The occupation in Hebron: Border police undertake lineup of Palestinian children for benefit of settlers

5 Sep 2016

At about 3:00 P.M. on 10 August 2016, a fight broke out between Palestinian and settler children in the Old City of Hebron. Border Police forces broke up the fight and detained two of the Palestinian children, boys aged eight and 12.

Karam Maswadeh, the father of one of the boys, spoke with B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash on 15 August 2016:

On 10 August 2016, at about 3:00 P.M., I was at home when a local neighborhood boy came and told me that Border Police officers had detained my eight-year-old son at the Al-Mahkama (Courthouse) Checkpoint. I quickly went over and saw a few officers with my son and another boy, aged 12. A few minutes after I arrived, a police car pulled up and one of the officers, who knows me, spoke to the Border Police and told them to let the boys go. He told me that he would deal with the matter by speaking with me later. We went home and some neighborhood kids came with us. A few minutes later, four Border Police officers came and asked where my son was, but he had already run off. The Border Police took two or three of the kids who were in my home.

My son didn’t come home that night, because he was afraid of being arrested. He slept over at his aunt’s home outside the Old City and came home the next day. Then, at 2:00 A.M., when he was already asleep, four Border Police officers came to our house in order to detain him. I woke him up and they drove us to the police station in Kiryat Arba. When we got there, the interrogator wanted to question him alone, but I wouldn’t agree. We stayed in the military vehicle for about two hours, and then they took us home at about 5:00 A.M.>

An ISM volunteer, whose name is held by B’Tselem, spoke with B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash on 15 August 2016:

On Wednesday, 10 August 2016, at about 3:00 P.M., another volunteer and I were recording Border Police going into a home in the Old City of Hebron when I got a telephone call about a fight between Palestinian and settler children. We both went toward where the fight was taking place, at the al-Mahkameh Checkpoint on a-Sahla Street, but by the time we got there the fight was already over. We started going back to the house where we had been earlier, but then near al-Haram al-Ibrahimi [the Tomb of the Patriarchs], I saw four Border Police officers going into the home of Karam Maswadeh, so we stayed there. The officers came out of the house with two boys, one appeared to be eight years old and the other 12. I started video-recording the scene. At that point I didn’t know why the children had been detained, but later I learned that it was in connection with the fight. The officers took the children to the ‘Abd Checkpoint. A boy, aged about 12, was there with his father, a settler who was carrying an M16 rifle. The officers asked the [settler] boy whether these were the boys who beat him. Eventually the officers let all the boys go, and I left the scene.

As the video footage shows, the children taken from the Maswadeh family home, one of whom was apparently eleven years old and the other twelve, were brought to ‘Abd Checkpoint. At the checkpoint, a settler from the neighborhood was waiting with his son. The officers showed the Palestinian children to the settler’s son and asked whether he recognized them. Once he said he did not, they were let go. B’Tselem’s inquiries indicate that Border Police officers later picked up three other boys, aged 8 and 11, and 13 and repeated the procedure.

Fights between Palestinian and settler children are commonplace in downtown Hebron, where Israel imposes a regime of segregation, causing systematic and extensive harm to the Palestinian population. Actions by Israeli security forces include routinely detaining Palestinian children below the age of criminal responsibility.

The video footage - showing Israeli security forces working in the service of the Hebron settlers and launching a night-time raid to locate an eight-year-old boy - highlights the disregard shown by Israeli authorities for the legal rights afforded to minors. Children below the age of criminal responsibility must not be detained for questioning, and certainly not in the middle of the night. This is prohibited under Israeli law, which security forces profess to abide by. In this instance, it was even reported that police attempted to interrogate an eight-year-old boy without either of his parents being present. The immense efforts mounted to locate Palestinians suspected of harming settlers contrast sharply with the near absence of action to protect Palestinians from violence by settlers, be they minors or adults, or to uphold the rights of Palestinian children below the age of criminal responsibility.