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UN Security Council condemns abuses against children in war zones

UNITED NATIONS -- The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Thursday condemning abuses against children in 23 conflict zones, citing crimes including forced conscription into armies -- as soldiers, suicide bombers or human shields -- rape, torture and mutilation of the world's most vulnerable inhabitants.

The vote on the resolution, which passed 15-0, came amid prolonged debate in which diplomats from as many as 60 countries -- aside from the 15 Security Council members -- weighed in on the measure and a scathing report on the issue released last week by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The report, Children and Armed Conflict, cites Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, South Sudan, Myanmar, Mali, Iraq, Colombia, Nigeria and the Philippines as among the worst offenders that "recruit or use children, kill or maim children, commit rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, or engage in attacks on schools and/or hospitals in situations of armed conflict."

One of the resolution's operative paragraphs said the Security Council "strongly condemns all violations of applicable international law involving the recruitment and use of children by parties to armed conflict as well as their re-recruitment, killing and maiming, rape and other forms of sexual violence, abductions, attacks against schools and hospitals as well as denial of humanitarian access by parties to armed conflict and all other violations of international law."

In remarks to reporters after he addressed the Security Council, Ban said he welcomed the resolution based on the report prepared by Leila Zerrougui, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, who said the numbers of children killed and injured in conflict areas spiked in 2014.

"As my latest report makes clear, last year was one of unprecedented challenges for children in conflict zones around the world," Ban said. "It is crucially important that we protect the world's children. As the report shows, that is a goal that we are failing to meet."

But the report also generated controversy in citing "Israel - State of Palestine" -- the site of a 50-day war in Gaza last year -- as one of the places, along with Central African Republic, Iraq, Nigeria and South Sudan, where children endured the most egregious violations. At least 540 children were killed in the Gaza war -- in all, 2,200 Palestinians and 70 Israelis.

"The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of the impact on children in 2014 raises grave concerns about Israel's compliance with international humanitarian law, notably the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in attack, and respect for international human rights law," said the report.

Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UN, said it was unfair to group Israel with nations embroiled in civil war or beset by terrorist groups.

"With all the regimes, with all the organizations that intentionally and strategically target children all around the world, it is simply absurd that this report disproportionately focuses on Israel," Prosor said."The report has 17 paragraphs on Syria, nine on Yemen, eight on Iraq, six on Libya and no less than 32 paragraphs on Israel. . . . Instead of being balanced, neutral, and focused on facts, the report's discussion of Israel is politicized, stained with interests, and distorts reality."

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