On Sunday, 21 November 2021, at around 2:30 A.M., more than 20 masked police officers broke into the Abu al-Hummus family's building in the al-‘Esawiyah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The owner of the building, who lives on the ground floor, asked what they were searching for, but the officers ignored him and went up to the second floor.
There, they broke into an apartment and stood in the doorway of the parents' bedroom. They asked where Muhammad Abu al-Hummus (18) lived. After being told he lived on the third floor, they left the apartment. On their way, they encountered Muhammad's brother, Bilal, and beat him before the terrified eyes of two children of tenants. When Bilal’s mother tried to wrestle him from the soldiers’ grasp, they pushed her and knocked her over. They then arrested Bilal.
The officers went up to the third floor, where Muhammad lives with his brother Sultan (27) and his sister Fatmeh (20) – all children of the building owner. Again, they forced their way into the apartment, woke Muhammad, handcuffed and blindfolded him and led him out of the house. His sister Fatmeh tried to film the arrest on her phone. When officers ordered her to stop and she did not comply, they pushed her. When her two brothers – Khader, who lives on the fourth floor, and Sultan – tried to protect her, the officers attacked them and severely beat them. They were then arrested, as well.
The police led the four brothers to a Border Police base. Khader was taken to hospital and subsequently released. Muhammad was taken to the Russian Compound detention facility in Jerusalem, where he was interrogated for five hours. The following day, he was again interrogated for hours on end, after which it turned out it was a case of mistaken identity. A few hours after the mistake was clarified, during which he was kept in solitary confinement, Muhammad was released.
The officers took Sultan and Bilal to the police station on Salah a-Din Street, where they were questioned on suspicion of assaulting a police officer. They were then taken to court, where the judge extended their detention until 23 November 2021, at noon. The police tried to transfer them to the police station at the Russian Compound, but the doctor there refused to admit them due to their physical condition as a result of the beating. Instead, they were taken to hospital for examination. Afterwards, they were sent back to the Russian Compound, where they signed a NIS 5,000 (~1,605 UDS) bail guarantee and were given five day’s house arrest.
This is another routine incident in the life of a Palestinian family in East Jerusalem: police raiding a residential building in the dead of night, waking up all the occupants including children, breaking down doors, beating family members, arresting several and then charging them with assault. The family went through hours of horror, violence and false interrogations; some lost days of work. This is how Israeli security forces run the lives of Palestinians of East Jerusalem —enjoying far-reaching powers and no accountability for their actions.
B'Tselem field researcher 'Amer 'Aruri collected testimonies from members of the Abu al-Hummus family, who described the nightmare of the police raid on their homes and recounted what happened next:
In his testimony, Muhammad's father, Rabah Abu al-Hummus (64), recounted:
I have diabetes. Because of the illness, I had to have half of my leg amputated a year and a half ago. My wife Hanan (62) and I live on the ground floor of our four-story building. My apartment has direct access to the street. My son Bilal (29) and his family live with us. Another family rents an apartment on the floor above us. My children Sultan (27), Muhammad (18) and Fatmeh (20) live on the third floor, and my son Khader (30) lives on the fourth floor with his family.
On Sunday, 21 November 2021, at around 2:30 A.M., my wife and I were home when I heard sounds outside, around the building. I opened the door and saw three masked people in olive-green military uniforms. I asked them, "What's wrong?" They ordered me to get inside. I told them it was my building and went out of my apartment to the road to see what was going on. They pushed me and tried to stop me from getting back into the building, but I managed to get in. I heard my daughter Fatmeh screaming from the apartment upstairs. I climbed the stairs with difficulty, because of my leg. When I reached the third floor, I saw more than 20 masked people in olive-green military uniforms inside the apartment. One of them was sitting on the couch writing things down. I saw my son Muhammad, handcuffed and blindfolded, with a mask on his face. The door to the apartment was ruined.
Testimony of building tenant Asmaa Abu Sneineh (38), a mother of five whose house was broken into by the police:
I was woken in the middle of the night by the sound of an explosion in the house. My husband woke up, too. I opened the bedroom door and saw a masked man wearing an olive-green military uniform. I asked him what he wanted, and he ordered me to stay in the room. I asked him again what he wanted. My husband also asked him what he wanted. He said he was looking for the Abu al-Hummus' house. We told him he’d got the wrong place, and he told us to show him where the Abu al-Hummus' house was.
There were already more than six people inside our apartment, all masked and armed. One of them pushed my husband towards the front door, which they’d broken down. One officer told us to tell them where the Abu al-Hummus' house was. We told him that it was upstairs and then they left. Two officers stayed in the doorway.
All of my sons woke up from the shouting in the stairway. The police officers saw our neighbor Bilal trying to climb the stairs to his family’s apartment on the floor above us, and attacked him. My little ones, who are 10 and 11, saw them kick Bilal and beat him, especially in the face and head. They also pushed his mother, Hanan, when she tried to get him out of their hands.
I quickly took the kids inside so they wouldn't see any more. They were terrified. Then I saw the officers leading Bilal's brothers – Muhammad, Sultan and Khader – away. The whole incident lasted about half an hour.
I was worried about my husband, because he has a heart condition. He had surgery a year and a half ago. He looked exhausted. It's not normal to break down someone’s front door and come in all the way to the bedroom, infringing on a family's privacy like that. What would have happened if they'd gone into the children's room?!
In her testimony, Muhammad's sister Fatmeh Abu al-Hummus (20) recalled:
That night, I was awake and talking with my fiancé on the phone. Suddenly, he said people were posting on social media that there were occupation forces surrounding our building. I immediately went out to the balcony and saw the occupation forces spread out in the street. I heard shouting in the stairway coming from the second floor, below us. Later, I gathered the door of their apartment had been broken down.
I woke up my brother Sultan and we went over to the door, because we heard someone trying to break it down. Sultan told them he was opening up, but the man on the other side told him to stay clear. Then there was an explosion that broke down the door. About 20 masked men in military uniforms barged in. They asked Sultan for his name. Then they ordered us to sit on the couch and went over to my brother, Muhammad, who was sleeping in the living room, and asked him for his name. After he told them, they said they’d come to arrest him and led him into a room to get dressed.
I tried to film Muhammad's arrest, but one of the officers yelled at me to give him the phone. Khader told me not to stop, and that filming inside our house was legal. The officer tried to grab the phone out of my hand, and then we got into a fight with him. He pushed Sultan and me towards the bathroom, and I fell into the shower.
Meanwhile, my father arrived. Sultan and Khader were trying to protect me, but the officers attacked them. The officers, who were wearing gloves and knee pads made of hard material, kicked Sultan and Khader for a long time, maybe 20 minutes. Then they led them out, first Muhammad and then Sultan and Khader.
In his testimony, Muhammad Abu Hummus (18), who was arrested as a suspect and released without charges, recounted:
I work as a waiter in a wedding hall. That night, I came home and fell asleep on the couch, I was so exhausted. Suddenly, I woke up and saw masked people standing next to me. They asked me for my name and demanded to see my ID card. One of them asked for the names of my family and told me I was under arrest and had to go get dressed.
The officers handcuffed and blindfolded me, put a mask over my mouth, and led me out of the house. On the way out, I heard shouting. I also heard my father, but there was nothing I could do. They pushed me down the stairs and I banged against the wall.
Outside, they made me kneel in front of the building. One of them pushed my head down. Then they put me in a detention vehicle. My brother Khaled was already in it. I knew it was him because I heard him tell them he wanted an ambulance because he didn't feel well. The officer told him that we'd soon get to a place where he would receive treatment. They drove us to a Border Police post on Route 1. They also brought our brothers Bilal and Sultan there.
They made us kneel in the yard for about 15 minutes. I could hear my brothers groaning in pain and asking for an ambulance.
After about 15 minutes, they drove me to the Russian Compound detention facility. I was strip-searched and taken to a room where I was given a detainee uniform and tested for COVID.
Then I was taken to a room where I was interrogated for about five hours, each time by a different interrogator. They took turns – one came in and the other went out. I was sitting on a chair with my hands tied the whole time. One of them told me that someone had testified I'd been shooting and throwing stones. I told him I work 12 hours a day and am not involved in such things. The interrogators yelled at me, banged on the table, and told me I had some nerve and that they’d teach me a lesson.
After about an hour, they let me go to the bathroom. After they finished interrogating me, they let me smoke a cigarette and then they put me in a cell alone.
The next day, Monday, I was interrogated again for hours on end. I was held for two days and had only three meals altogether. The first was breakfast: labaneh cheese, jam, bread and cucumber. The second was rice and beans, three pieces of pastrami and an apple. The third meal was soup, rice and a pear.
During the last interrogation, on Monday, they brought in a person I didn't know. They said he was the person who’d testified against me. I asked him, "Do you even know me? What did I to do you, for you to bring me here?" He said, "I don't know you. I didn't mean you. There's another guy called Muhammad Abu Hummus, and he’s the one I testified against."
When they heard that, they took me back to the solitary confinement cell. Someone opened the window in the door and said to me, "We're sorry. We arrested you by mistake." A while later, in the afternoon, somebody let me out of the cell and released me without any charges or bail. I wasn't even given a document of any kind.
I haven’t gone back to work because the contractor I work for told me he's found a replacement and doesn’t have work for me at the moment. I may have lost my job.
In his testimony, Muhammad's brother, Bilal Abu Hummus (29), a father of three, related:
I tried to go up to the third floor, but the occupation forces stopped me. When I got to the first floor, I saw the apartment door had been broken down. Five masked officers attacked me and beat me. My mother came and tried to help me, but they pushed her and she fell.
The officers dragged me outside, sat me down on the ground and tied my hands behind my back. Then they brought Muhammad, followed by Khader and Sultan. They sat them down next to me. After about five minutes, they covered my eyes and drove us away, about 10 minutes from al-‘Esawiyah. I think we got to a Border Police post on Route 1. Khader and I were shouting in pain. They took Khader to hospital and sent him home from there.
Sultan and I stayed in the yard. They sat us down outside, on our knees. After about an hour, they drove us to the police station on Salah a-Din Street. They put us in a solitary confinement cell. I had a terrible headache and called for the guards. After about half an hour, I was taken to Shaare Tzedek Hospital in an ambulance, with my hands and feet still tied. At hospital, they only checked my blood pressure and didn't give me any other treatment. My hands and feet remained tied during the checkup. After about an hour and a half, they took me back to the police station.
At 10:30 A.M., they took Sultan and me in for interrogation. The interrogators accused us of "assaulting an officer during the performance of his duty" and "participating in a riot." I denied everything. They interrogated us for about an hour and a half and then put us back in the cell. We stayed there for many hours, without food or drink. They only let us go to the bathroom. All that time, our hands and legs were cuffed. At 3:30 P.M., they transferred us to the Magistrates' Court in Jerusalem, where the judge extended our detention until 23 November 2021 at noon, but our lawyer filed an appeal.
From the court, we were taken to the Russian Compound. It was around 8:30 P.M. The doctor there refused to admit us and demanded they take us to hospital because our bodies showed clear signs of beating. They took us to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, where we underwent tests, X-rays and ear examinations. Our hands and feet were tied throughout.
On Monday, 22 November 2021, at 11:00 A.M., Sultan and I were taken back to the Russian Compound, and from there to the police station on Salah a-Din. At the station, we were released to five days’ house arrest after signing a guarantee to pay NIS 5,000 (~1,605 UDS) in bail.
My shoulders and abdomen still hurt from the beating. I can’t see or hear well, especially from my right eye and left ear. My little boys, who are two and three, were shocked when they saw me. They don’t understand why all this happened. Because of the detention and the house arrest, I lost workdays and now I’m afraid of losing my job.