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Hundreds of Israeli police raid al-‘Esawiyah in East Jerusalem, arresting 51 Palestinians incl. 26 teens

The raid on al-‘Esawiyah, 22 Oct. 2017

On the night of 22 October 2017, at around 11:30 P.M., hundreds of Israeli police, Border Police and Special Patrol Unit officers raided the Palestinian neighborhood of al-‘Esawiyah in East Jerusalem. The forces entered dozens of homes and arrested 51 residents, including 26 youths between the ages of 15 and 17. They left the neighborhood in the early hours of the morning.

Testimonies taken by B’Tselem field researcher ‘Amer ‘Aruri reveal a grim picture: Officers entering homes in the dead of night, waking up families, handcuffing teens and taking them to the police station at the Russian Compound [in West Jerusalem], or first to an empty lot across from a military base in Area E1 [just outside of the city], and then to the police stations at the Russian Compound, the Qishleh [in the Old City] and Jabal al-Mukabber [another East Jerusalem neighborhood]. At the stations, the teens were interrogated, some without consulting with a lawyer first. At the end of the interrogation, some were made to sign their statement, which was taken down in Hebrew, a language they cannot read.

Some of the boys were remanded in custody for a day or two before being released – some without any further action take, some to several days of house arrest.

The testimonies depict the routine widely reported by B’Tselem and other human rights organizations in the past: In East Jerusalem, the arrest of Palestinian minors is almost always the default rather than the last resort, in breach of the law, and their rights are violated and trampled underfoot until their release. The teens remain completely isolated for the duration of the arrest, without the protection of their parents or another adult they can trust, and are cut off from their families and daily lives, not knowing what is going to happen to them. Teens are subjected to this abuse under cover of the law – or rather, thanks to formalistic, literal reliance on the exceptions it provides for, which effectively drain the law and the protections it is meant to afford arrested teenagers of any meaning. This conduct is part of a policy aimed at allowing authorities to continue this maltreatment of Palestinian minors while shrouding in a cloak of legality this extensive, systemic and well-documented abuse of the fundamental human rights of hundreds of minors, every year, for decades.

This reality is endemic to Israel’s system of control and oppression of the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem. As long as it continues, the Israeli authorities will in all probability continue treating the Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem as unwanted and less-equal, with everything such treatment entails. Real change will come only if the reality in Jerusalem is completely overhauled.

The arrest of A.D., 15:

At around 4:00 A.M., ‘Othman D., 62, and his wife, Jihad, 47, awoke to the sound of banging on their bedroom door.

In his testimony, ‘Othman D. related:

At around 4:00 A.M., my wife Jihad and I were woken up by banging on our bedroom door. We saw a female Border Police officer and four male Border Police officers and ISA agents standing at the entrance to our bedroom with a dog. We came out of the room and one of the ISA agents said to me: “Why do you leave the [house] door open when you sleep”? My wife answered: “Get out of the house now and we’ll lock the door! We forgot to lock it before going to bed”.

The ISA agent demanded that we get our son, A. My wife and I went to the room he shares with his 21-year-old brother. When we got there, I saw that he was already awake. The ISA agent ordered him to get dressed. Then they tied his hands behind his back and took him away. His mother and I didn’t say a word to him. We’re used to him being arrested. He was arrested for the first time when he was nine years old. The last time he was arrested was in August 2017.

The officers led A.D. to a police jeep that took him to the police station at the Russian Compound. At the station, he was put in a room with about ten other detainees and forced to kneel. He was held there, in that position, for about four hours. There were several police officers in the room as well. Every time A.D. asked to go to the bathroom, he had to repeat the request several times and wait for ten to twenty minutes to be taken there.

In his own testimony, taken on 26 October 2017, A.D. said:

About ten occupation personnel in civilian clothing were with us in the room. After about three hours, I started feeling intense pain because of the kneeling position. I couldn’t take it and I stood up without getting permission. One of the plainclothed men kicked me in the hip and said: “Sit”. I fell over and when back to kneeling. I saw other detainees get beaten every time they tried to change position or look over their shoulders. Some got hit in the neck, others got kicked in the back. It didn’t happen a lot. There were maybe four detainees who got hit. 

About 15 minutes after that, they took me to a room where a lawyer called Muhammad Mahmoud was sitting. He spoke with me for a few minutes. Then they took me to another room, where a kid I know, W.D., was kneeling with his hands tied behind his back. When I went into the room, we talked a little and joked around. A man in civilian clothing came inside immediately, lifted W.D. off the floor and flung him so that his head hit the wall. Then he came back to me and kicked me in the back. He beat me for a minute, punching me and hitting me in various parts of my body. It hurt, but I didn’t cry or scream.

A little while later, another security man took me into the interrogation room, where they tied my hands in front instead of behind. As soon as I went in there I asked for water, because I had had nothing to drink from the moment I was arrested. The interrogator brought me a glass of water. He told me in Arabic: “You throw stones and Molotov cocktails. It’s a simple matter. Confess and everything will be over”. I said to him: “I haven’t done anything”! I was in the interrogation room for about an hour.  The interrogator kept leaving the room, and then coming back and asking me again, “Did you throw stones? Why did you throw Molotov cocktails?”, and I kept answering: “I didn’t do it”. I refused to sign a document in Hebrew, which the interrogator claimed was my statement. He didn’t make me sign it. After that, they took me to a room where a few detainees were sitting on metal chairs.

The officers removed A.D.’s handcuffs and left him in the interrogation room, with about eight other detainees. A short while later, some officers took him in to be seen by a doctor, after which he was returned to the detention room. It was only in the evening, about 14 hours after he was taken into custody, that A.D. received his first meal. On Wednesday afternoon, two days after his arrest, he was released unconditionally.

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A.D. and W.D. await friend at entrance to Jerusalem Magistrates Court. Photo: 'Amer 'Aruri, B'Tselem, 7 Nov. 2017

The arrest of W.D., 15:

At around 1:30 A.M., about 15 Israeli police officers and plainclothed personnel knocked on the door of a second-floor apartment where W.D., 15, lives with his grandparents and adult sister. When W.D.’s sister opened the door, she was told her to get her brother. She called her grandparents, who went to wake up W.D.. Some of the officers and one plainclothed man accompanied them. The plainclothed man woke up W.D., told him in Arabic he was being arrested and instructed him to get dressed. W.D. did as he was told, and then the officers took him to the living room, tied his hands in front of him with zip ties and took him out of the house. He was taken into a police car, where he complained the zip ties were hurting him. A police officer removed them and then tied his hands again behind his back. The car drove to a site near a military base in Area E1, where the officers took W.D. out of the car and forced him to kneel, in the cold, for about an hour and a half, together with other detainees. He was then taken to the Russian Compound police station, where he was again forced to kneel until 9:00 A.M. He was allowed to go to the bathroom during this time.

In a testimony he gave on 30 October 2017, W.D. related what happened next:

A lawyer came and talked to me outside the room for a few minutes. Then they took me into an empty room. After a while, they brought A.D., who I know, into the room. We were both kneeling. I laughed when I saw him, and we talked a little. A man in civilian clothing came in right away. He lifted me off the floor and pushed me to the wall so that my head banged into it. That hurt. Then he went over to A.D. and kicked him in the back. He slapped him and punched him in the head.

After a while, they took me in for interrogation. In the interrogation room I sat on a chair, and an interrogator in civilian clothing said to me in Arabic: “You throw stones and Molotov cocktails”. I started laughing and he shouted at me: “Why are you laughing?” Another man came in – one of the security personnel who were outside. He said to me: “Are you laughing? Are you laughing”? and pulled the chair out from under me. I fell on the floor. It hurt. I told the interrogator my hand was swollen because of the handcuffs and I wanted them loosened. He wouldn’t do it.

The interrogation lasted, I think, an hour, and the only thing that happened in it was that they asked me questions and demanded that I admit to the allegations. The interrogator kept leaving the room and then coming back and writing something on the computer. After the interrogation ended, they took off the handcuffs, and the interrogator asked me to sign a document in Hebrew he claimed was my statement. I refused to sign. They took me into a room where they took my picture, then to see a doctor and then to the court. In court, they remanded me until the next day, Tuesday. Then they took me back to detention.

In a testimony she gave on 5 November 2017, W.D.’s grandmother, Sabah D., recounted what happened when she arrived at the court:

I saw my grandson, W.D., in court. A female police officer was there, she was in charge of translating. When I tried to go up to him and talk to him, she stood in front of me and wouldn’t let me reach him. I held myself together and didn’t argue with her.  I thought it was best for him. I didn’t want to stir up trouble that would negatively influence the judge’s decision in his case. The judge ordered his remand for another day. He has been arrested three times since he was 12, always from home, and in all the other times, it was for a short time, a day or two.

W.D. received his first meal, consisting of bread, hummus and labneh, in the evening, about 16 hours after he was taken into custody. On the next day, Tuesday, he was taken to court again, and remanded to custody again. He was taken back to the police station, and brought back to court on Wednesday. That afternoon, he was released unconditionally and returned home.

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Israeli security forces at the entrance to the village of al-‘Esawiyah in 2015. Photo: 'Amer 'Aruri, B'Tselem, 18 October 2015

The arrest of M.D., 15:

Sometime between 2:30 and 3:00 A.M., three people in plain clothes and about 20 Special Patrol Unit officers knocked on the door of the front yard of a three-story home where M.D.’s family lives.

In his testimony, the family’s grandfather, Munir D., 69, said:

I was woken up by loud banging on the door at the entrance to the stairwell. I got up immediately and looked out the window overlooking the road. I saw scores of police officers on the main street near the house. I went downstairs, and as soon as I opened the door, one of the secret service agents said to me: “We want M.D.”. There were three men in plain clothes there and about twenty more officers in black uniforms.

I told them: “Wait here. I’ll go up to his parents’ unit and tell them. They live on the third floor.” But the officers followed me to my grandson’s home. I knocked lightly on the door, because I didn’t want to scare my grandchildren and the other people living in the building, but one of the officers went up to the door and banged on it loudly. My son came and opened the door. The man in plain clothes told him: “We want M.D.”! My son told them, “Wait here, I’ll go wake him up”. I stayed at the door with the officers.

M.D.’s mother went into his room and told him to get dressed. He got dressed and went out to the officers, who, he says, led him out with one of them twisting his arm. When he complained, the officers tied his hands in front of him with zip ties and took him into a police car that drove to the lot in front of a military base in Area E1. He was then taken into a bus, where other detainees were waiting. When they were held on the bus, M.D. asked to go to the washroom, but the officers refused. About two hours later, he was taken to the police station in the Old City (the Qishleh).

In his testimony, given on 26 October 2017, he recounted:

When we got to the Qishleh, I told one of the officers I had to urinate and that I had been holding it for a long time and couldn’t hold it in any longer. He took me to the bathroom without taking my handcuffs off. I could hardly pull down my zipper. Then they took me to a room where there were more detainees. We knelt in this room for about five hours. There were two police officers in blue uniforms there. They didn’t bring us food or water and we didn’t ask because we were scared of them.

After about five hours, it was my turn to be interrogated. According to the clock in the interrogation room, it was 10:00 A.M. They removed my handcuffs, and the interrogator, who was wearing regular clothes, accused me in Arabic of throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and flares. I told him I hadn’t done anything and that I was innocent. I was in interrogation for about an hour. The interrogator yelled at me: “Admit you threw Molotov cocktails and gave two soldiers burns. You’re a dangerous person”! I signed my confession, which was written in Hebrew, a language I don’t understand.

After his interrogation, the officers took M.D. in a police car to the waiting room at the Magistrates Court. About two hours later, he was taken into the courtroom, where he was remanded to custody until the next day, Tuesday. After the court hearing, he was taken to a room at the Russian Compound, where he says a police officer slapped him while his hands were tied in front of him with metal handcuffs. The officers then took him to a doctor, who asked him several questions, and then took him to a room with two other detainees. The officers took M.D. to court again the next day, where he was kept in the waiting room both before and after his hearing. A few hours later, he was taken back to the Russian Compound. M.D. was released to a five-day house arrest at around 4:00 P.M. His mother and grandfather took him home. 

In his testimony, given while under house arrest, he described how he was feeling:

The house arrest is very difficult for me, and I feel it’s unfair. I sleep all day and can’t fall asleep at night. I can’t go hang out with my friends, or go to school. I’m going crazy inside the house, and it’s making me sad.

The arrest of A.M., 17:

At around 2:00 A.M., about 15 Special Patrol Unit officers and a man in plain clothes knocked on the front door of 17-year-old A.M.’s family home. Members of the family woke up and opened the door, and the officers demanded A.M.. Two or three officers and a man in civilian clothing went into the house and walked with the mother to A.M.’s room. They woke him up and instructed him to get dressed. 

The officers tied his hands behind his back with zip ties and took him out of the house. They put him in a car which drove a short distance before another detainee was put in it. The two were taken to a military base in Area E1. They were held inside the car for about two hours, and then taken to the police station at the Russian Compound. 

At the Russian Compound, A.M. was taken into a room with about ten more detainees, and forced to kneel facing the wall. After about an hour, the officers removed his handcuffs, let him go to the bathroom and then tied his hands behind his back again. After several hours, during which he was allowed to stand for some of the time, A.M. was taken to a different room, where he saw a lawyer and spoke with him for a few minutes. From there, A.M. was taken in for interrogation. 

 In a testimony he gave on 25 October 2017, he said:

I asked to go to the bathroom as soon as I walked into the interrogator’s room, and he let me. They released my hands, but after I was finished urinating, they tied them from the front. They tied my feet too, with metal cuffs. There was a man in civilian clothing in the interrogation. He told me in Arabic: “You throw stones and Molotov cocktails”. I denied the accusations, and told him I hadn’t done anything. I was in interrogation for a long time. It’s hard for me to say how long. The interrogator kept going in and out of the room. Each time he looked at me, wrote something on the computer, tinkered with his phone, and then told me: “Confess already and let me go”. I wasn’t beaten or humiliated during the interrogation. In the end, the interrogator told me to sign a document written in Hebrew. He said it was my statement. 

A.M. signed the statement. After the interrogation, officers took him to another room, where he waited for several hours with other teens, with both his hands and feet in restraints and without being given food or water. In the afternoon, the officers took him to court, where he was remanded in custody until Wednesday. After the hearing, the officers took A.M. back to the Russian Compound. He was seen by a doctor and then taken into a room with some other boys, where he was held until Wednesday. On Wednesday morning, A.M. was taken to the court waiting room, where he was held until the afternoon and then taken back to the detention facility. He was released at about 2:00 P.M., without further action.