LONDON (Reuters) - Britain called on Israel to improve the treatment of Palestinian children in military detention on Friday and said Israel should do more to safeguard vulnerable people in its care.
The Foreign Office issued a statement in the wake of the sentencing of Palestinian teenage girl Ahed Tamimi, who was arrested after kicking and slapping an Israeli soldier in the occupied West Bank in December.
Tamimi, who was 16 at the time of the incident, accepted a plea deal this week under which she will be sentenced to eight months in prison, her lawyer said.
Alistair Burt, Britain’s Minister for the Middle East, said in the statement: “The conviction and sentencing of Ahed Tamimi is emblematic of how the unresolved (Israeli-Palestinian) conflict is blighting the lives of a new generation who should be growing up together in peace, but continue to be divided.”
“The treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention remains a human rights priority for the UK. We will continue to call upon Israel to improve its practices in line with international law and obligations,” he said.
Burt said Britain had offered to help the Israeli authorities through expert-to-expert talks with British officials. Israel had made some improvements but needed to do much more to safeguard vulnerable people in its care, he said.
Tamimi became a hero to Palestinians after the incident outside her home in the village of Nabi Saleh was streamed live on Facebook by her mother and went viral.
The soldiers had deployed during a weekly Palestinian protest in the village against Israeli policy on settlements in the West Bank, one of the most heated issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Most countries consider as illegal the Israeli settlements, built on territory which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Israel disputes that its settlements are illegal and says their future should be determined in talks with the Palestinians, although the peace process has collapsed.
Amnesty International said after Tamimi’s conviction that her sentence was at odds with international law and showed that Israel had no regard for the rights of Palestinian children.
About 350 Palestinian children were currently in Israeli detention, the human rights group said.
Reporting by Stephen Addison, Editing by Angus MacSwan