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Soldiers take 13-yr-old from home in 'Azzun, abandon him 1.5 km away after dark

The boys' home in 'Azzun. Left to right: Home of Baraa 'Enayeh's family and home of Ihab 'Enayeh's family. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 26 March 2017
The boys' home in 'Azzun. Left to right: Home of Baraa 'Enayeh's family and home of Ihab 'Enayeh's family. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 26 March 2017

On Saturday afternoon, 25 February 2017, at around 4:30 P.M., 13-year-old Baraa ‘Enayeh was making his way home after finishing after-school work transporting vegetables from the field to a village store. ‘Enayeh lives in the northern part of the village of ‘Azzun, which lies east of Qalqilya. On his way home, he met friend and neighbor Ihab ‘Enayeh, 12, who had also finished working after school at his uncle's metalwork shop. The two boys travelled home together in a donkey cart used to carry vegetables. When they were almost home, three soldiers came out of a nearby olive grove and asked the boys to show them their hands. The soldiers sniffed the boys' palms and clothes, apparently to check whether they smelled like gunpowder, and asked them in Hebrew and in Arabic where they had been a few minutes earlier. It emerged later that the soldiers suspected the two of being involved in a shooting incident that had occurred, according to the soldiers, near ‘Azzun. The soldiers let them go, and each boy entered his house. 

A few minutes later, the soldiers knocked on the door of Baraa's home. His father, Hani ‘Enayeh, 41, opened the door. The soldiers ordered him, in Hebrew and in Arabic, to bring all his children to the living room. After they were all in the living room, one of the soldiers insisted that Hani had one more child. Hani understood that he probably meant Ihab, the neighbors’ son. He  went with Baraa and the soldiers to look for him next door, but Ihab was not there. The soldiers kept Baraa and his father standing near the house, and began questioning the boy about a shooting that they said had taken place on the main road earlier that afternoon. They demanded to know what he had been doing at the time, using his father as a translator. During the questioning, one of the soldiers took a photograph of Baraa with his mobile phone. When it was over, the soldiers detained father and son outside their home for another two hours. 

Hani 'Enayeh, Father of Baraa 'Enayeh. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 26 Feb. 2017At that point, an army jeep drew up and an officer got out. He told Hani that his son was being taken in for interrogation and would be returned when it was over. The officer, who took the father's identification card with him, did not say where he was taking the boy or when he would be returned. In testimony he gave to B'Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 26 Feb. 2017, Hani ‘Enayeh described what happened then: 

I told the officer that my son is a young boy and that he’s frightened. I asked them to let me stay with him until the interrogation was over and take him home. The officer refused and led my 13-year-old son a hundred meters away from our house, where he handcuffed and blindfolded him. Then the soldiers put him in a jeep and headed east.

Sanaa Hussein, mother of Ihab 'Enayeh. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 22 March, 2017

A few minutes later, another military jeep arrived at the home of Ihab ‘Enayeh. Three soldiers got off the jeep and ordered his mother, Sanaa Hussein, 44, who was sitting on the porch, to open the door. The soldiers entered and searched the second floor, where Sanaa and her children live. Then one of the soldiers told Sanaa to bring the children who were in the house at the time to the second floor living room. Sanaa brought her four children and two small grandchildren there. In testimony she gave to B'Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 16 March 2017, she said:

One of the soldiers asked me about my son, Ihab, and I replied that he wasn’t home. The soldier told me that he had thrown stones on the main road. I defended my son and said he is a minor and does not throw stones. The soldier insisted that I call Ihab on the phone and tell him to come home. He told the soldiers to wait in the house until Ihab returned. In the meantime, my daughter's husband arrived and he told the soldiers in Hebrew that Ihab is a little boy who doesn't throw stones. The three soldiers stayed in our house for about an hour. Then they left and told me that soldiers would come later to arrest Ihab.

The soldiers frightened me very much and I was worried about my son. We were constantly afraid that the soldiers would come back to the house. Ihab stayed that day at his sister's home in the village because he feared he would be arrested, and returned only the next day. 

Baraa 'Enayeh, 13. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 26 Feb. 2017
Baraa 'Enayeh, 13. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 26 Feb. 2017

Baraa said in testimony to B'Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 26 Feb. 2017 that during the jeep ride, a soldier asked his name and age and whether he had participated in stone-throwing. According to Baraa, he answered that he doesn’t throw stones. After driving for five to ten minutes, the military jeep reached the gate of the Ma'aleh Shomron settlement, which lies east of ‘Azzun, and the soldiers took Baraa out of the jeep. In his testimony, he said:

The soldiers took off my blindfold, and one of them asked me in Arabic if I recognized the place. I told them that it was the first time I was seeing the area up close, with all the lights and barbed wire fencing. They asked me more questions in English, which I didn't understand, and I answered, 'No'. Then they put me back on the jeep and let me off at the junction leading to the settlement, near Route 55 and the old blocked road, east of ‘Azzun. They took the cable ties off my hands and told me to go home. 

The junction is almost a kilometer and a half from our house. I started walking along the road, which was spooky in the dark. I was afraid that wild boars would come out, or that I would run into settlers who might attack me. When I reached the eastern houses of the village I felt relief. I kept going until I reached our house at about eight in the evening. My parents and brothers were very worried. I told them what had happened to me and how I’d returned home along the blocked road.

Baraa's mother, I'timad ‘Enayeh, 34, described in testimony she gave to B'Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 5 March 2017 how it felt to wait at home for her son to return home: 

My husband came back inside. We were sad and scared and worried about Baraa. We stayed that way until he returned, on foot, about an hour after they took him. He told us that the soldiers had taken him to the gate of Ma’aleh Shomron, where they questioned him, and then left him near the junction where the old ‘Azzun road meets the road to Ma'aleh Shomron. He came home frightened after walking in the dark on the deserted road. Baraa was scared for the rest of the night because of what happened to him. 

View from the outskirts of 'Azzun to the spot where the soldiers abandoned Baraa 'Enayeh. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 26 March 2017
View from the outskirts of 'Azzun to the spot where the soldiers abandoned Baraa 'Enayeh. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B'Tselem, 26 March 2017

The grave conduct of the soldiers is illegal. Under the circumstances, there was no basis for "reasonable suspicion of an offense" that could have justified detaining Baraa and his father. The officers and soldiers involved completely ignored the fact that Baraa is thirteen years old and does not speak their language. After being questioned with his father, the he was taken away alone in a jeep, handcuffed and blindfolded. The soldiers did not allow his father to accompany him, and no one took the trouble to explain to the father and son what was about to happen. Later, they abandoned Baraa in the dark about a kilometer and a half away from home, near a settlement, at a spot that Palestinians usually avoid for fear of a confrontation with settlers or with the army. In addition, and again with no basis for reasonable suspicion, the soldiers searched the home of Sanaa Anaya, frightened her children and small grandchildren, and left without arresting anyone.

There can be no justification for such thuggish behavior, which reflects the unchecked power and authority given to soldiers, and the backing they receive. No one will have to answer for the harm to Baraa and his family. This is what life looks under occupation.