In the small hours of the night on 5 December 2017, Israeli soldiers raided five buildings in the Palestinian village of Budrus, northeast of Ramallah. They entered the apartments of nine families, in some cases gathering all members of the family in a room, with no consideration for their age or health. The soldiers conducted searches, damaged property and left a mess behind, all based on a military order that gives them sweeping powers, with no need to meet any sort of legal standard such as a search warrant signed by a judge.
B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Haddad visited the homes and took testimonies from family members.
The home of Nabil and Rasmiyeh ‘Awad
At around 1:00 in the morning, soldiers surrounded the two-story ‘Awad family home. At the time, the family’s father, Nabil ‘Awad, 54, who has problems with his spine and uses crutches, and his 17-year-old son, who has rickets, were on the second floor. The mother, Rasmiyeh, 50, who has mental health problems, was on the first floor together with her two sons and two daughters, who are all in their twenties. One of the daughters is totally paralyzed.
The forces, who completely ignored the disabilities of these individuals, ordered the entire family to gather in two rooms on the first floor – the men in one and the women in the other.
Muhammad ‘Awad, 21, described what happened in a testimony he gave on 6 December 2017:
The soldiers gathered us in two rooms on the first floor. They put the men in one room and my mother and sisters in the other. They didn’t show any consideration, even for my sister Huda, who is paralyzed. They forced us to take her out of her bed and carry her to another room. They created a threatening atmosphere and we were all scared. My mom started trembling and went into a panic attack, even though she’d taken a sedative earlier. My sister Huda didn’t get what was happening around her.
I just wanted to do exactly as they said, so that the sick and paralyzed members of my family wouldn’t be hurt. In our family, only my sister Hanadi, 26, my brother Mustafa, 25, and I are healthy. If we had argued with the soldiers, they might have arrested us and then there’d be no one left to care for the rest of the family. Our responsibility is primarily to them.
Nabil ‘Awad, the father, also described what his family went through that night in a testimony he gave on 6 December 2017:
I don’t know why they raided the house and why they searched it. I asked one of them. I think he was an officer, but he didn’t answer. While they were holding us in the room, we heard them moving things and damaging stuff around the house.
Every once in a while, my son Mustafa asked the soldiers who were standing at the entrance to the room to let us go to the other room, where they were holding his mother and sisters, and explained that his mother and one of his sisters were sick. But all the soldier said was: “Shh…. quiet”, every time.
We stayed there like that, with the minutes ticking by, scared and worried about my wife and daughters. We were very nervous, but the soldiers didn’t care at all. They didn’t have a shred of humanity in them, no compassion for the sick.
What angered me most was that they didn’t even tell us why they came into our house. We felt like they were just out to harass us and make our lives miserable. They didn’t care about anything. No reason, no humanity.
The family was confined to the rooms for more than an hour, until the soldiers finished the search and left, leaving a mess behind them.
The home of Khalil and Sharifah ‘Awad
About an hour later, at 2:00 A.M., soldiers arrived at a two-story building where the families of Sharifah and Khalil ‘Awad and Sharifah’s brother, Ahmad ‘Khalil, live. Ahmad Khalil, his wife and their ten children live on the first floor. Sharifah and Khalil ‘Awad live with their seven children on the second floor. Both families were woken up by the sound of loud banging on the front door of the building. Ahmad Khalil opened the main door and the soldiers went into his family’s apartment, conducted a quick search and left. A few minutes later, two soldiers went into Khalil and Sharifah ‘Awad’s apartment without knocking. The apartment door had been unlocked. After an argument between Khalil ‘Awad and the soldiers, more soldiers went into the apartment and ordered the family to gather in the parents’ bedroom. The soldiers, about ten of them, searched the other rooms in the house. About half an hour later, the soldiers told the family to move to the girls’ room so they could search the bedroom.
When the family moved to the girls’ room, they discovered that some cash they had kept in a closet there was missing. They spoke to the soldiers immediately, but the soldiers said they had not come across any money and told the family to contact the ISA agent responsible for the area, “Captain Wisam”, the next day. The family do not know this man.
In a testimony taken on 6 December 2017, Sharifah ‘Awad said:
I suddenly remembered the 1,500 shekels (approx. 430 USD) my son Muhammad, 25, had received the day before as an advance on his paycheck. I’d put the money inside a drawer in a closet in the girls’ room. I asked my husband to get the soldiers’ permission to go into the room to take the money, but my husband tried to calm me down and said there was no way the soldiers would steal it, especially given that it wasn’t such a big amount.
After the soldiers finished searching the house, they shifted us to the girls’ room. It was a complete mess. I went to the closet right away to look for the money, but I could only find 100 shekels I’d put separately in the same drawer. Later, I understood from Muhammad that he’d taken 400 shekels from there, so the amount that went missing was actually 1,100 shekels (approx. 316 USD).
There was no reason to raid our house. We didn’t understand why they came. They came just to provoke us, annoy us, make life difficult. It looked like they were training how to raid homes. They didn’t care how people felt, how the kids felt, the women, who’d all been sleeping in their beds peacefully. What they do is an injustice – disturbing us like that, waking us up, pulling kids out of bed, out of their dreams, for no reason, in the middle of the night.
Khalil ‘Awad described his conversation with the officer who was with the soldiers in a testimony he gave on 6 December 2017:
After we made sure the money was really gone, I went to the officer and complained. I spoke to him in Arabic and he answered in Hebrew, which I understand a little. I told him the soldiers had stolen 1,500 shekels, because I didn’t know at first exactly how much had been in the drawer. It was only later that I understood from my wife that it was only 1,100 shekels. I asked him to ask his soldiers about the money. He said: “Ask Captain Wisam”, without telling me who he meant or where I could find this person. I assumed he was talking about the ISA man who’s in charge of the area. Still, I asked him a few more times to ask his soldiers about the money, but he refused.
After the soldiers left, we went around the house to see what the situation was. On top of the money they stole, everything was a mess – all the clothes and furniture. They also broke a few dishes in the kitchen.
The home of Yusef and Amirah ‘Awad
At around the same time, soldiers also raided a neighboring building, where they entered the second-floor apartment of Yusef ‘Awad, 50, his wife Amirah, and their three children, as well as the apartment where his mother, Safiyeh ‘Awad, 100, and his sister ‘Eashah, 58, live. More than ten soldiers broke through the building’s front door using tools, without bothering to knock. The soldiers first entered Yusef’s apartment on the second floor. They demanded to see the family members’ ID cards and ordered them to gather in Yusef and Amirah ‘Awad’s bedroom. The soldiers then searched the other rooms in the house for about thirty minutes. When they were finished, they told the family to go to the kitchen, and searched the bedroom for thirty more minutes.
Yusef ‘Awad described the soldiers’ conduct in a testimony he gave on 19 December 2017:
Ten to fifteen soldiers, some of them masked, raided our house without any warning. They were all armed with guns, some of which had flashlights on them. They looked frightening. They broke through the front door using a hydraulic device. We were in our pajamas, and the kids were fast asleep. One of the soldiers ordered us to get our ID cards, which we did. Then, the same soldier told us all to go into our bedroom. I asked him why they’d come and what they wanted. Every time I asked the soldier, he said to me: “Quiet. Quiet”. They wanted me not to talk at all. The soldiers spread throughout the house – two bedrooms, two living rooms and the kitchen.
After about twenty minutes, they told my son Muhammad, 23, to sit in the living room in the middle of the house so he could see what they were doing and we wouldn’t accuse them of stealing. After half an hour, they transferred us to the kitchen and searched our bedroom for about thirty more minutes. They left the apartment at around 3:00 in the morning.
As they were heading out, they went into my mother’s house. She’s disabled and very old, and lives with my sister, who also has partial paralysis. I tried to go in there with them to make sure they didn’t hurt my mother or sister, but one of the soldiers shined his rifle light at me and ordered me to go back. I was afraid, so I went back.
‘Eashah ‘Awad described the soldiers’ search in the apartment she shares with her elderly mother in a testimony she gave on 19 December 2017:
I was woken up suddenly by shouts of “Army”. When I opened my eyes, some soldiers had already opened the door and come into our house. I didn’t hear them knock. We must have forgotten to lock the door. It was dark, except for a small night light. Again, I heard someone say: “Army, army”. I was still lying on the mattress, not fully awake. I said: “God have mercy, who is it, who is it”? The man answered: “Army, army”. Five or six soldiers were standing at the entrance to the apartment, which is actually a room that also contains a kitchen, a living room and a sleeping area.
I was afraid they’d conduct a search and ruin our furniture. It's hard for me to get up because I’m partially paralyzed , and my mother, who’s old, can hardly take care of herself. I was shaking with fear. One of the soldiers went further in and saw that we hardly have any furniture. He pointed his gun at me. There was a lit flashlight attached to it. He shone the light in my face and in the corners of the room and asked me in Arabic: “Are there any youths here”? I said there was no one, and that there was nothing for him to look for there. He didn’t go into the room but just kept standing at the entrance for a few minutes, and then left with his soldiers.
Soldiers raided two more homes that night – a single-story house where a family of 14 live, including three children, and a three-story home where an extended family lives – a couple and their five children who are still minors, as well as their two married sons and their own families.
The soldiers left the village at around 5:00 in the morning, leaving behind them residents in a state of shock and fear. The callousness shown by the soldiers, who showed no consideration for the residents’ age or physical condition, never bothered to explain why they were there, damaged property and left the homes they entered in shambles, reflects the military’s sense of superiority over the residents living under its control and its profound disrespect for them.
This incident is not unusual. By means of military order, Israel has given itself the blanket power to allow “any officer or soldier… to enter any place at any time” throughout the West Bank. For millions of Palestinians, this brutal reality means no protection, no personal safety and no privacy, even inside their own homes. They live under constant threat of arbitrary violence by the regime of occupation, which could come at any time of the day or night, in any city, town or village in the West Bank.