Nine minors detained during night raid

by Julie, Bethlehem team 

Tuqu' Military Jeep

On 3 December 2014, Israeli soldiers raided the village of Tuqu’ at night and detained 9 minors. Photo c/o Tuqu’ municipality.

On December 3, 2014 we got a phone call from Tuqu’ municipality in the Bethlehem area. The night before there had been a night raid in their village where 9  youth under 18 were detained. We called our driver and headed out there to meet with the municipality and the father of one of the detained children.

30 Israeli military jeeps and police cars with around 200 soldiers entered Tuqu’ village at midnight, they told us. They marched the street of the village and stayed until 6 am. The soldiers threw sound bombs in front of peoples houses and entered around 50 houses. All the soldiers either wore balaclavas or had their face painted.

The father of one of the boys told us that soldiers entered their house, and shouted for his 16 year old son. They gathered the family in one room, and his son was blindfolded and handcuffed with his hands behind his back, without giving them any reason to do so. His mother wanted to give him some water to drink, but was refused. The soldiers stayed in their home for an hour while they threw furniture around and took pictures of the house and family members, and took everyone’s ID numbers.

This was only one of 11 cases of detentions during this night raid. The boys who were detained were 13, 14, 15, 16, 16, 16, 16, 16, 17, 18 and 22 years old. In total nine boys under the age of 18.

After 6 hours the military and police left Tuqu’ village, taking 11 Palestinians with them, without telling anyone in Tuqu’ where they were taken.

“The arrest and transfer process is often accompanied by verbal abuse and humiliation, threats as well as physical violence. Hours later the children find themselves in a interrogation room, sleep deprived and scared.”

“Most children undergo coercive interrogation, mixing verbal abuse, threats, and physical violence, generally resulting in a confession. The most common offence children confess to is throwing stones… …in most cases, the children are either shown, or made to sign, documentation written in Hebrew, a language they do not understand.”

(Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted: Children held in military detention – Defence for Children International, Palestine Section)

So why does these detentions of minors take place? Breaking the silence, an organization of former Israeli soldiers telling their stories of their military service, told us that when new soldiers need to practice a night raid the best way to do so is to actually carry out a night raid, and to practice an arrest the best way is to actually arrest someone. They also told us that many of the Israeli military’s actions are taken to “make their presence felt”.

According to Save the Children, families often define the rise of juvenile detention in their neighborhood as a tool, used by the Israeli army, to make them and their children lose a sense of security and feeling of well being in their own homes.

Note from Israeli army

The note from the Israeli army explaining why they raided Tuqu’ village the night before. 

While leaving Tuqu’ after our meeting we are met by a ”flying checkpoint”, set up temporarily consisting of an Israeli military jeep, spike belts and armed soldiers. We are stopped and given a piece of paper with something written in Arabic. A soldier tells our Palestinian driver to translate it to us. He says he will do it later, but the soldier yells at him to do it now, while his assault rifle is leveled at us. The note says:

“Recently, many terror attacks took place towards Israeli residents by youth from your village. In response, our forces carried out an operation in the village and your houses in order to prevent the increase of harm to the security of the residents. The aim of this military operation in the area is to reduce the amount of violent attacks and the disruption of order against those that travel and live in this area. Therefore, the aim of this activity is not to disrupt your routine. Make the terrorists go away. Only with cooperation will we can achieve peace in the area.”

*The minors detained the night before were detained for throwing stones.  The throwing of stones are the “terror attacks” and those who throw them are the “terrorists” that this note refers to.

Hebron’s Cruel Reality: Child Detentions

by Hebron team

Mohammad Tareq and Mohammad Bahaa Al-Jabari, age 8 and 9, were detained on 24 September. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

Mohammad Tareq and Mohammad Bahaa Al-Jabari, age 8 and 9, were detained on 24 September. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

As an EAPPI accompanier in the West Bank city of Hebron, you quickly get used to many occurrences that never would be tolerated in your home country.  Perhaps the hardest thing to get used to is the arrest and detention of children. During our two months here, the EAPPI Hebron team has witnessed several child detentions – we have also heard about numerous other such incidents from fellow international human rights monitors stationed in the city.

Children are most often detained on their way to and from school, but are also taken from their homes in the middle of the night. Mohammad Tareq and Mohammad Bahaa Al-Jabari are 8 and 9 years old. We watched them being detained close to their school on Wednesday, 24 September.

“We were just running and playing, chasing each other around, when the soldiers came for us. They probably thought we were running away from them.”

On the same day, we also witnessed the Israeli military driving past and stopping the boys outside a shop close to the same school. We know from testimonies of soldiers serving in Hebron that their key task is to make their presence known – stopping children on the way home from school is just one example of this duty.

“They were throwing stones, so now we have to take them to the police station. There their parents can pay a fine to get them released,” – a soldier told the observers upon arrival to the site of the detention.

According to the boys, the soldiers had also been rough in their treatment.

“A soldier grabbed my face tightly when he wanted me to confess to throwing stones,” one of the boys described.

The boys were taken away in an army vehicle to a police station close to the Ibrahimi Mosque, accompanied by one of the boys’ father. According to the boys, the father wasn’t allowed to speak to them. The boys were found innocent and released a couple of hours later, without the parents needing to pay a fine.

Picture of  12-year-old Yousef Hajajreh, who was arrested on 8 September. Photo EAPPI/N. Forsstroem.

Picture of 12-year-old Yousef Hajajreh, who was arrested on 8 September. Photo EAPPI/N. Forsstroem.

In a separate incident on the 8 September, EAs in Hebron watched when the Israeli army detained a number of young children during clashes involving tear-gas and sound-grenades next to the Salaymeh checkpoint. Children from six schools pass this checkpoint in the mornings and afternoons. According to observers who came to the site before EAPPI, the soldiers simply grabbed children at random – one of the children was Oday Rajabi, aged 7. At this checkpoint, tear-gas is an almost daily occurrence, which continuously disturbs students’ lessons and stops them from even getting to school

Only as a last resort

The detention of children is strictly regulated in international law. In spite of this, Israeli authorities routinely arrest children, and is the only country in the world that systematically tries children in military courts, according to a 2013 UNICEF. In Hebron, at least 41 children and 5 teachers were arrested in 2013 by Israeli forces [PDF – Page 6] on their way to or from school in H2, and in July 2014 as many as 192 children were detained by the Israeli military.

Consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children should be restrained only if they pose an imminent threat to themselves or to others, when all other means have been exhausted, and only for as long as is strictly necessary.

Longlasting trauma

Detention is a traumatic experience for children, regardless of its duration, according to a report from Save the Children in 2012. The research shows that detention has an affect on the psycho-social well being of the child, as well as the parents. This can go on to have a profound impact on the child’s future, especially on their education and career.

*Read more about the affects of the Israeli occupation on Children.

Operation ‘Collective Punishment’?

An overview of the village of Haska. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

An overview of the village of Haska. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

by Nanette-Marie, Trine, Simone, Itani, & Chris, Hebron team

Do you remember the three Israeli teenagers that were kidnapped and killed in June? The world has turned its attention to Gaza, so what might now be forgotten is that the current outbreak of conflict started from the three Israeli boys who disappeared and were later found dead near the Palestinian city of Hebron in the West Bank. In the search for the three teenagers, the Israeli army blockaded the city of Hebron, and turned the nearby village of Haska upside down. Many international organizations called on the Government of Israel to refrain from using collective punishment in “Operation Brother’s Keeper”, as homes, universities and charitable organizations were raided throughout the West Bank and over 700 Palestinians arrested, most of whom were not connected to the disappearance of the Israeli teenagers.

We visited the village of Haska to hear their accounts of what happened this June.

The army specifically targeted children, leaving them traumatized by the experience, says villager Mustafa Allan, father of four:

They beat my seven-year-old son up in order to get information from him. Now he wets his bed at night, which he never used to do before.

Mustafa Allan shows the results of the raids in his house. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

Mustafa Allan shows the results of the raids in his house. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

The common understanding in the village is that the Israeli government knew that the three boys were dead from the beginning. This understanding stems from reports that surfaced that the Israeli army had evidence of their death from the day of their disappearance and that parts of the operation were planned before the disappearence. The villagers see the operation in Haska as a form of collective punishment, and the alleged kidnapping as a false justification to start an operation against Gaza.

They even blamed my twelve-year-old son Muhammed for being the kidnapper.

Looking at this shy little boy with big eyes and thick glasses, no one in his right mind could ever take him for a kidnapper. Apparently another young boy in the village had told the soldiers that Muhammed had seen the car of the kidnappers. According to some theories, the kidnappers had stopped in Haska for 40 minutes.

As a result, the Allan family was specifically targeted during the searches. Mustafa Allen showed EAs around his house, pointing at broken mirrors, cupboards and windows – and where once there was a bed, only rubble is left. The soldiers also destroyed their computer, apparently for no reason since they weren’t interested in any of the information stored on it.

They also took my 14-year old son away in their army vehicle and interrogated him. He used to be so open and social, but now he mostly keeps to himself.

Muhammad, Mustafa's 12 year old son. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

Muhammad, Mustafa’s 12 year old son. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

The army also targeted the irrigation system and emptied water cisterns “looking for bodies”. The soldiers put chemicals into the cisterns, saying that it would react with any human remains in the water. This meant that some families were unable to drink their water for a whole week, as it was polluted with the chemicals.

In the neighbouring house, the farmer Jihad Abu Saymeh tells a similar story. He too was beaten up by the soldiers, ending up in hospital due to the wounds.

They took me to my green house and made me watch when they destroyed my crops. I couldn’t give them any information since I didn’t have any.

Jihad Abu Saymeh. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

Jihad Abu Saymeh. Photo EAPPI/T. Fjeldmann.

Jihad Abu Saymeh suspects that the whole operation was merely a military training, as a new troop of soldiers would enter the house as soon as the previous soldiers had left. Saymeh tells the EAs that he didn’t dare to leave his family alone during the 18 days that the searches went on.

The soldiers could come several times a day. They tore everything down and made a huge mess. They even told us not to clean it up since they were coming back.

The operation only finished after the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers finally were found – 60 kilometres away from Haska. For the Allan family, this came in the very last minute, as the army was going to demolish their house. The soldiers had just ordered them to leave their home within two hours, but Mustafa Allan refused.

I told them we’ve lived here for seventeen years, so if they wanted to demolish our home we would go down with it.

Regardless of how traumatic the operation has been for the villagers, they see their suffering as small in comparison to elsewhere.

What we have gone through here is nothing compared to what the people in Gaza have experienced.

How can I explain this to people at home?

A former EA reflects on a military incursion during her time in Jayyus

 by Hanna, Jayyus team, Group 48

A military incursion in Jayyus. Photo EAPPI/S. Rudholm, July 2011.

A military incursion in Jayyus. Photo EAPPI/S. Rudholm, July 2011.

An early phone call

I just went to bed when the phone rang. I look at my phone clock, it shows 1.40 AM. I hear a familiar voice.

“Hello Hanna, I am sorry for calling so late, but the military is in the village.

I jump out of the bed and wake up my colleagues. With sleepy eyes we put on our EAPPI-vests and go out into the darkness to meet the Israeli soldiers.

It is quiet when we walk through the village, but now and then someone whispers from a window: “Hey, where are you going? The military is over there.”

We arrive at an alley. Four soldiers are standing in the shadows. I shine the flashlight at my colleague and we talk loudly about everything as if nothing special is happening. We show our presence. We want the soldiers to know we are there. 

Inside a house, we see more soldiers. After about 20 minutes they come out and start getting into their jeeps. At that point we approach two soldiers.

Us: Hello! Is there a problem?

Soldier: NO!

Us: Okay, but then why are you here?

Soldier: WHY ARE YOU HERE?

Us: We live here, do you also live here?

Soldier: You live here?! No photos – we will take your cameras!

The jeeps drive away. We talk a little with those who live in the house where the military was. They tell us no one was arrested. Instead, a new officer wants to introduce himself in the village and tell the villagers that this is now his area. He chose to do this at two o’clock in the morning. The family tells us this is normal.

Tear gas in the village

While we are talking, the phone rings. The military has started shooting tear gas.

We hurry to see the military jeeps down in a valley. It is quiet, except the occasional tear gas shots into the village center. We see no stone throwing, but the Israeli soldiers shoot tear gas randomly into residential areas. My colleague walks up to a soldier and asks what is happening. The soldier tells him to back off or he will shoot. We move away and observe as the military continues to shoot tear gas. The officer, accompanied by an entourage of 10 soldiers, continues to enter houses. The tear gas reaches us. It becomes difficult to breathe and tears are falling from our burning eyes.

When the soldiers proceed, we follow. We reach the village center. An elderly man has difficulty breathing. A seven day old baby vomits, eyes filled with tears. We call an ambulance for the baby, but there are still many who are ill from the tear gas, especially children. A friend tells me that the tear gas awoke his family from their sleep and terrified his daughter.

The military presence in the village continues. The soldiers close the main street. We observe them as they post guards outside the villagers’ homes and enter their houses. The officer must introduce himself to more families. By now, no one in the village is still sleeping, even if it is dark and quiet in every house. Everyone wonders, where are the soldiers going next? Will they come here? Or will they go to my cousins ​​or neighbors?

The Aftermath

Finally, at 4:10 am, the soldiers leave the village. The villagers hurry into the streets. Some rushing to go to work, others asking if anyone has been arrested. They are happy to hear the answer is no. What a relief! Last time they were here, two young men were arrested.

I stand with my neighbor and his phone rings. “My brother has a snake in his room!” He yells excitedly and runs away. I cannot help but smile that as little as a snake has replaced the fear and the tension of the military incursion.

It is almost 5:00 am when I crawl back into bed. My body is exhausted, but my mind is reeling.

How can I explain this to people at home? I want others to understand what is going on here. But for now I need some sleep, soon I have to get up for work again.

The military incursion described above took place in Jayyus on 21 June 2013.

Where going to school ends in arrest

On the eve of the 20th Anniversary of the Oslo Accords, EAPPI presence crucial in helping youth finish their education

by Jennifer, Yanoun team

1393J. Werkhoven -EAPPI team Yanoun on welcome visit to school

Photo EAPPI/J. van Werkhoven

This Friday, September 13, marks the 20th Anniversary of the Oslo accords.  Although, this agreement was meant to be a temporary solution, today, Palestinian territory is still divided into Area A, B, C. In Area C, Israel completely controls militarily and civilly 60% of the West Bank and in Area B, Israel exercises military control. 20 years after Oslo, the village of Yatma sees daily the consequence of Israeli control in the area, especially its dire affects on the lives of schoolchildren.

ocha_opt_the_closure_map_2013_04_21_nablusA perilous road

Yatma, located about 15 kilometers south of Nablus is next to the Israeli settlement of Rechalim. In between Yatma and Rechalim lies Road 50, a source of continued tension and difficulties for the village of Yatma, especially hindering education.

Most boys from Yatma attend school on the opposite side of Road 50 from Yatma and they must walk on Road 50 on their way to school.  The settlers from Rechalim, however, often complain to the Israeli military if boys from Yatma come to close to their settlement on Road 50.

16 boys arrested

In 2011, the situation came to a head when the Israeli army arrested 16 Yatma teenagers, accusing them of using Road 50 and throwing stones.  The teenagers confessed that they were walking on Road 50, but only to go to school.

“The children confessed to the army that they were walking on the road,” explains the mayor of Yatma, “but they signed a paper in Hebrew that they were walking along the road  and throwing stones.”

As a result of signing a confession which the boys could not read the Israeli authorities sentenced the boys to 20 to 35 months in prison. Two have been released, but the rest remain in prison.

After this incident, the village of Yatma decided that they would send their teenage boys of Yatma to another school until the age of 17.  “This is not the ideal for our students, but I see no other way for our boys to receive a good education,” described the mayor of Yatma.

EAPPI presence supports right to education

A new school doesn’t solve everything. The Israeli occupation affects boys schools especially, as Israeli soldiers are present primarily around boys schools, explains Dr. Mohammed Awwad, Director of Education for the Palestinian Authority. For this reason, the village of Yatma requested the presence of EAPPI for protection as boys go to school.

Dr. Awwad praises EAPPI, saying, “students feel safer if you are there.” Not only does EAPPI presence protect boys from Israeli military violence, it also reduces the amount boys dropping out of school and enables them to finish their secondary school education.

In the shadow of Oslo

Access to education, both primary and secondary education, is a basic human right for children and is stipulated in both Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In light of the 20th Anniversary of the Oslo Accords, children’s right to education suffers under the shadow of continued Israeli control in over 60% of the West Bank. Yatma, is one village of many, where ensuring a bright future for the next generation is a constant struggle.

14 Months

by Cecilie, Summer Team  

Image

No cameras are allowed in the military court, so this photo is all I have. Photographer Unknown.

I went to the military court Monday to see a friend receive his sentence. His case is one of 10 cases of boys being arrested for throwing stones that we have been following since December. He works for the Palestinian Red Crescent and is therefore present at many demonstrations and other kinds of crowds. This has worsened his case. It does not help that he is required to go there as part of his work. His presence is enough. The Israeli military also think they remember him throwing stones in 2003 and 2006. They have no proof of this, but that is not really needed.

Our friend lost his mother in April. He was not allowed to say goodbye to her, to see her one last time or to go to the funeral. I have seen his father two times, and it is absolutely devastating. There is nothing left of him. He keeps to himself sitting in a corner with tears running down his cheeks. People try to help him, but it’s no use. The last four times I have been to the court, only his brother was present. The father cannot cope with it. Seeing the brother is no less devastating, even though he cries only on occasion.

This week, our 21 year old friend was sentenced with 14 months in prison and a fine of 3000 NIS for throwing stones in December, maybe throwing stones in 2003 and 2006, and being employed in the Palestinian Red Crescent.

This family has been hit hard; way harder than anyone deserves. Hopefully, by the beginning of 2014 it will be over.

All of these 10 boys, have been kept in arrest for eight months without a sentence, due to Israel’s understanding of what is called Administrative Detention. Under administrative detention it is possible to keep a detainee arrested without any criminal charge, and without any trial.

International Humanitarian law places strict restrictions on administrative detention, because of the risk of abuse in detaining a person without charge or trial. Under Article 78 under the Fourth Geneva Convention an occupying power may use administrative detention, but only for “imperative reasons of security” and not as a means of punishment under any circumstance. Moreover, Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.”

The Israeli authorities, however, use administrative detention as an obvious mean of punishment, and it is today an integral part of Israel’s military legal system. Some prisoners have been kept for one month to six years based in administrative detention under the accusation of “security reasons,” however, neither the detainees nor their attorneys are allowed to see the “secret evidence” against them.

It has taken me three and a half months to be able to write about the military court. The injustice and inhumane treatment of people in that place is hard to deal with, and even harder to describe properly. The military court is possibly one of the worst places to visit, and the Israeli military forces families to come back again and again when they are not able to give these young men a sentence. I am going back there again in the beginning of August and so are the eight families that are still waiting for a sentence…