The village of Burin. Photo courtesy of the village council.
On Wednesday, 13 November 2013, shortly before 3 A.M., the ‘Umran family of the village of Burin, south of Nablus, were awakened by knocking at their door. Ibrahim ‘Umran, 52, principal of the village high-school, got out of bed and opened the front door. He found a group of soldiers at the door and saw several military vehicles parked outside. ‘Umran related to B’Tselem field researcher ‘Abd al-Karim Sa’adi what happened next:
I asked the soldiers what they wanted. One of them, a Druze officer who arrested me along with six of my students this past April, said: “Hello there, Mr. Principal, do you recognize me?” I told him that I did. He entered the house with the other soldiers. My wife and children were in the living room. Some of the soldiers went up onto the roof and others stayed outside. The Druze officer ordered my wife and kids to leave the living room and go to their rooms, and another officer told me that they were going to bring over for questioning residents from the village who used to be students at my high school. I didn’t believe him. I went into the bedroom and looked through the window that overlooks the yard. I saw soldiers standing there with villagers that they’d arrested. The arrested men were blindfolded and their hands cuffed.
‘Umran said that after the rest of his family left the living room, soldiers began bringing in villagers who had been taken from their homes and held outside his house. All in all, 11 residents, ranging in age from 20 to 43, were brought in to his home one by one and questioned by Israel Security Agency (ISA) interrogators regarding alleged participation in stone-throwing. Testimonies that the interrogated residents gave B’Tselem indicate that the questioning was aimed at motivating the men to prevent stone-throwing in the village and that no charges were made personally against these villagers.
‘Umran, who was present throughout the questioning, reported that when each session ended the ISA interrogator called him over and asked him, in front of the detained resident: “Do you teach your students to throw stones?”. Then the resident was ordered to shake hands with ‘Umran and leave the house.
Mursi ‘Eid, a 40-year-old father of six, described his questioning to B’Tselem:
At around 2:45 A.M. I was awakened by loud knocking at the front door. I opened the door and saw soldiers standing there. About ten soldiers came into the house right away. They told me, my wife and our six children to go into one of the rooms and stay there. We heard them moving things around in the house and thing being broken. Then they took me out of the room, blindfolded and handcuffed me in front of my family, and then took me to a jeep. […]
The soldiers took me into the house and led me into the living room. They took the blindfold off my eyes and the plastic cable ties off my wrists. A few soldiers were sitting in the living room along with a man from the ISA who interrogated me. He asked me all sorts of questions about my involvement in stone-throwing and inciting young people in the village. He understood fairly quickly that I’m a working family man and that I’m not involved in such things. Then he told me that he’d actually brought me in here to get the message across to the teenagers and young men of the village, that they’d better tone down the situation and stop the stone-throwing. He said that he wanted me to talk to the fathers of the village teenagers and tell them to educate their sons to stop throwing stones. He added a threat, saying that if they kept up with the stone-throwing, the military would kill them. The questioning lasted about 15 minutes. After that, they let me go and I went home.
Hamdan ‘Eid, a 24-year-old university student, gave a similar description of his questioning:
The interrogator asked me if I had anything to do with the stone-throwing in the village. I answered that I had nothing to do with it because I’m busy with my university studies. He stopped asking me about myself and said that he wanted me to get the message to the other residents in the village, that they stop throwing stones at the cars of settlers and military vehicles that drive by on the road. He threatened that if they didn’t stop, there would be more raids on houses and more arrests in the village. When the questioning was over, the soldiers told me to go home.
‘Umran told B’Tselem that the questioning lasted about three hours in total, ending at approximately 6 A.M. In his testimony, he described how the soldiers left his home:
Before the soldiers left, one of the men from the ISA came up to me and threatened me that if the Burin students don’t stop throwing stones, he’d return to my home and that it would be worse than this time. The soldiers left behind a mess. Our floor was littered with bits of plastic cable ties, pieces of cloth, cigarette butts, and spilled coffee and other drinks.
Litter ISA left behind in ‘Umran living room. Photo: 'Abd al-Karim Sa'adi,B’Tselem, 13 November 2013.
B’Tselem wrote to the commander of the Judea and Samaria Division to protest the harm caused to civilians and the severe infringement of their rights in this incident. Among other things, B’Tselem expressed doubts as to what could possibly serve as justification for harassing civilians and interrogating them in the middle of the night, for threatening and pressuring them regarding actions with which they are completely uninvolved, and for converting a home into an interrogation center entailing serious harassment of its occupants. B’Tselem stated that the military must deal with stone-throwing with the legal means at its disposal.
In its letter, B’Tselem demanded to know whether the raid was part of a policy authorized by senior ranking officers and, if so, what formed the legal basis for such a policy. B’Tselem further demanded that, if it transpires that the raid was carried out as a personal initiative, then all ground forces in the Judaea and Samaria must be clearly briefed that such actions are prohibited and that measures will be taken against those responsible.
In its response to B’Tselem, the Military Spokesperson wrote that the military does not intend to comment on the incident and that the relevant body to address regarding this matter is the Prime Minister’s Office, under whose auspices the ISA is. Consequently, B’Tselem applied to the legal advisor to the Prime Minister’s Office, but has yet to receive a response.