On two nights in March and April, Israeli soldiers entered four homes in the Palestinian village of al-Mughayir, Ramallah District. The soldiers woke the members of the household, including young children, and had them gather them in particular rooms. The soldiers remained in the homes for hours, during which time they ordered the occupants to keep quiet. Nor did they allow the family to walk about their own home, including in order to make food, drink or go to the bathroom. The family could only do so after getting the soldiers’ permission and if a soldier accompanied them. Relatives or neighbors who came by a home occupied by soldiers were also told to enter and remained imprisoned in the house for hours. The soldiers searched everyone present and confiscated their ID cards and cell phones.
The soldiers would not give the families any explanation as to why they had invaded their privacy in the middle of the night. In some cases, during their long stay soldiers even lay down and slept on sofas in the homes. The soldiers remained until morning, finally leaving without any clue as to why they had come.
On the first night, soldiers arrested five Palestinians in the village, four of them minors, including one boy who was only ten years old. The detainees reported being subjected to extreme violence during the arrest and interrogation. All minors were released the same evening, after being interrogated. In addition, in at least two cases, residents said soldiers had ordered them, at gunpoint, to knock on the door of one of the homes they entered. This conduct constitutes the unlawful “neighbor procedure” which has been banned by the military as well.
Below are testimonies B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad collected from al-Mughayir residents. Their stories clearly illustrate the invasion of residents’ privacy and infringement of their rights. The wrongful conduct described in these accounts terrorized residents, including young children. It shows how easily Israeli soldiers can disrupt the lives of Palestinian civilians, who remain defenseless, even in their own homes, even in the dead of night.
21 March and 10 April 2018, the home of the Na’asan family invaded twice; members of the family and others kept confined for hours and a minor forcibly arrested
At 4:00 A.M. on 21 March 2018, soldiers entered the home of Adib (78) and ‘Aishah (70) Na’asan. Relatives and neighbors came to see what was going on, and the soldiers ordered them into the house, where they held the women in the bedroom and the men in the living room. For the next four hours, when they left the premises, the soldiers monitored every movement made by members of the household and their guests, including eating, drinking and using the bathroom.
In the morning, a 14-year-old boy from the extended family came by to pick up his cousin so they could walk to school together. He was arrested by the soldiers and held until the evening. In a testimony he gave B’Tselem, he said he was beaten throughout his detention and interrogation. The soldiers also detained a 25-year-old man who also reported severe violence and was released on bail only two weeks later.
On 10 April 2018, about three weeks later, soldiers arrived at the family home again. They again told the family and their guests to keep quiet, in the house, and obey their orders for the sduration of their stay, which lasted six hours this time.
‘Aishah Na’asan, from al-Mughayir, 70, a married and mother of 15 gave her account on 12 April 2018:
On Wednesday, 21 March 2018, my husband, Adib, and I finished the morning prayers at 4:00 A.M., and were about to go back to sleep. Neither of us is in good health. My husband, who is 78, has had several strokes lately; I suffer from weakness in my legs and can hardly walk. I tucked in my husband and then I heard a knock at the door. Four of my sons live in our complex, with their families, and I was sure it was one of them, but when I opened the door, I saw a group of armed soldiers. I was afraid. It was the first time the military had raided my home, and at that time of night too. I asked them: “What is it?” One of them answered: “Nothing ma’am. Go inside”. I asked again, and he just said: “Quiet, quiet”.
The soldiers came inside. They had a relative of ours with them, Yasser Muhammad, 57. They brought him into the house and had him sit in the living room. They ordered my husband into the living room as well, and brought my grandson with them, ‘Abd al-Ghani Mraweh, 18, who was sleeping at our house. They took away our cell phones, and several soldiers stood next to us to keep watch. We sat there, not knowing what was going on.
After about an hour, or an hour and a half, my daughter-in-law, Hanan, 38, knocked on the door. She came with her 10-month-old baby Sadeen, to check on us after she saw the soldiers coming in. The soldiers ordered her in and kept her confined inside too.
After that more people came. First, my son Hamdallah, Hanan’s husband, came with their three other children, because they got worried about her when she didn’t come home. Then some neighbors, relatives, and some children who were going to walk to school with my grandchildren came. The soldiers made everyone who knocked on the door come into the house and wouldn’t let them leave. They body searched all the men and children and confiscated everyone’s cell phones.
The soldiers had the men to go into one room, and the women into another. Eventually, there were 25 people in my house – six men, five women and fourteen children. Everyone was scared. The only thing I cared about was my husband, the Haj, and I kept saying to the soldiers: “Haj is sick. For shame, what do you want? Why are you holding us?”. They didn’t answer me, just kept saying: “Quiet, quiet”. They let him take medicine and go to the bathroom, but only as long as a soldier escorted him.
At 7:30, my brother-in-law’s son, Iyad, came. He’s 14. He came over so that he and my grandson Fadel could walk to school together and was surprised by the military’s ambush in our house. The soldiers searched his bag and found a slingshot. They passed it around among them and looked at it as if they’d hit the jackpot. Then they made him sit on the side. When they left, at around eight o’clock, they took him with them. We tried to convince the soldiers to let him go, but they wouldn’t let us get close to them.
When they left, some clashes started between them and children, who threw stones at them. The soldiers responded with stun grenades and teargas. We didn’t dare leave the house until we were certain the soldiers were gone. I didn’t see Iyad again until that evening, when he was released. He’d been badly beaten. His eye was swollen, and he had bruises all over his body. He looked exhausted.
The whole thing happened again the day before yesterday, Tuesday, 10 April 2018. Soldiers knocked on our door at about 2:00 A.M., and when I opened, I saw the same soldiers again, about eight of them. I recognized them by their commander, he was short and chubby, with blond hair and green eyes. He looked to be in his thirties and had a three-line rank badge. As soon as I saw him, I said it had only been a few days since they had been at our house, but he didn’t answer. He went in the house with his soldiers, without asking for permission. My husband, our grandson ‘Abd al-Ghani and our 5-year-old granddaughter Suhad were at home. The soldiers woke them up, told them to get into my room and posted a soldier at the entrance. My grandchildren were scared and I calmed them down. The rest of the soldiers stayed in the living room. They lay down on our sofas and used our bed linen to sleep – like it was their house.
Like they did the first time, the soldiers brought in and kept inside every person who came to the house. My son Hamdallah, his wife and their children came, and then my 18-year-old granddaughter Sundus, and finally my daughter Zeinab too. There were twelve of us locked up by the soldiers in the house. Every time anyone went to the bathroom they sent a soldier with them. My husband’s blood pressure went up and my daughter-in-law gave him his medication. The soldiers didn’t care. Every once in a while we begged them to leave us be, out of consideration for his medical condition and the fact that there were women and children in the house. But they had neither compassion nor mercy. They didn’t care.
At around 7:30 in the morning, we heard voices outside. The village youths must have found out there were soldiers in our home and they started throwing stones at the house. The soldiers called for backup and when more soldiers came, they used stun grenades and teargas to disperse the youths and let the soldiers who were in our house get out. They left the village at around 9:00 in the morning without arresting anyone.
21 March 2018, Abu ‘Alia family home: Members of the family and others kept confined in the house for four hours, young man used as human shield
On 21 March 2018, at 4:00 A.M., shortly before prayer time, soldiers detained two village residents they came across on the street and forced them to come along. The soldiers took the two men to the Abu ‘Alia home and ordered one of them to knock on the door. When he refused, they threatened him with their weapons. When he would not back down, they ordered the other resident to knock on the door. He complied. The soldiers went into the home and ordered the mother to wake her children up.
The soldiers had all six members of the household and the two residents they had brought with them gather in one of the rooms, ordered them not to leave and posted a watch to guard them. Some of the soldiers went to sleep on the sofas in the house. The mother had to nurse her baby in the soldiers’ presence. They left the home after about four hours.
Ghassan Muhammad, 25, unmarried, was held in the home of Husam Abu ‘Alia, and then arrested. He gave the following account on 15 April 2018:
On Wednesday, 21 March 2018, at around 4:00 A.M., as I was walking to the mosque for dawn prayer (Fajar), I ran into Ahmad Muhammad, 38, who was also on his way to the mosque to pray. When we got close to the mosque, we were caught by surprise by soldiers who were wearing masks and bulletproof vests and pointing their guns at us. They took us with them without asking any questions. Each of us was held by two soldiers. Every time we tried to ask them something, they kept repeating just one word: “Quiet, quiet”. After about 100 meters, we reached the home of Hussam Abu ‘Alia. The soldiers told me to knock on the door. I refused, even after one of the soldiers pointed his gun at me. I was afraid because no one knocks at the doors of village residents at this time of night and I was afraid the people in the house would misunderstand the knock. Ahmad agreed to knock on the door. Hussam asked from inside: “Who’s there?”. Ahmad answered ““It’s Ahmad and we have soldiers with us”. The soldiers were angry we’d revealed their presence. They brought us into Hussam’s house and put the whole family, and us, in the children’s room. They transferred us to the guest room later on.
The children were asleep, and the soldiers made the mother wake them up. They’re little, and they were sleepy and couldn’t understand what was going on. After the soldiers took us into the children’s room, they tied my hands in front of me with plastic cable ties and pulled them so tight my wrists hurt. I asked that they loosen the ties several times, but it was no use. At first, they posted guards on us, while the rest of the soldiers walked around the house, and some went to sleep. They used the house like their dad owned it, without any compunctions. If one of us asked for a glass of water, the soldiers wouldn’t let them leave and brought the water themselves.
The baby was hungry and crying, and his mother was embarrassed and uncomfortable about nursing him in the room because of the soldiers, and because Ahmad and I were there. We asked the soldiers to turn away so she could nurse him. At first they refused, but after we insisted, they agreed. Ahmad and I turned away too. She went to the corner of the room and nursed her baby until he fell asleep and stopped crying. Those were the worst moments of my life. It was so awkward. I never imagined soldiers would force me to barge into someone else’s private life like that, shut me in inside a room with a mother, her husband and her small children. When the mother asked to go out of the room and bring food for her children, they refused and said: “Later.” We didn’t understand why they took us into that house, or what they were doing there themselves. Was it so they could rest? Or to ambush students on their way to school in the morning?
At around 8:00 in the morning, the soldiers suddenly left the house. One of them threw a stun grenade to scare us, so we wouldn’t come out after them. Hussam later got a knife and cut the cable ties they had put on me. They were so tight, my hands were swollen and had marks on them.
After his release from the Abu ‘Alia home, Ghassan Muhammad ran into his father, Yasser Muhammad, on the street. His father had been locked in the home of Adib and ‘Aaishah Na’asan. As the two told each other what they had been through, a group of soldiers showed up and arrested the son once again. In a testimony he gave B’Tselem, Ghassan Muhammad said the soldiers accused him of throwing stones, which he denied, and beat him. He was kept in detention for more than two weeks and released on a NIS 2,500 bail until his trial which is scheduled for July.
10 April 2018, the Muhammad family home: Members of the family, including young children, and others kept confined in one room for seven hours
On 10 April 2018, at around 2:00 A.M., soldiers went into the home of the Muhammad family. There are nine members in the family, including seven children aged ten months to 16. The soldiers put the whole family in the parents’ bedroom, insisting on carrying in two of the sleeping children themselves and refusing to let the parents take them. After confining the family to this room for about seven hours, during which they would not give the mother privacy to nurse her baby, or make food for her children, they left the house just as they had come.
Lina Muhammad, 34, a married mother of seven recalled in the testimony she gave on 12 April 2018:
On 10 April 2018, on the night between Monday and Tuesday, at around 2:00 A.M., we were woken up by soldiers knocking on the door. My husband, Kazem, got up and opened the door, and they came in without asking permission. They closed all the windows and curtains, confiscated our cell phones and told us to stay in the bedroom. Some of the kids woke up from the noise and came on their own, but the two little ones, Saji, 4 and Nur, 5, kept sleeping, and the soldiers wouldn’t let us bring them ourselves. They picked them up and brought them to sleep in our bed. Nur woke up in their arms and was so scared he wet himself, but Saji kept sleeping.
I tried to calm down the rest of the children and help them fall asleep in our bed. The older children couldn’t fall asleep because the soldiers were very frightening. They pointed their guns at us, and most of them were wearing masks, so we couldn’t see them clearly or tell them apart, except the officer, who had a three-stripe rank on his epaulette. They only spoke a few words of Arabic and practically all they said to us was “quiet, be quiet and shush”.
They stood and listened to every movement outside. We didn’t know what they wanted, but we assumed they were ambushing students going to school in the morning. While they were in our house, they wouldn’t let us walk about freely. We had to ask for permission to go to the bathroom, or anywhere else, and they only agreed to us going with one of them accompanying us.
After a few hours, some relatives came by and the soldiers kept them in the house too. At 6:30 A.M., Safiyeh Muhammad, 42, came to ask my husband to bring her mother medicine from Ramallah. At about 7:00, my husband’s niece, Walaa Muhammad, 30, arrived. She’s a teacher at the school and she came by our house on her way to work to take our kids to school. Some more people came, and the number of people in our bedroom went up to 15. The room is 4 meters by 4 meters. It was crowded and stifling, but the soldiers wouldn’t let us open a window. Every time someone tried to complain or ask something, the ordered them to be quiet. We had no idea what was going on.
The whole time, I was busy with my young children. To nurse, I had to cover myself in a blanket, which the kids held up. The soldiers didn’t even look away as I was nursing. Every once in a while, one of the children would start crying, and the soldiers would reprimand them, telling them to be quiet. In the morning, the children were hungry, and the soldiers wouldn’t let us go to the kitchen to make them something to eat. Nur, my five-year-old, also threw up. I don’t know if it’s because he was woken up in the middle of the night, or he was too cold, or very scared.
At 8:30 in the morning, the soldiers left. We breathed a sigh of relief, as if a rock had been lifted from our chests. It was such a difficult experience. The kids didn’t go to school or day care that day. They just went back to their beds and went to sleep the moment the soldiers left. When they got up, they were scared for the rest of the day. None of them dared go out to play, or to the shop store to buy groceries or candy. They were scared the military was still in the neighborhood. They’ve been talking about nothing but the soldiers for the past two days.