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Israel approves jailing 'terrorists' from age 12

While many of the assailants were young people, teenagers have been shot dead during protests and clashes

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Israeli lawmakers have approved jailing children as young as 12 convicted of "terrorist offences" following repeated attacks by young Palestinians, parliament said on Wednesday.

"The 'Youth Bill,' which will allow the authorities to imprison a minor convicted of serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder or manslaughter even if he or she is under the age of 14, passed its second and third readings... Tuesday night," an English-language statement said.

It added that the seriousness of attacks in recent months "demands a more aggressive approach, including toward minors."
The statement quoted Anat Berko, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party and the bill's sponsor, as saying "to those who are murdered with a knife in the heart it does not matter if the child is 12 or 15."

Violence in the Palestinian territories and Israel since October has killed at least 219 Palestinians, 34 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to an AFP count.

Many of the assailants were young people, including teenagers. Other youths have been shot dead during protests and clashes with security forces.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem criticized the bill and Israel's treatment of Palestinian youths.

"Rather than sending them to prison, Israel would be better off sending them to school where they could grow up in dignity and freedom not under occupation," it said in a statement Wednesday. "Imprisoning such young minors denies them the chance of a better future."

A 12-year-old Palestinian girl from the West Bank, convicted of attempted murder by a military court as part of a plea bargain and sentenced to four months, was released from prison in April.