Two videos of Israeli soldiers arresting three young boys in Hebron give a harrowing glimpse into the everyday violence faced by children in the occupied West Bank city where settlers have taken over Palestinian homes under the protection of the army. (Videos embedded above and below.)
The videos, published by the group Youth Against Settlements, show a chaotic scene of settlers confronting Israeli soldiers, Palestinian residents and international observers at Shuhada Street on Sunday. The heavily-armed Israeli soldiers drag away three young boys while Palestinians and an international activist attempt to intervene. One of the boys wails with fright as he is pulled away. A woman who identifies herself as the mother of one of the children defiantly goes into the Israeli army jeep and manages to remove one of the boys from it.
According to the International Solidarity Movement in Hebron, Palestinian children were walking home from school when they were attacked by a child from one of the settlements in the city center, who was accompanied by his two older brothers. Youth Against Settlements told The Electronic Intifada via email that the children from the settlement were waiting for the Palestinian students as they exited the school.
The younger child from the settlement began “throwing sticks, beating … and hurling insults” at one of the Palestinian children in the video, identified by the International Solidarity Movement as 12-year-old Ahmed Abu Heikel.
The ISM adds:
As soon as Ahmed defended himself against the beatings, the settler children immediately called for soldiers at nearby checkpoints who came running. Eyewitnesses state that the Palestinian children were not violent. The settler children pointed out Ahmed and [his 11-year-old brother] Mouawieh as well as their classmate Bilal Said, who were violently grabbed and pushed against a wall by soldiers.
A crowd of about 50 people quickly gathered, mostly Palestinian neighbours and classmates as well as international activists, journalists and settlers. The crowd, and especially the headmistress of Qortoba school, Noora Zayer, who was walking with the boys and witnessed the attack, insisted that the arrest was unacceptable. Bystanders and international activists managed to de-arrest Bilal, who then ran away. However Ahmed and Mouawieh were arrested; Ahmed is apparently being charged with assaulting the Israeli soldier who was called to the scene by the settler children and grabbed the Palestinian rather than the settler child.
A non-violent Swedish activist who intervened peacefully on behalf of the children has also been arrested and is being charged with assaulting a soldier. The two children and the Swedish activist were taken away separately in military jeeps [author’s note: the activist was taken away in a police van]. The Swedish activist is currently being held in Givat Havot settlement near Hebron city, whilst Ahmed and Mouawieh are being held in interrogation centres.
The Israeli soldiers took no action against the settler children who had instigated the attack. The police summoned the youngest settler child who had attacked Ahmed and spoke to him in the presence of his parents for about half a minute, after which he was allowed to go back home without any repercussions.
The ISM states that the brothers were released a few hours after their arrest, and that Ahmed had his fingerprints taken and that Mouawieh was kicked in the stomach by a soldier.
The activist who Israeli soldiers are seen shoving in the videos is in detention and faces deportation, according to the ISM, who say that “He was beaten during his arrest and hit with a gun. Soldiers conducted two mock executions by pointing guns at his head, loading them and pretending to press the trigger. He was blindfolded and kept inside the military base in Hebron, where he could hear the crying of the arrested children next to him.”
Child arrests in Hebron
The incident captured in the harrowing videos is hardly an isolated event. Video shows Israeli soldiers, backed up by armed settlers, arresting a 14-year-old boy in Hebron two weeks ago.
Christian Peacemaker Teams released a report last month documenting dozens of arrests of Palestinian children aged 15 and under in Hebron between February and mid-April of this year.
Meanwhile Israeli soldiers were caught on video using a handcuffed Palestinian teen as a human shield as they fired at protesters in the West Bank village of Abu Dis, near Jerusalem, last month.
According to the rights group Defence for Children International - Palestine Section, 236 Palestinian children were in Israeli detention in February of this year, 39 of them aged 15 or younger.