Palestinian children wearing traditional clothes
Palestinian children in traditional clothes (Reuters)

Israel has been accused by the UN committee on the rights of the child of abusing Palestinian children by torturing some in custody and using others as human shields.

The watchdog's 18 independent experts slammed Israel for its "persistent refusal" to reply to requests for information on children in the Palestinian territories.

It expressed concern at the "continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants" and cited 14 cases between January 2010 and March 2013.

In those cases, Israeli soldiers used Palestinian children to break into buildings deemed to be dangerous, the report said. No soldiers were convicted for these cases of abuse.

In another case, the committee criticised the leniency of the sentence. "The soldiers convicted for having forced at gunpoint a nine-year-old child to search bags suspected of containing explosives only received a suspended sentence of three months and were demoted," it said.

During the 10-year period examined by the committee, 7,000 Palestinian children aged 12-17 were arrested, interrogated and detained under harsh conditions including being shackled in leg irons and held in solitary confinement.

"Palestinian children arrested by [Israeli] military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released," the report said.

Hundreds of children have been killed as a consequence of Israeli military operations, especially in Gaza, the report continued.

"The state party proceeded to [conduct] air and naval strikes on densely populated areas with a significant presence of children, thus disregarding the principles of proportionality and distinction," it said.

The Israeli foreign ministry's spokesman Tigal Palmor accused the reports of magnifying events and "simply recycling old stuff" as a way of attacking Israel.