The Palestinian village of Beit ‘Einun lies northeast of the city of Hebron in the West Bank. In 2016, it had a population of some 2,000 residents. Several years ago, the Israeli military installed a gate at the western entrance to the village, on the road that leads to Route 60. Since then, whenever confrontations between Palestinians and the military have taken place in the area, the military has closed the gate to vehicles. This forces residents to take a roundabout route that adds some 20 kilometers to their journey. Sometimes, soldiers are also stationed at the gate to inspect pedestrian traffic.
On the night of 11 December 2017, between 10:00 P.M. and midnight, soldiers entered the village. They went through the village neighborhoods, going along the streets and throwing stun grenades, including at houses. The soldiers, some of them masked, entered dozens of homes, pounding on doors and in some cases breaking them down, intimidating the inhabitants – and especially children. In most cases, the soldiers then stood at the entrance to the home and forced the inhabitants to recite the contents of a leaflet in Arabic the soldiers had brought with them. In the leaflet, the military accused the village residents of terrorist activity and threatened that unless they stopped, soldiers would harass them every night. When the soldiers left the house, they took the leaflet with them and would not allow the residents to photograph it.
This conduct shows that the military does not balk at exploiting the sweeping powers it has seized through military orders in order to intimidate entire families suspected of no wrongdoing – including small children. This is yet another aspect of the arbitrary violence to which Palestinians in the West Bank are exposed under the occupation, wherever they are, and at any time of the day or night.
B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash collected testimonies from village residents:
Amneh Hlaiqah (al-Froukh), 34, a married mother of five children between the ages of 1 and 11, related in a testimony she gave the following day, 12 December:
At around 11:30 last night, I was putting my one-year-old, Bassem, to sleep when I heard explosions and heavy vehicles driving along the road under our house. I looked out of the window and saw military vehicles. I woke my husband, ‘Imad, and we tried to make out what was going on. Suddenly, I heard a loud explosion and then the door leading from the children’s room to the balcony burst open. My two eldest daughters, Islam (11) and Shaimaa (8), woke up and started screaming and crying. We quickly got our youngest daughter, Malak (7), and our boys Muhammad (4) and Bassem into the living room. We went back to the balcony and there I saw a stun grenade lying inside by the door. The floor tiles were covered in soot. The blast from the stun grenade must have broken the lock on the door and it burst open.
We couldn’t get back to sleep all night. I heard a lot of explosions in the area and assumed soldiers were going into other homes in the neighborhood. Muhammad has been clinging to me all day and refuses to leave the house. He keeps saying the army burned our house down. Malak told me this morning that she heard thieves blowing up our house in the night and hid under the blanket.
Sa’diyah al-Froukh, 53, a married mother of four, related in a testimony she gave on 13 December:
My daughter, Sanaa, 28, who lives with her husband in Hebron, was visiting us with her two littles ones – 3 and one-and-a-half years old. At around 11:00 o’clock at night, I heard loud banging on the door and someone yelling in Arabic: Open up, you have one minute to open the door before I blow it up.
I quickly went to the door and opened it. About ten soldiers came in and, straight away, one of them threw a stun grenade into the sitting room by the door. One of my sons yelled out to me to get back. I managed to take only a few steps before the grenade went off. The explosion woke my daughter and her children, and I heard the children screaming.
One of the soldiers ordered me to get my three sons – Muaiad (24), Muhammad (20) and Majdi (16) – into the room. He made them lie face down on the floor, and the soldiers kept their guns pointed at them. Then one of the soldiers ordered Muhammad to sit up and handed us a piece of paper that said something like, “This is an area of terrorist activity that is troubling the army, and if the trouble doesn’t stop, the army will hassle the residents every night”. The soldier ordered Muhammad to read it aloud.I was angry and asked the soldiers: “How can you throw a grenade into a house with women and children in it? Can’t you hear them screaming?” The same soldier answered that they could do as they pleased. He threatened us that if he caught a kid throwing stones, he’d break his arms. The soldiers left and later we heard more explosions around the neighborhood. I assumed they were raiding other homes. Later I found out they’d entered my brother-in law Ahmad al-Froukh’s house, next door.
Maysaa al-Mtur, 37, a widowed mother of six children between the ages of 6 and 17, related in a testimony she gave on 14 December:
At around 10:40 at night, I was woken by the sound of vehicles in the street. At first, I thought it was a wedding celebration. I got up to look out of the window and saw the vehicles, with lights on, and people getting out of them. I realized they were soldiers and saw some of them climbing the outer stairs leading to our house. I ran to the room of my eldest son, Muhammad (17), to wake him, but I saw that he hadn’t yet fallen asleep.
I heard loud knocking on the front door and voices shouting at us to hurry and open up. I didn’t have my headscarf on and got in a panic about it. I started looking for a scarf. I went up to the door and called out to the soldiers to wait until I’d covered my hair. One of them answered that he would break down the door. At the same time, I heard three stun grenades go off in front of the house. I was scared and thought of my three little ones. I grabbed a scarf, put it over my head and opened the door.
As soon as I opened it, six or seven soldiers came in. Two of them were masked. One asked me: Where is the man of the house? I told him I’m a widow. He asked for my ID card and took a photo of it with his mobile phone. The soldiers tried to go into the kids’ rooms but I stopped them and said there was no need to go in there, because my sons are young and were asleep. They didn’t go in. One of the soldiers showed me a document in Arabic that said this is a terrorist area and that if the violence and rioting doesn’t stop, the army will harass residents every night.
I read the warning and asked them to leave the house. I said: “How dare you come into the house of a widow with small children? Don’t you have any children?” The soldier answered that he didn’t have any children.
After the soldiers left, I went into the kids’ room and found my son Malek (12) and my daughter Nadin (13) had woken up. They were terrified. They came with me into my bedroom and refused to go back to theirs. Since then, Malek has insisted on sleeping next to me. I can’t get his terrified expression out of my mind. His eyes were full of tears. When I asked him if he was scared, he denied it at first and then admitted that he was.
Musa Jaradat, 42, a married father of five, related in a testimony he gave on 14 December:
On 11 December 2017, I was woken a bit before midnight by a series of explosions out in the street. I ran to the window and saw two military vehicles parked outside our building. I saw soldiers heading in our direction. They banged on the door and tried to open it, yelling in Hebrew. I headed quickly downstairs to open the door on the ground floor, but my cousin Muhammad (35) and my brother Raafat (36) had already opened the door by the time I got there. I saw more than 20 soldiers, some of them masked. Muhammad and Raafat asked them why they were coming into our house at that time of night, and the soldiers yelled at them to be quiet.
The soldiers went up to the stairwell leading to the four apartments on the third and fourth floors. They ordered us to get the young men out of the apartments. We said there weren’t any young men in the building, only little children. We showed them our ID cards, so they could see how old the children are. The officer demanded that my two sons come down to the second floor. Some soldiers followed me to my apartment. I called my sons, Nadi (17) and ‘Abdah (14), and went down to the second floor with them. We stood in the stairwell together with my brother and two of my cousins.
The soldiers led us to the patio in Raafat’s apartment, which overlooks the Beit ‘Einun junction. They were pushing us with their rifle butts and yelling at us in Hebrew. When we got out to the patio, it was very cold. We asked the soldiers why they were raiding our homes at midnight. An officer answered in Hebrew. I told him I don’t understand Hebrew and he switched to Arabic. He said we were causing trouble, that the kids throw stones and that we are engaged in terrorist activity. The officer took out a document in Arabic stating that our area has terrorist activity and that since the kids throw stones and stab soldiers and harass the military, the military will harass people every night. The officer said several times: You won’t get any sleep tonight. While we were talking with the soldiers, I heard stun grenades exploding in several directions around the neighborhood.
One of the soldiers took out his mobile phone and ordered my son, ‘Abdah, to look at photographs and identify young men and children. ‘Abdah told the soldier that he didn’t recognize any of them.
The soldiers stayed in the building for about an hour. After they left, we all went back to our apartments. We heard more explosions and assumed they were entering other houses.