By Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations on Monday left Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas off its blacklist of states and armed groups that violate children's rights during conflicts, but criticized Israel over its 2014 military operations.
U.N. special envoy for children and armed conflict, Leila Zerrougui of Algeria, had included Israel's army - known as the IDF - and Hamas in a draft of the report she had sent to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Ban had the final say on who was included on the blacklist, which was distributed to Security Council members on Monday.
U.N. sources have said that Ban's decision to override Zerrougui's recommendation was unusual.
Still, his 43-page report strongly criticized the impact that Israel's 2014 military operations had on children.
"The unprecedented and unacceptable scale of the impact on children in 2014 raises grave concerns about Israel's compliance with international humanitarian law ... particularly in relation to excessive use of force," he said.
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor issued a statement saying Ban was "right not to submit to the dictates of the terrorist organizations and the Arab states, in his decision not to include Israel in this shameful list, together with organizations like (Islamic State), Al Qaeda and the Taliban."
More than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians and including 540 children, were killed during last year's 50-day Gaza war between Hamas militants and Israel, while 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were killed.
A U.N. inquiry found that Israel fired on seven U.N. schools, killing 44 Palestinians who had sought shelter at some sites, and that Palestinian militants had hidden weapons and launched attacks from several empty U.N. schools.
Ban said that in conflicts in Central African Republic, Iraq, Israel and the Palestine territories, Nigeria, South Sudan and Syria, "children were affected to a degree which is an affront to our common humanity."
The report, which covers at least 23 situations, noted the five deadliest conflicts for children. It said 710 children were killed in Afghanistan, 679 in Iraq, 557 Palestinian children died, 368 in Syria, and 197 in Darfur, Sudan.
As in the case of Israel and the Palestinian territories, not all groups or armies were added to the blacklist.
The U.N. report blacklists groups or armed forces 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."
Armed groups blacklisted were involved in conflicts in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Colombia, Nigeria and the Philippines.
Countries whose national or regional armed forces were included on the blacklist were Afghanistan, DRC, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Myanmar and Yemen.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)