Ahmad Manasra case highlights Israel’s cruelty to Palestinian children

Protestors hold up a poster of a young boy calling for his release from Israeli prison

There have been demonstrations across the West Bank in support of Ahmad Manasra as he is due in court to secure an appeal against his sentence, here outside the Red Ross/Red Crescent offices in Hebron. 

Samar Bader APA images

An Israeli court has ruled that the case of Ahmad Manasra should be brought before a parole committee, opening the door to a potential early release according to his lawyers.

Manasra, who was 14 in 2016 when he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his alleged role in the stabbing of two Israelis in occupied East Jerusalem, appeared in court Wednesday as lawyers sought to launch an appeal.

Video circulated on social media showed Manasra being brought into court, as his mother is heard calling out to him.

According to one of his lawyers, Khaled Zabarqa, the ruling means the committee must review his case again, though there is no date set yet for any committee session.

Activists say the court review comes after a global campaign that has pressured Israel.

The campaign is calling for Manasra’s immediate release.

For the past four months, Manasra, now 21, has been held in solitary confinement and relatives and activists say his mental welfare has been seriously damaged.

He was beaten when arrested, say the family, and he still suffers both physical and psychological scars from mistreatment in jail.

Having spent a third of his life in prison already, his mother told reporters in February that the young man remains “a child whose condition would make a stone cry.”

Manasra’s case came to wider public attention in 2015 when a leaked video of his interrogation was broadcast by Palestinian media.

The footage shows an Israeli interrogator hurling abuse at the boy and accusing him repeatedly of attempted murder despite the boy’s insistence that he did not have any memory of any stabbings.

Manasra was just 13 when he and a cousin, Hassan, 15, allegedly went to the Pisgat Zeev settlement in occupied East Jerusalem with the intention, his lawyer Lea Tsemel said, to “scare Jews so they’d stop killing Palestinians.”

According to the indictment, Hassan stabbed a security guard, who was lightly injured. They then chased an Israeli boy, 13, whom Hassan also stabbed and critically injured.

When they tried to escape, Hassan was shot and killed by Israeli police – which operate in occupied East Jerusalem.

Manasra, meanwhile, was hit by a car as he ran away.

Disturbing footage uploaded later saw the seriously hurt Manasra surrounded by Israelis shouting curses at the boy as he lay on the ground.

The indictment against him did not at any point suggest that Manasra had himself stabbed anyone, and the boy denied any intention to murder, to which prosecutors had wanted him to confess.

In 2017, Manasra’s sentence was reduced by two-and-a-half years after judges on Israel’s top court found that they could not “ignore that his part in this incident was secondary to that of his cousin.”

Activists, however, want his immediate release arguing that irreparable harm has already been done to a now young man who has spent six years suffering “profound systematic abuse” in Israeli prison.

Groups like Palestinian-Global Mental Health Network also hope that Manasra’s case will shine a spotlight on Israel’s treatment of Palestinian children generally.

According to Defense for Children International-Palestine, between 500 and 700 Palestinian children aged 12-17 are detained every year. Many are held in administrative detention – or held without charge or trial.

Right now, according to prisoners rights group Addameer, Israel is holding 160 Palestinian child prisoners.


Omar Karmi

Omar Karmi is an independent journalist and former Jerusalem and Washington, DC, correspondent for The National newspaper.