Soldiers enter home of B'Tselem volunteers in Hebron, awake children, photograph them, and confiscate footage filmed by the volunteers
On Tuesday night, 10 March 2015, at about 2:00 A.M., a group of soldiers under the command of a captain entered the home of B'Tselem volunteers ‘Imad and Fayzeh Abu Shamsiyeh in the Tal Rumeida neighborhood of Hebron. The soldiers spent about half an hour there, during which time they searched the house, awoke the children, and photographed the children and the parents’ identity cards. The soldiers devoted most of their time to watching video footage, which was filmed by ‘Imad and Fayzeh Abu Shamsiyeh, on the family’s computer. The footage was saved on an external hard disk, which the soldiers connected to the computer. When they left, the soldiers took the hard disk and a memory card with them. According to ‘Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, the materials taken include footage of Israeli security forces in Hebron apprehending a B'Tselem volunteer and of settler violence in Tal Rumeida.
As we showed last week, it is doubtful whether night-time operations during which soldiers awaken minors in order to photograph them are legal. The military cannot treat civilians as though they were potential criminals, nor use soldiers as a deterrent. This policy of security forces entering the homes of Palestinian civilians by night is unjust and terrifying. Moreover, it illustrates how casually the lives of Palestinians under occupation are disrupted and their rights violated by the arbitrary entry of armed soldiers into private homes. B’Tselem calls on the military to discontinue this policy without delay.
On the day of the incident, Att. Gaby Lasky contacted the Legal Advisor for Judea and Samaria on B'Tselem’s behalf and demanded that the hard disk and memory card taken by the soldiers be returned. Att. Lasky also demanded that the army clarify the gravity of this incident to the soldiers involved and discipline those responsible. On 15 March 2015, officers returned the camera memory card to the Abu Shamsiyeh family, after all its content had been deleted. The next day, ‘Imad Abu Shamsiyeh and B'Tselem submitted a request to the Judea Military Court through Att. Gaby Lasky for the return of the hard disk. On 29 March 2015, Lieut. Yaniv Chaimovitch, on behalf of the Legal Advisor for Judea and Samaria, informed the court that the seized memory card had been returned and that the hard disk had never been taken.
The Order concerning Security Provisions empowers any officer to undertake a search at any place and time, without any judicial review. It is impossible, therefore, to know whether searches are undertaken on the basis of firm intelligence information or serve as a means of harassment and punishment. Military law grants sweeping powers to seize and confiscate property. In this instance, it appears that these powers were abused and the confiscation of the disk did not serve any genuine need. It can be assumed that this action was intended to threaten and harass B'Tselem volunteers. ‘Imad and Fayzeh Abu Shamsiyeh are well known in the area as photographers whose work is occasionally published in the media. They and their family have faced repeated harassment by the security forces.
As a rule, photographing and documentation are permitted in the West Bank, including documentation of the conduct of soldiers. If the hard disk was not officially confiscated, as the Legal Advisor for Judea and Samaria claims, then it was presumably stolen by one of the soldiers who participated in the search. In this case, the army bears a responsibility to locate and punish the offender immediately. In any case, the army must immediately return the confiscated hard disk without damaging the information stored on it. The army must also refrain from harassing B'Tselem volunteers and from interfering with the work of photographers in the Occupied Territories.