Hebron routine: minors arrested in city center after clashes with soldiers
After the midday prayers on Friday, 13 October 2017, youths threw stones at soldiers in the Bab a-Zawiya area in the city center. The soldiers responded by firing rubber-coated metal bullets and throwing stun grenades. Dozens of soldiers arrived and arrested 18 youths, most of whom were under the age of 18. The soldiers beat and cursed the youths and took them to a nearby military base. The minors were questioned in one room, while those aged 16 and above were questioned separately. All the youths were released at about 10:00 PM the same night.
M.J., 13 and a half , from Hebron is an eighth-grade student at a-Sayed School. When he arrived in Bab a-Zawiya with his friend, they saw the clashes.
In a testimony taken on 19 October by B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, M. stated:
About fifty soldiers began to move toward us from the direction of Bab a-Zawiya. We all ran away. I was part of a group of children and youths who ran toward the mall. The soldiers caught up with us and ordered us to stand with our faces to the wall. One of the soldiers kicked my arm and the back of my legs and hit me on the back with the butt of his rifle. I started to cry. The other soldiers attacked the children and youths in the same way. After about 15 minutes, they led us out of the mall and took us to the checkpoint at Bab a-Zawiya where they kicked us again. They tied our hands in front of our bodies and led us to a military base at the old bus station on a-Shuhada Street in the Old City.
The soldiers took us into a room, put us on chairs, and blindfolded us. They interrogated us for about two hours while we were blindfolded. A soldier asked me whether I throw stones and I denied it. He told me that they had photographs. I told him to show me the photographs, but he wouldn’t and accused me of lying.
It was dark by now. A military vehicle took us to the Israeli DCO. They made us sit in a freight container. A Druze officer came and began to advise us in Arabic not to take part in clashes and not to listen to people who incite us. He threatened that this would harm us and our families and that they would take away their permits to work in Israel.
After an hour or so, people from the Palestinian DCO arrived and took us to the police station in the Juneid neighborhood in area H1, to the Family Protection Hotline. At about 10 PM my uncle Bashar, 40, came and took me away.
I got home with pain in my back, legs, and hands and I felt exhausted. I ate dinner and fell asleep straight away. I was very scared – this was the first time in my life that I’d been arrested.
Mahmoud al-Haymuni, 28, from Hebron, was one of the older residents who were arrested. He was on his way to a local café with his cousin Ahmad, 18.
In a testimony taken on 19 October 2017 by B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, Mahmoud described what happened after they arrived at a-Saha Square, 300-400 meters from Bab a-Zawiya, at about 4:00 PM:
When we arrived, I saw military vehicles and soldiers near Bab a-Zawiya. I assumed there must have been clashes in the area. There were some youths and children near us watching what was happening around Bab a-Zawiya.
Suddenly, four military vehicles arrived and stopped in a-Saha Square. About 50 soldiers got out. Everyone who was in the area began to run away. I didn’t try to run away because I hadn’t done anything. One of the soldiers attacked me and knocked me to the ground. When I tried to get up, another soldier came and hit the right side of my body with the butt of his rifle. He grabbed me by the neck and took me to outside the Hebron Center shopping mall. I saw other soldiers grabbing youths and children, most of whom were younger than me.
The soldiers blindfolded Mahmoud and other youths and took them for interrogation. His parents picked him up after he was released from the Palestinian police headquarters in the Juneid neighborhood at about 10:00 PM.
In his testimony, Mahmoud described the injuries from the beatings he received:
The soldiers’ beatings left me with bruises and blue marks on my back. I was exhausted and starving when I got home. I ate dinner and went to bed early, I didn’t go to hospital because I realized that the bruises would go away with time.
L.Z., 16, a resident of Hebron, was also arrested in the incident. In a testimony taken on 16 October 2017 by B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, he stated:
The soldiers led me together with everyone else to the military base at the old bus station on a-Shuhada Street, where they interrogated us. I wasn’t beaten myself. While they were detaining us in a room, I heard children crying.
After the interrogation, a military vehicle took us to the Civil Administration headquarters, where they made us sit in a freight container. A Druze officer arrived and spoke to us, advising us not to listen to incitement and not to take part in clashes that harm us.
At about 10:00 PM, police officers from the Palestinian Police arrived and took us to the police headquarters in the Juneid neighborhood. At about 10:30 PM, my father came to pick me up, and the other children’s parents also arrived. I went home scared and exhausted. The next day I went to ‘Alia Government Hospital with my father and my brother Ahmad. My brother was suffering from swelling in his right arm and nose after they pushed him into a wall while they were arresting him.
Soldiers routinely enter Hebron, disrupting the residents’ lives, arresting youths, behaving violently toward residents, and confiscating money and vehicles. In this instance, the soldiers arrested particularly young boys. No-one explained to them what was about to happen, no-one let them call their families (and no-one bothered to inform their families about their whereabouts). Despite their young age, the youths were interrogated without the presence of an attorney or a family member.
This incident is not unusual. The reality described here is part of the regular pattern of Israeli control and oppression imposed on Palestinians throughout the West Bank, as part of the daily and ongoing implementation of the occupation regime.