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Occupation routine: Soldiers violently arrest two Palestinian boys, 12 and 14

On Thursday, 30 January 2020, at around 3:30 P.M., Israeli soldiers arrested two Palestinian boys – ‘Abdallah Sabarneh, 12, and Hamzah Wahadin, 14 – in the West Bank village of Beit Ummar...
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Occupation routine: Soldiers violently arrest two Palestinian boys, 12 and 14

On Thursday, 30 January 2020, at around 3:30 P.M., Israeli soldiers arrested two Palestinian boys – ‘Abdallah Sabarneh, 12, and Hamzah Wahadin, 14 – in the West Bank village of Beit Ummar, near the fence that separates the village from the settlement of Carmei Tzur. The soldiers roughly dragged the two away by their collars, threatening them as they went. They led them to the other side of the fence, where they tied their hands with zip ties and blindfolded them. Then the two boys were put in a military jeep. A volunteer with B’Tselem’s camera distribution project captured the incident on video.

Hamzah’s mother, Kamilya Wahadin, 47, and his uncle, Muhammad Wahadin, 58, went to the scene of the incident after hearing from children in the village that soldiers had taken Hamzah away. They talked with the soldiers and tried unsuccessfully to persuade them to release him.

The soldiers drove Sabarneh and Wahadin to an army base in the settlement of Carmei Tzur. Sabarneh was held there until 7:00 P.M. without a bathroom break and then driven, handcuffed and blindfolded, to the entrance to his village. From there, a man from the village drove him home. Wahadin was driven from Carmei Tzur about an hour after arrival to a facility – no one bothered to tell him where it was – where he was put in a cell with two other Palestinians. The next day, in the afternoon, a military jeep drove him, handcuffed and blindfolded, to the entrance to the Beit Ummar. From there, a resident drove him home.

While the two were in custody, their parents ran around, trying to find out what had happened to them. They were sent from one place to another and no one bothered to inform them where their children were being held.

The violent arrest of these boys is not an unusual incident. The violent routine of occupation that Israel imposes on the village includes repeated confrontations with security forces, and arrests. The only purpose of holding the two boys, handcuffed and blindfolded, for any time at all – if it can be called a “purpose” – was to humiliate and intimidate them. The same goes for leaving their parents in the dark. The reality described here is one aspect of the ongoing oppression that the Israeli occupation enforces on Palestinians in the West Bank.

B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash collected testimonies from the children and their relatives:

Hamzah Wahadin, 14, related what he went through:

Hamzah Wahadin. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem

One of the soldiers grabbed me by the back of my coat, and I saw another soldier grab ‘Abdallah. They tied my hands behind my back and covered my eyes. I saw them tie ‘Abdallah’s hands, too. They drove us in a military jeep to the army base at Carmei Tzur, where they had us get out of the car and sit on chairs. I was there for an hour, maybe a bit longer. 

Then the soldiers covered my eyes again and drove me somewhere, I don’t know where. A soldier questioned me there. It was dark. He asked whether I’d thrown stones and about the people who’d thrown stones with me. I said: “I don’t know them”. He questioned me for about 10 minutes and then took me to the infirmary. The military doctor there asked me whether I had any illnesses and filled out some form. Then they put me in a cell with two older detainees, maybe 18 or 19 years old. They said they were from Beit Ummar, too. 

At around 7:00 P.M., a soldier brought me a meal that consisted of a tomato, a cucumber, a tub of sour cream and a teaspoon. I ate, talked with them [the two other detainees] a little and then went to sleep. In the morning, I had breakfast, which was more or less the same, and stayed in the cell until midday. The soldiers brought me lunch, but I didn’t eat it. After that, they took us out to the yard for a half-hour break and then took us back to the cell. I was scared. It was the first time I’d ever been arrested, and I didn’t know how long they’d hold me there. I was there until about 6:00 P.M. and then they tied my hands, covered my eyes and drove me somewhere in a military jeep. When they let me out and took off the handcuffs and blindfold, I found myself at the entrance to Beit Ummar. Someone from the village drove me home. I felt so relieved.

By the time I got home, I was starving. I had dinner, and then some friends came over. I sat with them a bit and went to bed.

Hamzah’s mother, Kamilya Wahadin, recounted what she and her husband went through until their son was released:

At around 4:00 P.M., some kids from the neighborhood came to our house and told me soldiers had taken Hamzah to the settlement of Carmei Tzur. I went there immediately with my brother-in-law, Muhammad. When we got to the entrance to the settlement, we saw soldiers leading Hamzah and another kid, whose name, I later learned, is ‘Abdallah Sabarneh and is younger than my son. They were both standing behind the settlement gate, with soldiers and several military jeeps around them. Muhammad tried to persuade the soldiers to let Hamzah go and said he was just a little boy, but they paid no attention.

A short while later, the soldiers put both kids in a military jeep that drove into the settlement. I stayed put until my husband got there. He, too, tried to talk to the soldiers who stayed there and were standing on the other side of the gate. We stayed there with a few other people from the village until about 7:00 P.M., because one of the soldiers said they’d let them go. We hoped they’d bring them to the gate. When that didn’t happen, we went back home. It was very cold.

I was very worried about my son, because I had no idea what was going on with him. In the evening, when I learned ‘Abdallah Sabarneh had been released, that got me even more worried. At around 11:00 P.M., some Israeli who didn’t give his name called me and said that Hamzah was the police station in Beitar. My husband drove there right away, but he found out Hamzah was actually at Ofer Prison, where he could only go the next day.

We didn’t sleep a wink that night.

In the morning, my husband went to Ofer, and the soldiers told him he had to pay 500 shekels bail at Qalandiya checkpoint. He went to Qalandiya but the office was closed, and he learned he could only pay on Sunday. From there, he went again to Ofer, because he thought they’d take Hamzah to court and he wanted to see him. He waited there for a long time, but they didn’t bring Hamzah. In the late afternoon, a lawyer who works for a human rights organization said they were going to release him at al-‘Arrub Refugee Camp, so my husband went there. He waited there until he found out they’d taken Hamzah to the village.

Hamzah got home around 7:00 P.M., and my husband got back soon after. We went through 24 hours of worry and heartache. My husband spent an entire day and night traveling around between Beit Ummar, Beitar, Ofer and Qalandiya with no information about our son.

‘Abdallah Sabarneh, 12, also described what he went through after the soldiers put him in the jeep:

Abdallah Sabarneh. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem

I kept crying, and one of the soldiers told me to be quiet. The jeep drove off, but I didn’t know where we were going. Then the soldiers let us out at the army base at the settlement of Carmei Tzur. They led us into a room and sat us down on chairs. While we were sitting there, one of the soldiers came over to me and said: “You son of a bitch”.

I was there for hours, and I cried the whole time. I asked to go to the bathroom several times, but the soldier didn’t let me go. It was really tough.

At around 7:30 P.M., a soldier took me out of the room. I asked where he was taking me, and he said I was being released. While they held me, I was very scared and was afraid they’d keep me for a long time. I kept crying, because the blindfold was too tight and because the soldier wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom.

‘Abdallah’s grandfather, Ibrahim Sabarneh, 68, a married father of nine, related how he ran around with his son to try and locate his grandson:

On 30 January 2020, in the late afternoon, my son Fahed called and said soldiers had arrested ‘Abdallah near the settlement of Carmei Tzur. He asked me to help look for him.

We thought the soldiers had taken ‘Abdallah to Etzion and we got there around 5:00 P.M. We stood at the gate, and a soldier told us ‘Abdallah wasn’t there. We asked a police officer in a patrol car that drove up to the gate and he said he’d look into it. Then another patrol car drove up and we asked again. About half an hour later, one of the police officers returned and told us ‘Abdallah wasn’t there and that we had to go to the police station in the settlement of Beitar near the village of Husan and ask there. We drove there, but they told us they didn’t have ‘Abdallah, either, and suggested we go back to Etzion and ask the Civil Administration there.

We drove to the Civil Administration and asked the soldier at the information desk. She told us to wait there while she checked. We waited in the room until about 8:00 P.M. without any answer, even though I went over to her several times. Then Fahed’s wife suddenly called and told him ‘Abdallah was home.

When we got home, I saw ‘Abdallah was scared. He told us he’d cried the whole time and had been very frightened. His parents and I tried to calm him down.