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Tasnim M'atuq, 15, arrested by security forces to pressure her brother to turn himself in. Photo by 'Amer 'Aruri, B'Tselem, 3 Oct. 2018
From the field

Israeli security forces arrest Palestinians to pressure their relatives to turn themselves in

In August and September, B’Tselem investigated three cases in which Israeli security forces arrested four residents of al-’Eizariyah and Abu Dis, including one girl (a minor), in order to force other members of the family to turn themselves in. In each case, police came to the family’s home in the middle of the night, searched it and demanded to arrest a member of the family. Once told the person they sought was not at home, the officers randomly arrested another family member or members, making it clear that they would be released only once the wanted individual turned himself in. 

The officers handcuffed the people they detained and, in one case, blindfolded a woman. The detained relatives were then taken to a Border Police base near the town of Abu Dis. Once there, the officers left them out in the yard, disregarding their age and medical condition. They refused to give the detainees anything to eat or drink; tightly handcuffed one detainee, disregarding her request to loosen the ties; and denied two detainees access to the bathroom. 

It is clearly unacceptable and unlawful to arrest individuals suspected of no wrongdoing for the express purpose of putting pressure on their family members to turn themselves in. As the three incidents took place over the course of several weeks and involved dozens of officers, they are clearly not the result of some individual officer’s whim. Instead, they demonstrate the utter disregard for the rights of Palestinians evinced by Israel’s security establishment and the intolerable ease with which it lets itself violate their rights, disrupt their lives and undermine their safety. 

Below, we describe the incidents and present some of the testimonies collected by B’Tselem field researcher ‘Amer ‘Aruri. 

Majd (23) and Tasnim (15) Ma’tuq arrested as leverage to pressure their brother, Muhammad (19): 

Majd Ma'tuq, 23, works in a shawarma restaurant. His sister, Tasnim, 15, is in the tenth grade. They live with their family in the town of al-'Eizariyah, east of Jerusalem. On 23 September 2018, at around 2:30 A.M., about five police officers arrived at the Ma’tuq home to arrest their brother, Muhammad, 19. He was not home at the time. The police searched the home and the rooftop and remained in the house until 4:00 A.M., waiting for him to return. When the police were getting ready to leave, they initially wanted to arrest the Muhammad’s mother in order to pressure him to turn himself in. They then decided to take her other son and a minor daughter instead. They took Majd and Tasnim to a Border Police base near Abu Dis and kept them there, out in the yard, until 10:30 in the morning, at which point they simply released them. Muhammad turned himself later that day. He was released on 17 October, with a NIS 2,500 [approx. USD 680] bail and a summons to appear in court on 24 October 2018. 

In a testimony she gave on 4 October 2018, Tasnim Ma'tuq spoke about what she went through during the arrest:

Tasnim Ma’tuq. Photo by ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’Tselem, 3 Oct. 2018

On 23 September 2018, I woke up in a panic in the middle of the night when I heard knocking at the door. When I got up, I saw five police officers standing in the living room next to my mother. They went into my brothers’ room and searched it. Then they searched outside, around the house. My mother and I wanted to use the bathroom but they wouldn’t let us go. Then, one policeman, who was wearing a mask, said he was going to arrest my mother instead of Muhammad. Two officers came and took her outside. My brother Majd and I followed them, but then the masked policeman said he’d take me instead of my mother. I was really scared. A policewoman came up to me and said in Hebrew: “I’ll make your night black.” I study Hebrew at school, so I understood what she said.

My brother Majd stepped in. He said: “Leave Tasnim alone. I’ll go with you.” My mother also protested, and said she wouldn’t let them take me. Then the masked man said: “Okay. We’ll take Majd with us too and he’ll stay with Tasnim until Muhammad turns himself in.” 

They put just me into a car where there were a policewoman, a policeman and a driver. I sat in the middle, between the two officers. They took me to a Border Police base in Abu Dis, where they left me and Majd out in the yard. It was very cold, and I was only wearing a light summer sweater. As soon as we got there, Majd and I asked to use the bathroom, but they wouldn’t let us. I felt I could barely hold it in because they hadn’t let me go at home either. 

It took about an hour before a commanding officer came and let us go to the bathroom. One of the policewomen walked me to the bathroom. They kept asking: “Where’s Muhammad?” I was really worried because I didn’t know what would happen to me. I was scared they’d take Majd and I’d be left on my own. A lot of bad thoughts went through my head. 

After we were released and I got home, I ran straight to my mom and hugged her and started crying. I was tired and felt I just had to sleep. I didn’t go to school that day. I couldn’t fall asleep in my room, because I kept picturing the police coming into our house again. So I went to my mother’s bedroom and slept by her side. I was nervous and scared. 

In a testimony Majd M'atuq gave on 4 October 2018, he described his and his sister’s arrest:

Majd Ma’tuq. Photo by ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’Tselem, 3 Oct. 2018

The police stayed in our home until 4:00 A.M. They searched the house, and also outside the house, and waited for Muhammad to come home. One of the officers, who was masked, told my mother they would arrest her and keep her in custody until Muhammad turned himself in. Two policewomen came and took my mother outside, but then the policeman changed his mind and told her they would take Tasnim instead, and that in the meantime, she should make sure to press Muhammad to turn himself in. My mom said there was no way she would let them arrest Tasnim and I stepped in and suggested they take me instead. 

The policeman said he'd take us both, and so we were both arrested. They handcuffed me behind my back and put us into two separate cars. One of the officers said to me: "So you think you can act the big in front of your sister and mother and yell at us at your house?!” Then he slapped me. There were three officers in the car and they kept slapping me until we got to the Border Police base in Abu Dis, a twenty-minute ride. 

At the base, Tasnim and I were out in the yard. There were five officers near us. When we got there, we asked to go to the bathroom, but they wouldn't let us. After about an hour, a commanding officer came and I asked him to go to the bathroom. He let us. The five police officers interrogated us, asking: "Where’s Muhammad?” They put on Arabic songs on YouTube and told me to sing along. I refused. They ate and drank next to us.

At around 10:30, they let us go. They took us out via the rear entrance to the base and told us to keep walking till we got to the main road. We walked and had no idea where we were, until we got to the main road, by the Abu 'Eida junction, near Abu Dis University. Because we had no money, we decided to walk home. Luckily, when we reached the Qabsa Junction, a friend of mine was driving by and he took us to al-'Eizariyah. 

The Ma’tuq home in al-‘ al-'Eizariyah as seen from the top of the lane; right: the Separation Barrier. Photo by ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’
Locked gate in the Separation Barrier, across from the Ma’tuq home. Photo by ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’Tselem, 3 Oct. 2018

‘Othman Halabiyah (63) arrested to pressure his son Anas (23)

‘Othman Halabiyah (63) and his wife Amineh (60) live in the village of Abu Dis east of Jerusalem. Two of their children live at home. ‘Othman is diabetic and has a heart condition. In early 2018 he underwent heart surgery for the second time. On 6 August 2018, at around 5:00 A.M., about twenty police officers showed up at the Halabiyah home. They had two dogs with them and had come to arrest Anas, the Halabiyahs’ 23-year-old son. He was out at the time. The family was already awake, and the parents were out in the yard. The police demanded to go inside the home, but acceded to ‘Othman’s request to wait a few minutes until his daughter, in her twenties, also came out to the yard. When she came out, the officers searched the house for about fifteen minutes, leaving a mess and dirt behind. When they did not find Anas at home, they arrested his father ‘Othman. They took him to the Border Police base in Abu Dis where he was held from 7:00 A.M. to 10:30 A.M., and then simply let go. The next day, 7 August 2018, Anas turned himself in. He is currently in remand, having been indicted for throwing stones and for membership in an unlawful association.

‘Othman Halabiyah described his arrest in a testimony he gave on 8 October 2018:

‘Othman Halabiyah. Photo by ‘Amer ‘Aruri, B’Tselem, 8 Oct. 2018

On 6 August 2018, I recited the dawn prayers as I do every morning. When I finished I went out to the yard to get some fresh air. It was shortly after 5:00 o’clock in the morning. My wife Amineh was mopping the yard. I saw a large van pull up in front of my house. It was armored and had no side windows. About twenty police officers and two dogs got out. One of them ordered me to stand aside and keep away from the front door. I stood with my back against the wall. Some of them started conducting a search outside the house. This lasted about half an hour. Then, one of them told me to open the door so they could go inside. I asked them to wait a little until my daughter, who had already gotten up, would also come out to the yard and they agreed. 

A few officers went into the house with the dogs. They searched the house for about fifteen minutes and then one of them came back and asked me where my son Anas was. I said I didn’t know but that he wasn’t home. One of them said: “Fine. Then we’ll take you with us to the base in Abu Dis and let you go after Anas turns himself in at the Container Checkpoint.” They handcuffed me, with my hands in front. I told them I need to use a cane and asked them not to handcuff me but they refused. I just barely held the cane, and that’s how I went with them. One policeman held me by the neck and two others held me by the arms. They had me walk almost half a kilometer along a rough road to get me to another military jeep. I got tired and couldn’t keep going. How can I walk with handcuffs when I need to lean on a cane? When I told them I couldn’t go on they put me on a military stretcher they had with them and four policemen carried me. 

When we got to the jeep they tried to push me in and my right leg banged hard against the steps of the jeep. My leg was hurt and started bleeding. Then they roughly shoved me inside. I was the only detainee in the vehicle. When we got to Abu Dis, they left me out in the yard with no shade, under a beating sun. I hadn’t had time to eat breakfast before the police came, and that’s bad for me because I’d already taken my medication and I must eat half an hour after I take it. I was very hungry because of the diabetes. 

I complained about being kept standing out in the sun, and then they removed my handcuffs and had me sit in the shade. An ISA officer came and asked me questions about my family. He said that if Anas wouldn’t turn himself in that day, they’d look for him everywhere, that he was risking his life because he could get killed in a police chase. He took my cell phone and used it call my wife and my brother. He told them they should tell Anas he had better turn himself in because they wouldn’t let me go until he went to the Container Checkpoint. 

After an hour or an hour and a half, I became very thirsty. I asked for water and a policeman brought me a bottle of water. I told the officer I was sick and had to eat after taking my medicine, but he ignored it. I showed him my leg was bleeding, and he ignored that too. After I waited for about two more hours, the officer told me they were going to release me and that Anas must turn himself in within two hours. I told him I couldn’t promise it would happen in two hours and that Anas might need 24 hours. A policeman led me to the entrance to the base. My brother Ahmad who had come to pick me up was waiting outside. He was in shock when he saw me. It was then that I found out it was already 10:30. 

I went back home. My wife helped me take care of my wound and I ate. The next day, my son Anas turned himself in at the Ma'ale Adumim police station at eleven o’clock in the morning. He was afraid he’d be harassed at the Container Checkpoint. 

Amineh Halabiyah described the arrest and the search in a testimony given on 8 October 2018: 

After they searched the house for fifteen minute or so, the officers went outside and told my husband they would arrest him instead of Anas, and that he had to turn himself in at the Container Checkpoint. They handcuffed my husband, putting his hands behind his back. He objected because he uses a cane, so one of the police officers switched the handcuffs to the front, and that’s how he held the cane and went with them. 

I was very worried about my husband. He’s diabetic and has a heart condition and also high blood pressure, and he hadn’t eaten breakfast after he took his medication. My daughter and I went inside and saw the police had turned the house topsy-turvy. All our stuff was outside the closets and there was a lot of dirt from the dogs. We started cleaning and tidying up and washing the bed linen. 

My husband came home at around eleven o’clock and Anas turned himself in the next day. He’s now at Ashkelon Prison. We only saw him at the court hearings, about seven times. He’s been charged with membership in an unlawful association and stone throwing. He was supposed to finish his fourth year of computer studies at Al-Quds University but couldn’t because of the arrest. 

Hiyam Salah (37) arrested as leverage to pressure her husband Ahmad:

Hiyam (37) and Ahmad (39) Salah also live in Abu Dis. They have three children, aged 6-11. Ahmad works as a security guard at Al-Quds University. Hiyam has throat cancer. The family lives in an apartment on the top floor of a three-story building. The first floor is occupied by Ahmad’s parents. The second floor belongs to Ahmad’s uncle – his father ‘Adel Salah’s brother – but is currently vacant as the uncle has moved elsewhere. 

On 3 September 2018, at around 2:30 A.M., while Hiyam and the children were asleep and Ahmad was at work at Al-Quds University, about ten officers arrived at the home and knocked on the door. Hiyam Salah woke up in a panic and went to answer the door. The police ordered her to go into the living room with her three children. The officers then spread out throughout and stayed there for about an hour and a half, waiting for Ahmad to come home. At around 4:00 A.M., a commanding officer with the Special Patrol Unit came into the apartment bringing along Ahmad’s parents. The police then spent nearly an hour searching the house. Having turned the house upside down, and also after searching the vacant apartment in the building, the officers told Hiyam they were arresting her and would hold her in custody until her husband turned himself in. Her father-in-law ‘Adel tried to explain to the officers that she had cancer and that she must stay with the children, but they would not heed him. Hiyam was arrested and taken to the Border Police base in Abu Dis, where she was held until seven o’clock in the morning.

Ahmad Salah did not turn himself in. 

Hiyam Salah described her arrest in a testimony she gave on 8 October 2018: 

On 3 September 2018, at 2:30 A.M., I was asleep at home with my children. My husband Ahmad was at work. He’s a security guard at Al-Quds University. I heard loud knocking at the door and woke up in a panic. I opened the door and a policewoman and two policemen came inside. They asked me where Ahmad was and I said he was at work. They told me to wake up the kids and go sit with them in the living room. 

My daughter, Rita, 11, woke up from the loud knocking on the door. She was alarmed by the sight of armed strangers in the house. She clung to me. I went to the little ones’ room (they’re six and nine years old), to wake them up, and two officers went with me. When the children saw the armed police in their room they got scared and turned pale. I took them to the living room. 

Eight more officers came into the house and went to sit in different rooms throughout the house. The stayed that way in our home, until about 4:00 A.M., doing nothing. Then, they brought in a police dog, and senior officer of the Special Patrol Unit came in with my father-in-law and mother-in-law. The police then searched house and turned everything upside down. When Rita had to go to the bathroom, they wouldn’t let me go with her. She went by herself, shaking with fear. 

At around 5:00 o’clock, the SPU officer told me they would take me to the base in Abu Dis until my husband turned himself in. My father-in-law intervened and said I had cancer and that I had to stay with the children. He offered to go instead of me and explained to the officer that I’d had surgery on my throat the month before. The officer refused and three policewomen escorted me to my bedroom so I could put on warmer clothes. When I left the room, my children started crying and ran after me. I calmed them down and told them I’d be back soon and not to worry. 

When I left the house the police handcuffed me with cable ties and blindfolded me with a strip of cloth. They put me into the police car, not roughly. At the base in Abu Dis, they sat me down in the yard, on the asphalt ground. The cable ties were hurting my hands and I asked that they be removed, but they didn’t do what I asked. Some time later the cable ties were taken off and I could see on my watch that it was 7:00 A.M. A few minutes later, a police officer came and told me that my husband had to turn himself in at the Container Checkpoint, and that he had to so by 11:00 o’clock. Then they led me to the gate to the base. Because I didn’t have a phone with me, I couldn’t call anyone to come pick me up, so I walked for about half an hour until I got home. 

When I got there, my children were still sitting with their grandparents. They couldn’t believe I was home and ran toward me. They were so happy. The house was a mess because of the search. 

My husband didn’t turn himself in. Our home had already been raided and searched two months ago. They had come for my husband, who wasn’t home then either. Then the ISA sent him an official summons to an interview, and he went. They interrogated him and released him the same day. Why did they come raid the house again and scare my children? If my husband went to them two months ago and they wanted to arrest him, why did they let him go? 

‘Adel Salah, 64, described the raid on his home and the arrest of his daughter-in-law in a testimony he gave on 8 October 2018.

On 3 September 2018, I heard loud knocking at the front door. There were police there and a commanding officer. One of them asked me about my son Ahmad. I told him he lives on the third floor. Several officers came into my house and searched the rooms. After about half an hour, the commanding officer told me to come with him to Ahmad’s house. He asked me who lives on the second floor, and I said it was my brother Salim’s apartment and that the apartment is vacant because he’s now living in Beit Safafa. My wife and I went up to my son’s Ahmad’s home with the commander and the other police. My wife sat with the children in the living room. They brought a police dog to search the house. The search took about an hour. After the search, the commanding officer told Hiyam that she was under arrest until my son turned himself in at the Container Checkpoint. At that point, I intervened and tried to persuade him that Hiyam needs to stay home because she has cancer and had had throat surgery just a month before. I offered to go instead of her. He wouldn’t consent, and arrested her. 

My wife and I stayed with the children at home and they started crying. They wouldn’t to eat or drink and cried a lot. We stayed with them until Hiyam came back at around 7:30 A.M. Later, I found the police had also raided my brother Salim’s apartment on the second floor. They had broken down the door and searched the place.