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From the field

In midnight raids, Israeli soldiers enter homes in Nablus District, wake families, and use young men as human shields

On two separate occasions in January and February 2017, large numbers of troops entered the villages of Beit Furik and Burin in Nablus District late at night. The soldiers went into numerous homes and woke families, including young children. They were not carrying out arrest raids and, in what appeared to be an afterthought, only searched some of the homes. In Beit Furik, soldiers questioned residents about their participation in a celebration held for a village resident who had been released from prison, and used one family home as a makeshift interrogation facility. In Burin, soldiers questioned young men about throwing stones and ordered residents to lead them to the homes of other youths. In both villages, neither the questioned residents nor their families were accused of a thing, and the late-night raid appeared to be a show of force and for the purpose of gathering general information about the village. 

Sundus ‘Eid with her baby girl in front of their home. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 11 Jan. 2017
Sundus ‘Eid with her baby girl in front of their home. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 11 Jan. 2017

These incidents demonstrate, yet again, how the military – by intimidating people who stand accused of any wrongdoing - abuses its authority and power to invade the privacy and disrupt the routine of entire families, including young children. In Burin, the soldiers even made residents “escort” them throughout the village, using them as human shields at risk to their lives. These actions are attended by an absurd expectation that residents will cooperate, providing information about neighbors and leading soldiers to other homes, so they can harass more families. 

The military law that applies in the West Bank permits officers and soldiers to enter the homes of Palestinians at any time, without having to show a warrant or justify their action. Israel’s security forces broadly abuse this authority, citing flimsy security considerations to justify frequent, arbitrary raids on homes. This unacceptable conduct reflects the military’s deep disregard for Palestinians’ dignity and right to live free of harassment. 

Raids on homes in the village of Beit Furik:

On Wednesday night, 1 February 2017, military forces entered the Palestinian village of Beit Furik in Nablus District. They went into the homes of at least 11 families, in some cases forcibly breaking down the door. The soldiers demanded to know who lives in each house. In some cases, they made do with questioning the parents and checking their identity cards; in others, they also demanded that the children be woken. The soldiers gathered ten men from the village for questioning in one of the homes. Testimonies given to Salma a-Deb’i the next day (2 February) indicate that the men were questioned by soldiers and by ISA (Israeli Security Agency) agents who were with them, regarding their participation in a local celebration held to mark the release of a village resident from prison. 

Fares Rim Hanani, 26, who lives in the village with his family, related in his testimony how soldiers entered his home and turned it into a makeshift headquarters for interrogation: 

I live with my 72-year-old grandmother on the first floor of my family’s building. Above us live my parents, my two 17-year-old sisters, and my brother, who is 11. In the middle of the night, at about 1:00 A.M., I was woken by loud pounding on the front door of the building. I saw my mother and father hurrying downstairs. My father opened the door and we saw soldiers standing there, pointing their rifles at us. Six soldiers walked in and one of them ordered us to assemble the whole family in my grandmother’s apartment. A soldier asked my father and me for our identity cards. He opened up a tablet computer and it looked like he was using it to check the ID cards. He handed my father’s card back to him and started to check mine. He told me to come over to him and ordered me to hand over my mobile phone. Then he took me into another room and searched me. Their commander asked where I sleep and I showed them my bedroom. The soldiers started searching the room and asking where I hide weapons. 

Then they took me up to my parents’ apartment on the second floor. There were a lot of soldiers there and I was surprised to see someone else from the village sitting in the living room. He was blindfolded and handcuffed. It was the imam of our mosque. Everyone knows him in the village, and he attends a lot of celebrations and mourning rituals. They took me into my brother’s bedroom and I was kept there with a soldier for an hour. During that time, I heard them interrogating the imam in Arabic. Then another soldier came in, holding my ID card. He gave it back to me and took me into the living room. There were two other people that I know from the village sitting there. One was blindfolded and handcuffed. The soldiers handcuffed me too. They took me into the guest bedroom, where two men in military uniform were sitting. One of them ordered me to sit down next to him. I sat down. For a few minutes, he didn’t talk to me and was busy with his phone. Then he started talking to me in fluent Arabic. He introduced himself as Captain Na’im and said he was in charge of the whole area. He asked how Wisam’s party was. He was talking about Wisam Malitat, a guy from our village who had been released after 13.5 years in Israeli prison. A party was thrown in his honor a few days ago. The “captain” asked me about photographs we have in the house of individuals who were killed, and I explained that they were relatives of ours. He also asked me about my job and about my finances. I think he wanted to see if I could be pressured for financial reasons. Then I was taken back down to the first floor, where I saw four other young guys from the village who had been brought in for interrogation. They questioned each of them for about 20 minutes and let them go. Before the soldiers left, “Captain Na’im” apologized for the inconvenience they’d caused us. They left the house in a total mess, and the floor and carpets covered in mud. 

Rawnad Hanani, 21, married and a mother of two, described the military raid on her house: 

Rawnad Hanani and her children. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’TselemI live with my husband, Yasser, 27, and our two children: Tayem, who is a year and a half old, and Ritaj, who was born a month ago. On 1 February 2017, at around 1:30 at night, I was nursing the baby when I heard loud knocking on the front door. I woke my husband up and he ran over to open the door so they wouldn’t break it down. A lot of soldiers came into the living room and one of them ordered us to get the children. I told them they were asleep, but the soldiers insisted. My husband brought in Tayem who had woken up and started screaming and crying. The soldiers told Yasser to hand him to me and go get his identity card. The soldier checked the card and told me to go get Yasser some clothes from the bedroom. I could barely move, because I was holding both kids. Tayem wouldn’t let me put him down. I was trembling as I took the clothes out of the closet, because I was worried about my husband and upset that Tayem was crying hysterically. I handed Yasser the clothes. The soldiers wouldn’t let him go to another room and made him change in front of everyone. They took him outside. When they left, I tried to come after them to say goodbye to Yasser, but the soldiers blocked me and closed the door to the house. I started crying because I thought he’d been arrested. Meanwhile, his mother had come over - she lives nearby. She also started crying when she saw Yasser being led away. 

To my surprise, about an hour later, he came home. He said that the soldiers had taken him to Rim Fares Hanani’s house and interrogated him there. They had blindfolded and handcuffed him. Most of the questions were about a party that had been held in the village to celebrate Wisam Malitat’s release from prison. Tayem was terrified by the soldiers, and has refused to sleep in his own bed ever since. He has trouble falling asleep and wakes up in a panic. He’s still too young to be able to talk and express his fear. 

Raids on homes in the village of Burin: 

On Wednesday night, 4 January 2017, soldiers came to the Palestinian village of Burin in Nablus District and entered the homes of at least five families. The soldiers questioned youths about stone-throwing in the village, and in some cases demanded to be taken to the homes of other youths. Testimonies given to Salma a-Deb’i on 11 January, along with her investigation of the incident, indicate that no one was arrested or taken in for investigation following the questioning. 

Sundus ‘Eid, 43, who lives in the village with her husband and their seven children, related in her testimony how soldiers entered their house in the middle of the night and interrogated her son: 

Sundus ‘Eid. Photo by Salma a-Deb’i, B’Tselem, 11 Jan. 2017

At about 12:30 at night, I was woken by loud pounding on the front door. I knew it was the military, because it’s not the first time they’ve come to our house. The military raids the houses in the eastern part of the village, perhaps because we’re closer to the settlement of Giv’at Brakha, which was built on land that belongs to our village. I picked up my one-year-old daughter, Nayruz, and woke my ten-year-old son, Muhammad. He’s terrified of soldiers and I didn’t want them to wake him. My husband opened the door and in walked seven or eight masked soldiers. They were pointing their weapons at us. They ordered us to sit down and then told us to go outside. I refused. I said we had small children and that it was cold outside. The soldiers ordered my son Walid, 22, to go out. Three soldiers stayed in the living room to watch over the rest of us.

We heard the soldiers shouting at Walid outside, and heard him tell them that he couldn’t understand what they were saying. They were speaking in broken Arabic. I managed to work out that they were asking him about stone-throwing. Afterwards he told us that they had beaten him and that one soldier also hit him with his helmet. They wanted him to show them where teenage boys live. At some point, I think it was after about 15 minutes, my husband insisted on going outside to join Walid. He asked the soldiers to explain to him what they needed and said that he would give the answers. The soldiers told him to show them were young men live in the neighborhood, and he said that we don’t have any living nearby. He pointed out a neighbor’s house and said that it’s the home of an elderly musician, another house of a family that has only small children, and another family that has a 15-year-old son. The soldiers took my husband to the house of one of our neighbors, Murad Najar, and went inside and searched it. Then they got into their jeep, threw a stun grenade that shook our whole house, and drove away. 

The children are still frightened, but they’re not the only ones. We adults are scared, too. Every time I hear them knock on the door, my pulse quickens and I start trembling. Even after they leave, my stomach is twisted in a knot and I can’t eat or drink. I can’t do a thing for several days afterwards, just lie in bed. My son Muhammad refuses to sleep alone. Maysaa, who is twelve, doesn’t want to go to bed and tells me she has nightmares about soldiers. Having soldiers invade your home is a very rough experience. 

The village of Burin. Photo courtesy of the village council.
The village of Burin. Photo courtesy of the village council.

Hassan Najar, 19, related how the soldiers came into his house and made him go with them to point out the homes of teenagers: 

I live with my family and work as a taxi driver in the village. On Wednesday, 4 January 2017, I was awakened at about 12:30 at night by the sound of shouting and loud pounding on the front door. My father and sisters woke up, too. My father opened the door and five soldiers came into the living room, where I was with the rest of the family. One of the soldiers beckoned me over and I went over to him. The soldiers grabbed me by the shirt and dragged me into my father’s bedroom. A masked soldier asked me in Arabic whether I throw stones, and I said I don’t. He asked me again, several times. Then the soldiers told me to get dressed and go with them. I thought they were going to arrest me. I’ve never been arrested before. I went to my room and got dressed in front of the soldiers, because they wouldn’t let me stay alone. My father tried to talk to them to understand what was going on. They took me outside and their officer said to me, in Hebrew: “You tell me where your friends live”. They led me over to a neighboring house and asked me who lives there. I said that a mother and her ten-year-old boy live there, while the husband and younger children are in Germany. Then they led me over to another house and pointed to it. I told them that a woman lives there with her young sons, and that her husband is abroad. The officer got angry and grabbed me. He said I was lying and it couldn’t be that there aren’t any teenage boys in the neighborhood. 

They made me go over and knock on the door of the house. The soldiers stood behind me. When the woman opened the door and saw the soldiers, she backed away in fear. They pushed me into the house and followed me in. Her children were home. They questioned her 17-year-old son Diaa outside while I stayed inside with the rest of the family and the soldiers. Then they led me to two other houses, where I also heard them question young guys about throwing stones.