The Palestinian journalists union declared on Monday that news photographers are "absolutely forbidden" from taking pictures of Palestinian children carrying weapons or taking part in activities by militant groups, saying that the pictures harm the Palestinian cause. 

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate also called on Palestinian factions and their military wings to stop using children in their activities. 

The Foreign Press Association, representing news media working in Israel and the Palestinian territories, called on the organization to withdraw the directive, saying it limited coverage of news. Palestinian Authority officials had no immediate comment. 

Children carrying weapons or dressed up as suicide bombers have been frequently seen at rallies and marches in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during nearly two years of Palestinian-Israeli violence. 

Israel has charged that Palestinians are misusing children as pawns in the conflict. The Palestinians counter that Israeli forces target children with gunfire during riots. 

Tawfik Abu Khousa, deputy chairman of the syndicate, said such pictures harmed the image of the Palestinian people and the credibility of Palestinian journalists. 

The order extends to Palestinian journalists who work for local and foreign new agencies. It requires Palestinians who work for foreign news media to make sure that foreign photographers follow the ban. Free-lancers were also expected to abide by the order. 

Journalists who failed to adhere to the ban would face disciplinary procedures, the statement said without elaborating. Previously, Palestinian journalists who ran afoul of the authorities had their credentials lifted, limiting their access to official events. 

"We have decided to forbid taking any footage of armed children, because we consider that as a clear violation of the rights of children and for negative effects these pictures have on the Palestinian people," he said. 

The statement said footage of armed children served "the interests of Israel and its propaganda against the Palestinian people." 

The union also threatened to boycott militant groups who use children and masked men in their activities. 

Palestinian photographers have told of attempts by Palestinian officials and militias to keep them from taking pictures considered unfavorable, sometimes using threats and coercion. The Palestinian Information Ministry has issued statements denouncing the threats. 

Most foreign news agencies make extensive use of local Palestinian photographers in the Gaza Strip for both print and television pictures. 

Journalists were also banned from photographing masked men. 

In a statement, the Foreign Press Association expressed "deep concern" over the decision by the syndicate and its threats of sanctions against journalists, local and foreign, who disregard the ban. 

"While we share the expressed desire to defend the rights of children, limiting coverage of legitimate news events and elements of stories is not the proper way to achieve this goal," it said.