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Routine harassment of minors in Hebron: Security forces detain four children and hold a boy, 13, overnight, beating him and abandoning him far from home

On Wednesday, 5 December 2018, at school dismissal, 1:30 P.M., students left the schools in the Hebron city center and threw stones at Border Police officers standing by a metal gate abou...
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Routine harassment of minors in Hebron: Security forces detain four children and hold a boy, 13, overnight, beating him and abandoning him far from home

On Wednesday, 5 December 2018, at school dismissal, 1:30 P.M., students left the schools in the Hebron city center and threw stones at Border Police officers standing by a metal gate about 10 meters from the Pharmacy checkpoint.

In video footage taken by ISM volunteers, Border Police officers can be seen apprehending four students and dragging them to the Pharmacy checkpoint. Two of the students were under the age of 12 (the age of criminal liability). Three were held at the checkpoint, alone, for about an hour. During this time, the police officers asked them whether they had thrown stones, and some of them were told to give the names of other children. They were then handed over to their parents, who had arrived in the meantime.

The fourth child - 'Abd al-Jalil Murar, 13, who was also held at the checkpoint for about an hour, was then taken to the Kiryat Arba police station in handcuffs. After waiting for another hour at the police station, 'Abd al-Jalil was interrogated with no parent or other adult acting on his behalf present. A police officer showed him a video clip in which he is allegedly seen throwing stones. 'Abd al-Jalil made and signed a confession. At about 8:00 P.M., after he had been waiting at the police station for hours without food or drink, the police officers took him to the military clinic at Giv'at Haharsinah, where he underwent a medical exam and was then taken to the detention center at the Etzion police station. He was placed in a detention cell where he spent the night alone, without being given food or drink. The next morning, 'Abd al-Jalil ate for the first time since he was arrested. At about 10:00 A.M., he was taken to the military court at ‘Ofer with other minors from the detention center. His case was heard at around noon. The judge ordered him released on bail of NIS 2,000. In the afternoon, after his father posted bail, the soldiers took 'Abd al-Jalil to the military tower at the entrance to al-'Arrub R.C. According to 'Abd al-Jalil, at the entrance to the camp, the soldiers removed the handcuffs from his hands and took him out of the jeep. As they were doing this, one of the soldiers punched him on the head and he fell to the ground. The soldiers left 'Abd al-Jalil on the ground and drove off.

 

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Malek Gheith. Photo courtesy of ISM

This is not the first time armed police officers have illegally detained children below the age of criminal liability without informing their parents. When B'Tselem documented such cases in the past, the security forces justified their behavior on the spurious grounds that they "merely" detained the children before handing them over to the Palestinian authorities. The fact that the Israeli authorities believe this is appropriate is powerful evidence of their moral blindness.

Every Israeli authority involved in the incident exhibited this moral blindness toward ‘Abd al-Jalil, a 13-year-old boy detained for over 24 hours completely on his own, with no one to defend his rights, explain what was going to happen, or even let him to eat and drink - from the police officers who picked him up on the street, left him waiting for hours at the police station and kept him in a cell, alone, overnight, to the military judge who heard his case, and finally the soldiers who violently threw him out of a car, alone and far from home. All these acts reflect the approach shared by the Israeli authorities that Palestinian minors are entitled to nothing, not even to the basic protections the law gives them as children.

The following are some of the testimonies collected by B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu-Hashhash in which the minors describe their detention:

'Abd al-Jalil, 13, 8th grade student from the al-Kasarah neighborhood, stated in a testimony taken on 12 December 2018:

I'm an 8th grade student at al-Khalil al-Asasiyah elementary school in Hebron city center. On Wednesday, 5 December, 2018, I left school at one thirty and walked toward al-Hajriyah boys' school to pick up my brother Muhammad, who's 12. He was badly burned a few months ago and he needs my help. On the way, before I got to the school, I saw three Border Police officers standing by the metal gate on a-Sahalah Street where the school is.

The students were coming out of school and started to throw stones toward the three police officers.  Suddenly three or four police officers came running up behind us. One of them put his arm round my neck and led me toward the checkpoint. In the meantime, I saw two police officers arresting two other boys. I know one of them from my school, his name is Malek Gheith and he's younger than me. I don't know the other boy. Later I found out that he goes to al-Hajariyah boys' school.

The officers took each of us separately to the Pharmacy Checkpoint and handed us over to other police officers who were there. One of the officers interrogated me in a room at the checkpoint. He wanted me to admit that I'd thrown stones at the police officers by the gate. He banged my head against the wall a few times to force me to confess, but I didn't. In the meantime, the officers at the checkpoint let Malek and the other boy go.

I stayed at the checkpoint for about an hour. Then a police officer handcuffed me and took me in a Border Police jeep to the police station in Kiryat Arba. I waited there for about an hour and then a police officer interrogated me calmly. At first, I didn't confess, but then the officer showed me video in which I’m seen throwing stones, so I had to confess. I signed my statement. They took my photo and fingerprints.

I waited at the police station until about eight o'clock in the evening, in handcuffs. Then, a Border Police jeep drove me to the clinic at Giv'at Haharsinah. An army doctor there asked me about my health and examined me. Then an army jeep drove me to the detention center at Gush Etzion. Prison guards put me in a room. I was on my own there. They hadn't given me any food up to this point and I didn't sleep well.

The next day I had breakfast. At about ten o'clock they took me in a prison transport, with my  hands and feet shackled with metal cuffs. There were nine other detainees there and they took us to the court at 'Ofer. We got there at around noon. Then there was a hearing and the judge decided to let me go on a two-thousand-shekel bail. My dad arrived late to the hearing and posted bail.

A vehicle took me to the army tower opposite al-‘Arrub refugee camp. There were soldiers in it, and when it stopped, they took my handcuffs and blindfold off. Then they told me to get out. As I was getting out, one of punched me hard on the head. I fell to the ground. I almost lost consciousness. I recovered quickly and went to a store opposite the tower. The owner called my dad and he came in a friend's car and took me home.  I was in pain from the fall for about two days and I had some minor scratches on my head.

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'Abed al-Jalil. Photo courtesy of ISM

Malek Gheith, 11, 5th grade student from the Jabal Johar neighborhood, stated in his testimony, taken on 12 December 2018:

I study in the 5th grade at al-Khalil al-Asasiyah elementary school in Hebron. On Wednesday, 5 December 2018, at about one thirty, I left school and I was planning to walk home with my cousin Yusef Gheith, 12, who studies at al-Hajriyah school, so that we could go home together.

Close to the metal gate on a-Sahlah Street, I saw some children throwing stones toward three Border Police officers. I saw 'Abd al-Jalil in the area. He goes to my school. There were a few other kids there. Suddenly, about four police officers came up behind us and tried to grab us. I tried to run off but one of the officers caught up to me and pushed me. I fell to the ground. The officer grabbed me and put his arm around my neck. At the same time, I saw another officer attacking 'Abd al-Jalil.

The officer led me to the Pharmacy Checkpoint and two officers took 'Abd al-Jalil there. Another officer took a boy from al-Hajriyah boys' school. I don't know his name.

At the checkpoint, the commanding officer asked me my name and how old I am and made me give him my parents' names. He asked me if I'd thrown stones and I denied it. He also asked me whether two of my friends had thrown stones. I told him that I hadn't seen them throwing stones. After an hour, the officer decided to let me go. When I came out, I saw my dad and my uncle waiting for me.

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Malek Gheith. Photo courtesy of ISM

Fares a-Rajabi, 58, the father of the minor Amir a-Rajabi, from the Jabal Johar neighborhood, stated in a testimony taken on 26 December 2018:

On 5 December 2018, at about one thirty, I was at home when a student from my son's school came and told me the army had taken Amir to one of the checkpoints. I went straight away to Checkpoint 160 and asked them about my son, but he wasn't there. Then I went to look for him at the Pharmacy checkpoint and it turned out that he was there.

I saw one of Amir's teachers there talking with the Border Police officers. He explained to them that Amir was a young boy and tried to persuade them to let him go. I also spoke to one of the police officers. I explained that I was Amir's father and that he was a little boy, and I asked them to let him go.

A first I didn't see Amir. Three or four Border Police officers surrounded me. One of them ordered me to wait. I waited inside the checkpoint. I was really worried. I was afraid they'd send Amir to the police station and arrest him, and then I'd have to pay bail to have him released. After about half an hour, an officer came up to me and told me that he'd let Amir go and that I must explain to him that he shouldn't throw stones. Amir was frightened. He calmed down when he saw me. I held his hand and we left the checkpoint together and went home.