It’s a regular and terrifying scene in the occupied West Bank: heavily armed Israeli soldiers, often with large dogs, raid a Palestinian family’s home. They wake the children, arresting one or more of them.
This is what happened to Hamza Muayyad Shukri Hammad, 15, when his home in Silwad, a village near Ramallah, was invaded at 2am on Sunday.
As reported by the Arabic-language Quds news site, Hamza’s mother said that during the two-hour raid on her family’s home, Hamza and his 10-year-old brother, Bilal, were detained.
Soldiers raided Hamza’s room, ransacking it. They confiscated phones and smart devices from the home and a computer was deliberately smashed.
An Israeli officer threatened Hamza while searching him, and tried to pressure the boy to confess to charges not specified in the Quds report.
Hamza’s mother said “The officer told us that he would treat [Hamza] the way they treated his father and arrest him.”
The teen’s father, Muayyad Hammad, is currently serving multiple life sentences on charges that he was part of a cell that carried out military operations against the Israeli army. He has been imprisoned for 13 years, according to Quds.
Other Palestinian children in Israeli detention have endured similar trauma as Hamza.
Blindfolded and beaten
During a visit to Megiddo prison on Sunday, Hiba Masalha, a lawyer with the Palestinian Authority ministry for prisoner affairs, took the testimony of three teenagers who were beaten during their arrest and transfer to Israeli detention.
Ahmad Ismail Abu Amr, 17, from a village near the West Bank city of Nablus, was beaten all over his body, blindfolded and cuffed by Israeli soldiers who used their weapons to strike him on his head and shoulders when they arrested him two months ago.
He was strip-searched during his transfer to Megiddo prison in the north of present-day Israel.
Another 17-year-old, Ahmad Sabah, was arrested several months ago when Israeli soldiers raided his home in Tuqua, a village near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, in the middle of the night.
Ahmad was woken from his sleep by the shouting soldiers, who had police dogs with them. He was cuffed and blindfolded and put into a military jeep, in which soldiers beat him on his head and hands. He too was strip-searched upon his transfer to Megiddo.
Iyad Adawi, 17, was beaten during his arrest at Beit Furik checkpoint near Nablus and testified that one of the soldiers deliberately wounded him as he used a knife to remove plastic cuffs from the boy’s hands.
Israel holds additional Palestinian children in its civilian court system.
Unlike the West Bank, under Israeli military rule, East Jerusalem, de facto annexed in 1967, falls under Israeli civilian law, according to DCI-Palestine.
In theory, under this system, both Israeli and Palestinian children should be given special safeguards and protections according to the Israeli Youth Law.
“These protections include: the use of arrest as a last resort, advance notice before questioning takes place, minimal use of restraints and the presence of a legal guardian or adult family member during questioning,” according to DCI-Palestine.
But the rights group found in a study of recent arrests that exception from these protections has been the rule for Palestinian children in East Jerusalem.
Their experience is much like that of their peers in the occupied West Bank — a late-night arrest raid on their home and interrogation without the presence of a parent or guardian.
In more than half of the 30 cases analyzed by DCI-Palestine, “children were subjected to physical violence during interrogation in the absence of a parent. The violence reported consisted of choking, punching and slapping.”
The vast majority of the children in the cases studied by the group signed documents in Hebrew, a language they do not understand.
“Despite the difference between the legal systems — civil law and military law, Palestinian children in East Jerusalem and the West Bank fall victim to the same ill-treatment during the arrest and interrogation processes,” said Iyad Misk, an attorney with DCI-Palestine.
Israeli forces arrested 700 Palestinian children in East Jerusalem last year, according to the group.
Sixty Palestinian children in East Jerusalem are currently prevented from studying because they are in Israeli detention or under house arrest, the Committee of Families of Jerusalem Prisoners and Detainees said last week.
The No Way to Treat a Child campaign has prompted rare defiance of the pro-Israel consensus among United States lawmakers.
Senior Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky raised her concern “about troubling reports of widespread mistreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli custody” in a July letter to Secretary of State John Kerry that was co-signed by three other members of congress.
Earlier this summer, 19 other representatives co-signed a similar letter to Kerry protesting Israel’s “cruel, inhuman and degrading” treatment of Palestinian children.
Israel is the only state in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts and 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in Israel’s military detention system since the year 2000, according to DCI-Palestine.
Most Palestinian children sentenced by military courts are transferred to prisons inside Israel, like Megiddo, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
“The practical consequence of this is that many of them receive either limited or no family visits due to freedom of movement restrictions and the time it takes to issue a permit to visit the prisons,” DCI-Palestine states.
An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that there were 130 Palestinian children in Israeli military detention at the end of June. It has been corrected to state that there were 160 Palestinian children in Israeli military detention.
- child detainees
- arrest and detention
- Hamza Muayyad Shukri Hammad
- Muayyad Hammad
- Megiddo prison
- Ahmad Ismail Abu Amr
- Ahmad Sabah
- Iyad Adawi
- Israeli military court system
- Defence for Children International-Palestine Section
- East Jerusalem
- Iyad Misk
- No Way to Treat a Child
- Jan Schakowsky
- John Kerry