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Yasser-‘Arafat Abu Berqin (Shqeir) and Yazan Qadus during their arrest. Photo courtesy of the family
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Soldiers arrest two Palestinian children (11) for about 15 hours and hold them handcuffed and blindfolded at military base during most of the detention

On Sunday night, 24 October 2021, at around 10:00 P.M., about 10 soldiers arrived at a-Zawiya, a village near Salfit, and arrested two 11-year-old children, Yasser-‘Arafat Abu Berqin (Shqeir) and Yazan Qadus, claiming they had thrown stones at Route 5. The soldiers ordered Yasser-‘Arafat’s brother, Mu’tasem (22), and Yazan’s father, Na’im (42), to go with them.

The soldiers drove the two boys and the two men to the police station in the settlement of Ariel. There, they were made to sit in the yard, in the cold, for about two hours, during which time no one spoke to them. They were then driven to a military base in the settlement of Yakir, where they were held in a trailer, handcuffed and blindfolded, until around 2:30 P.M. the following day. Only then did soldiers take off their handcuffs and blindfolds. They were then driven to the entrance to their village and told to go home.

Soldiers entered the homes of two Palestinian families and took away two 11-year-olds – who are under the age of criminal liability – and two adults who were not suspected of any wrongdoing. The four were shuttled from place to place and handcuffed and blindfolded some of time. At no point did any of the soldiers offer them food or shelter from the cold. No one spoke with them or asked them anything, and not a single person bothered to explain to the frightened children and the distressed adults why they had been taken from their homes in that manner or what lay ahead. After about 15 hours, they were taken to the entrance to their village and sent home as though nothing had happened and the preceding hours had been a matter of routine. Just another day under occupation.

B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi collected statements from the children and the adults who went with them. 

Yasser-‘Arafat Abu Berqin (11) recounted:

Yasser-‘Arafat Abu Birkin. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem
Yasser-‘Arafat Abu Birkin. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem

On Sunday, 24 October 2021, I came home after playing with my friends and went to take a shower. While I was in the shower, my brother Mu’tasem called out to me to finish up quickly because soldiers had come to our house and wanted to question me. I quickly washed the soap off and got dressed. When I went into the living room, I saw the soldiers waiting for me. I was terrified. They didn’t ask me any questions, and only led Mu’tasem and me outside. They took us to the house of my neighbor, Yazan Qadus, who’s a little younger than me.

Some of the soldiers went into Yazan’s house and some stayed outside to watch over us. After a few minutes, the soldiers came out with Yazan and his father. They took us to a bridge that leads to our village, about 250 meters away from our house, where military jeeps were waiting. The soldiers put Mu’tasem and me in one jeep and Yazan and his father in another. We drove to the Hares Junction, near the traffic lights. There, they transferred us to a white military van and drove us to the settlement of Ariel. They dropped us off at a yard inside the settlement, which we saw had offices. No one spoke to us or asked us anything. They just left us there.

 

Yasser-‘Arafat Abu Berqin during his arrest. Photos courtesy of the family
Yasser-‘Arafat Abu Berqin during his arrest. Photos courtesy of the family

Then they took us in the jeep from Ariel to a military base. We later found out it was inside the settlement of Yakir. There, they tied my hands in front of me and covered my eyes with a piece of cloth. The soldiers took us to a container in the base and left us there all night. Until the moment we were released, no one said a word to us. They didn’t bring us any food. They just brought us water and let us go to the bathroom.

The next day, the jeep took the four of us back to the a-Zawiya bridge, and from there we went home. My father, who’s very ill, was so happy to see me. My mother and my siblings were also happy to see Mu’tasem and me back home.

In his testimony, Yazan Qadus (11) said:

Yazan Qadus. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem
Yazan Qadus. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem

I was at home with my family when five soldiers came in through the door, which was open, to our apartment on the second floor. They came into our living room with rifles and helmets. I was terrified. Dad sat in the living room with them and spoke with them in Hebrew. I heard my name and understood they were talking about me. The soldiers were insisting on arresting me . I also understood they were saying that my dad could come with me. The soldiers took us outside and then I saw they’d arrested another boy, named Yasser-‘Arafat. He was with his big brother.

The soldiers led us on foot. I was so scared that I cried. It was also freezing cold. We walked up to the a-Zawiya bridge by our village, about 250 meters away from our home. There, they put us in two military jeeps and drove us east. They stopped by the traffic lights at Hares Junction and transferred us to a white military Savana van. After they drove for a while, Dad said we’d reached the settlement of Ariel. The soldiers dropped us off in a yard in front of the police station. They didn’t ask us anything or talk to us. We waited there for about two and a half hours, in the cold.

Yazan Qadus during his arrest. Photo courtesy of the family
Yazan Qadus during his arrest. Photo courtesy of the family

Then they drove us to a military camp with soldiers and jeeps, where the soldiers covered our eyes, handcuffed us and put us in a container. They didn’t bring us any food, only water when we asked for it. We stayed there until around 2:30 P.M. the next day. Then the soldiers put us in a jeep, drove us to the a-Zawiya bridge and released us there. The whole time we were held, about 15 hours, no one even interrogated me.

Yazan’s father, Na’im Qadus (42), described that night:

On Sunday, 24 October 2021, at around 10:30 P.M., I was at home with my family. I was surprised when about five soldiers came into the house through an open door on the second floor. I speak fluent Hebrew, so I tried to calm them down and understand what they wanted. One soldier said they were looking for my son Yazan because he’d thrown stones at Israeli cars on Route 5. I told the soldier he’s a little boy and couldn’t have thrown stones, but the soldier insisted on arresting him. Yazan started crying in fear. The soldier ordered me to get dressed and come along with Yazan. They led us outside. On the road, I saw other soldiers holding another boy named Yasser-‘Arafat Abu Berqin, along with his older brother Mu’tasem.

The soldiers led us on foot for 250 meters until we reached Route 5. There were four military jeeps there. Yazan and I were put in one jeep, and Yasser-‘Arafat and his brother in another. The jeeps drove from the area of the a-Zawiya bridge to the traffic lights at Hares Junction, where we were all transferred to a white military Savana van.

The soldiers drove to the police station in Ariel. They sat us down on the benches in front of the station without questioning us or asking us anything. We stayed that way for about two and a half hours, in the cold, without being taken into the building. Then they drove us to a military base in the settlement of Yakir, near the village of Deir Istiya. There, they covered our eyes, handcuffed us and put us in a dirty container. None of them spoke to us or asked us anything. I asked the soldiers to bring the children some sandwiches, but they didn’t bring anything except water. They allowed us to go to the bathroom.

The next day, at 2:30 P.M., they drove us back to the a-Zawiya bridge by our village. They didn’t speak to us at all. Throughout the detention, my son Yazan and Yasser-‘Arafat were terrified. They also caught colds during the night.

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