Custody: A report written by a delegation of British lawyers on the treatment of Palestinian children under Israeli military law, (June 2012) - recommendation no. 1.
[7] UNICEF Bulletin No. 1 (October 2013) – available at
[8] MCW Comparative Graph - Issues of Concern (2013-2021) - available at
[9] MCW Evidence Update: Night Arrests and Summonses (14 January 2021) - available at
[10] A report published by the Israeli organisation Hamoked, tends to confirm the conclusion that the pilot study, such as it is, was never implemented in good faith. Hamoked notes that its "persistent attempts to receive figures about the pilot have proved fruitless. Time and again, both the military and the Israel Police claimed they did not have comprehensive data on the matter ... The response, which included no figures, also explicitly stated that "the Israel Police does not monitor or collect quantitative data on summons [...]. Also, there are no written conclusions or lessons drawn from the pilot". See Hamoked, Under cover of Darkness, (October 2020).
[11] MCW Comparative Graph - Issues of Concern (2013-2021) - available at
[12] The United Kingdom and Germany while claiming to be strong supporters of the International Criminal Court (ICC), reject the Court's jurisdiction over the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in opposition to a ruling of the ICC to the contrary.