The Palestinian village of Beit Ummar lies north of the city of Hebron and has a population of some 14,000. For about four weeks, between 17 July and 13 August 2018, Israeli security forces raided some twenty homes in the village, on five different occasions. Eighteen of these raids were part of punitive action inflicted on village residents because of fires that had broken out in fields cultivated by residents of nearby settlements. They included violence and threats. In two other cases, which also involved violent acts, security forces also confiscated money and vehicles.
In one case, soldiers attacked a woman with an intellectual disability who had run out of her home after being startled by the commotion. The soldiers beat her severely and kicked her while she lay on the ground.
The incidents described here are yet another example of the way the military wantonly abuses its power to terrorize families, disrupt their lives and undermine their sense of personal security, intimidating all members whether young or old.
This wrongful conduct reflects the military’s profound disregard for the privacy and dignity of Palestinians and their right to live their lives without interference.
Following are details of the incidents, along with some of the testimonies collected from family members by B’Tselem field researchers Manal al-Ja’bri and Musa Abu Hashhash.
Attack on Nabilah Ta’amrah, a woman with an intellectual disability, on 21 July 2018, and the arrest of her brother, Ibrahim Ta’amrah, on 24 July 2018
Aliyya (65) and Khalil (70) Ta’amrah live with six of their twelve children in the Beit Safa neighborhood of Beit Ummar. One of their daughters, Nabilah, 33, has an intellectual disability. On 21 July 2018, the military raided the village following fires in areas cultivated by residents of the settlements of Bat Ayin. At around 1:30 A.M., about thirty soldiers and two military vehicles drove by the family home. Nabilah, who was startled by the commotion, ran outside without her family noticing. Soldiers who were near the house attacked her, knocked her to the ground and beat her. Family members heard her screaming and rushed to the spot.
Aliyya Ta’amrah, Nabilah’s mother, related in a testimony she gave to B’Tselem field-researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 16 August 2018:
Suddenly, we heard Nabilah scream. My daughter Badihah and I rushed outside and went in the direction the screaming was coming from. After [we advanced] about fifty meters, a soldier pushed me forcefully in the chest, stopped me, pointed his gun at me and threatened, in Arabic, to shoot me and Badihah. I saw Nabilah lying on the ground about fifty meters away from us. Three soldiers kicked her with all their might, all over her body, and she was screaming very loudly, writhing and rolling on the ground. I explained to the soldiers, in Arabic, that Nabilah has an intellectual disability. I begged them to let her come home, but they wouldn’t listen and pushed me and Badihah. Some more soldiers came. I explained it to them, too, and pleaded with them for ten minutes, while the three soldiers kept beating Nabilah.
There was an officer there who agreed in the end. He went over to the three soldiers and moved them away from Nabilah. He helped her to her feet, but one of them kicked her when she was up and another slapped her hard. I led her back home. She was in a terrible state. She had bruises on the head and back, a bleeding wound on her arm, and her clothes were full of dirt. She cried and screamed the whole way home. At home I washed her, changed her clothes and gave her painkillers and tranquilizers. I thought of taking her to the doctor but decided against it because it was very late and it’s hard for me to transport her when she’s in that kind of state – and also because there were soldiers around.
Three days later, on 24 July 2018, some eleven soldiers raided the T’aamrah home looking for Ibrahim, 25, who was at work at a chicken coop in the Safa neighborhood.
In a testimony she gave the next day, Ibrahim’s sister Badihah (32) spoke about what happened that night:
At about 1:00 AM, I was woken by banging on the door and voices shouting “Open, army”. I woke my parents, and my brother Muhammad (29) also woke up. My mother opened the door. Eleven soldiers came in. They held me and my mother in the living room, my father on the stairs inside the house, and my brother Muhammad in the bathroom. The soldiers had their guns pointed at us the whole time and wouldn’t let us move. They did a quick search of the house and asked where my brother Ibrahim was. We said he wasn’t home and told them where he works.
After about an hour, the soldiers left the house and went to Ibrahim’s workplace. They arrested him and it was thirteen days before he came back home – without being accused of anything. In the last few nights, soldiers raided several homes in the Safa neighborhood and threatened to continue the raids because of arson in Gush Etzion.
Raids on the Safa neighborhood following fires in areas cultivated by settlers from Bat Ayin and Kfar Etzion
On the night of 18 July 2018, soldiers raided nine homes in the village, waking and threatening families. On the night of 21 July 2018, they raided two homes. The soldiers accused family members of starting fires in the groves of nearby settlements, without presenting any evidence whatsoever. They threatened that if the fires did not stop, “security operations in the village would be expanded”. On 13 August 2018, at around ten o’clock at night, soldiers again raided seven homes, one for the second time, following another fire in the area. At least five young men were arrested during the raids.
The following are testimonies taken by B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash from village residents whose homes were raided by the military.
18 July 2018, the home of Difallah Abu Diyah and his wife, parents of eight:
Difallah and his wife live with six of their children, between the ages of 8 to 21. A dirt road runs between the families’ home and farmland cultivated by settlers.
In a testimony he gave on 21 July 2018, Muhammad Abu Diyah (21) described the raid on their home:
On 18 July 2018, I woke up after 2:00 A.M. from sounds coming from the direction of the guest room, which is near my bedroom. I got very scared. I opened the door and saw soldiers arguing with my father. They were shouting angrily at him. One of them ordered me to go into the guest room. I was barefoot and in my pajamas. The officer told my father to wake the whole family and have them sit in the passageway behind the guest room.
Two soldiers stood and pointed their rifles at my mother and sisters. It was very difficult for me to watch, so I went to the soldiers and asked them to conduct themselves more calmly and not scare my little sisters. The officer yelled at me to be quiet. He did not like me interfering and told my father to go out to the street. I asked him again to calm down, and then he and the soldiers got mad and pushed me and my father out the door. We went outside barefoot and stood in front of the house. The soldiers ordered us to put our hands up and it felt like they were going to attack us.
They said they’d come to make the young guys burning trees in the settlement orchards stop. The officer asked us if we knew them. My father said he didn’t know anyone and that it wasn’t his job to guard the orchards. He also told him that we’ve lived in this house for many years and have never had problems with our neighbors in the settlement, and that it was the army that was causing trouble. The officer threatened they’d be back if the torching of settler crops continued. He pulled out a pamphlet in Arabic and asked me to read it. The pamphlet accused neighborhood residents of arson and threatened us. Then the soldiers left. My two young sisters were shaking with fear. In the morning, I heard my little sister tell mother that she didn’t want to sleep at home at night because the soldiers would be back.
18 July 2018, the home of Hatem Abu Diyah and his wife, parents of three:
Hatem Abu Diyah and his wife live with their three children, between the ages of 4 and 12.
In a testimony he gave on 20 July 2018, Hatem described the raid on their home:
On 18 July 2018, at around 01:30 A.M., when I was in my pajamas and getting ready to go to sleep, I heard loud banging on the front door and shouting: “Open, army, army.” I rushed to open the door. Seven soldiers came in, one of them an officer who spoke to me in Hebrew. He asked me how old my children were and told me to wake everyone up and get them into the living room. He demanded my ID too. My wife and three children came to the living room.
The officer said to me: “You people in the Safa neighborhood are terrorists. You’re burning fields in Gush Etzion and it has to stop.” He said we were responsible for the fires and that the army would demolish our homes if it didn’t stop. He said they’d be back the next night. I told the officer quietly that we weren’t responsible for these fires. I protested against their raiding our home in the middle of the night, scaring the small children and the whole neighborhood, and told him this wasn’t the way to solve the problem. The officer yelled at me: “Be quiet”, and said we were bringing the terrorists. He was very angry. The soldiers had their weapons pointed at us through the whole conversation – even at the children. I was helpless in the situation and it was very painful.
The soldiers left after twenty minutes. Then we heard the sounds of stun grenades and teargas canisters exploding in the neighborhood. The soldiers stuck pamphlets on the walls of houses laying the responsibility for the fires in Gush Etzion on the entire village and threatening us.
13 and 18 July 2018, the home of Muhammad ‘Adi and his wife, parents of nine
Muhammad ‘Adi (60), the Imam of the mosque in the village center, lives with his wife and five of their children in the Safa neighborhood, ,about 250 meters from the settlement of Bat Ayin.
In a testimony he gave on 14 August 2018, he related:
On 18 July 2018, at about 3:00 A.M., the army came to our house. When I opened the door, an officer ordered me to get out and put me on the phone with the Etzion ISA [Shin Bet] coordinator (Captain Omar). The ISA coordinator threatened me, saying the army would raid my house if I keep inciting to burn the settlement fields and that he held me responsible for the metter. The officer took out a military pamphlet threatening residents of the Safa neighborhood. My son, Usayed, was with me, and the officer gave him a summons for a meeting with the Etzion ISA on Monday, 20 July 2018.
On 13 August 2018, at around nine o’clock at night, a fire broke out in fields belonging to village residents, about 100 meters from the family home. Dozens of neighborhood residents went to put the fire out, which they managed to do within about an hour. They then returned home. At around 9:45 that night, the military raided six homes in the neighborhood, and clashes erupted between the soldiers and youths.
In his testimony, Muhammad ‘Adi described what happened:
I heard the explosion sounds of stun grenades, and saw, from the balcony, dozens of masked soldiers spreading out between the houses near us. Clashes erupted on the street, and some youths threw stones at the soldiers. They responded by firing teargas canisters and stun grenades. I watched what was going on and saw soldiers going into my son Ghazi’s (36) home, which is about thirty meters away from my house; my brother Isma’il’s home, which is across from our house; and the homes of my relatives, Hussein and Faruq ‘Adi. I heard shouting.
A few minutes later, the soldiers came out of the homes with three young men they’d arrested. I saw soldiers kick one of them in the leg as they were leading him away. They came over to our building and knocked on the front door downstairs. I later learned that my son Usayed opened the door for them and they told him to stand by the wall at the entrance. About ten minutes later, the soldiers came to our apartment on the third floor. I opened the door, and a soldier yelled at me and told me to quickly sit on the floor. At first I meant to refuse, but he cocked his weapon, pointed it at me and threatened to open fire, so I did as he said. They also made my son-in-law, Muhanad al-Hur, who was visiting, sit on the floor. The officer demanded both our ID cards. The soldiers checked the cards and then brought us into the living room. My wife and daughters were already sitting there. We stayed there while the soldiers searched the house for about an hour. Then they left. We walked around the house and saw the mess they’d left behind. The furniture and the contents of the closets were scattered on the floor.
Later, I found out the soldiers had arrested my son Ghazi. After the soldiers left our house, the clashes in the neighborhood continued and they fired live and rubber-coated bullets.
Muhammad’s son Usayed (29), a married father of a baby, said in his testimony the next day:
On 13 August 2018, at about 9:00 P.M., I went with my family and neighbors to put out a fire that had broken out on a plot we own that’s adjacent to Bat Ayin land. The fire had just started, so we managed to put it out quickly. I came home with my brother, Ghazi, who lives about thirty meters away from us. We chatted and watched TV together. I heard noises outside and realized that the military had entered the village. We looked outside and saw dozens of soldiers. I saw them arrest three youths and hurl teargas canisters at some youths who threw stones at them.
Everything happened really fast. I saw the soldiers coming towards to our house and closed the door to the building. A few minutes later, the soldiers knocked on the door and I opened it. About fifteen soldiers came in. Ten of them went up to the higher floors, and five stayed on the ground floor, in my apartment. One of them pushed me against the wall and tied my hands with my cell phone charger cable. Another soldier asked my brother Ghazi what his name was and demanded his ID card. The officer told us to go into the living room, sit facing the wall and not move. One soldier stayed to watch over us. He was pointing his gun at us. I heard furniture being banged and dragged around and realized they were searching the whole house. My wife and baby were on the third floor with my parents. About forty minutes later, a soldier ordered my brother Ghazi to get up and go with them. When he asked them why, one of them told him to be quiet. The soldiers on the top floors came down and they all left. One of them yelled at me not to try to leave and to keep the door closed. I went up to my parents’ apartment right away, and came back home with my wife and baby. I discovered that the soldiers used brutality in their search of my apartment. They broke the glass part of the table in the living room and caused other damage.
*** Note: Ghazi ‘Adi was released several days after his arrest.
Confiscation of money
17 July 2018, the home of Sufian and Samah al-Wahadin , parents of two children (7 and 10):
On the night of 17 July 2018, soldiers raided the al-Wahadins’ home in al-Batan neighborhood of Beit Ummar, terrorizing and threatening family members. The soldiers searched the house and confiscated 5,000 shekels (approx. 1,377 USD), claiming the money belonged to Hamas.
In a testimony he gave on 18 July 2018, Sufian al-Wahadin (42), who runs an orphanage, related:
On 17 July 2018, at about 2:00 A.M., I was woken by the sound of cars and people. I looked out of the window and saw military vehicles and soldiers coming towards our house. I heard loud banging on the door. My wife and I went to open it, and more than ten soldiers burst in. One of them was a uniformed officer who spoke Arabic. He ordered me to get all the money and gold jewelry we had in the house. I refused, and the soldier demanded my ID card. He took ILS 450 I had inside the card case.
The soldiers told me, my wife and our two children to stay in the living room and began to search the entire house. I heard them dragging furniture. I asked to accompany them on the search, but they refused.
My wife was keeping about 510 Jordanian dinars (about 718 USD) that belong to her sister in the living room. We didn’t want the soldiers to find them and steal them, so she went to the living room, took the money and put in on the table in the living room.
During the search, the soldiers brought into the living room 1,200 shekels they’d taken out of two piggy banks that belong to my children and put them on the table. The search lasted about an hour. Towards the end, the officer asked my wife to get her purse. He took out another 480 shekels from it and put them on the table. A police officer who was with the soldiers counted the money. He told the officer that it was Hamas money and that he was confiscating it. They left two hours after they arrived, leaving the whole house in shambles. A lot of glassware was broken. Later, I found out they’d searched the car too and torn the upholstery.
This is the fifth time the military has raided our house since the beginning of 2018, but it was the first time they confiscated money.
Samah al-Wahadin (32,) described the incident in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field-researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 12 August 2018:
The search lasted about two hours. The soldiers kept us in the living room, and I could hear furniture being dragged and glass breaking. Every time I tried to get up and protest, the soldier told me to sit still. Before the soldiers left, the officer took the money and led my husband to an enclosed balcony. They left two hats behind. When I saw that, I went to hand them back to them. On the way, I asked my husband what happened with the money. He said they’d confiscated all of it. I asked the officer: “Why did you confiscate the money? It’s for house expenses and some of it is my little children’s savings”. He said: “I have a confiscation document here with the details of the money. I was acting lawfully”.
After the soldiers left, we walked around the house. There was a terrible mess. Everything was scattered all over the floor. I was especially sad that they broke fifteen sets of glass table and cookware that we were given as presents after my husband had surgery. They broke picture frames and tore the upholstery on the sofas. None of us could sleep after they left, including the children. I spent the rest of the night tidying up and cleaning.
2 August 2018, the home of Jalal and Fadwa Breighith, parents of six children between the ages of 7 and 18:
On 2 August 2018, at around 3:00 A.M., soldiers raided the family’s home. In their testimonies, members of the family described that night.
Jalal Breighith (48), a secretary at a school in Hebron, related:
I was woken by loud banging on the front door and realized it was soldiers. I opened the door and in the meantime, my wife and our five daughters woke up too.
More than ten soldiers and a police officer came in. There was a female soldier with them. She said they were going to search the house and demanded my ID card. She said we had to bring the money and jewelry we had in the house, so we didn’t say later that the soldiers had stolen them during the search. The soldiers asked whether I had any sons, and I said I had a nine-year-old son who was sleeping in his bed and five daughters. She demanded I wake him up and bring him to the living room, and I did.
We all sat in the living room and one male soldier and one female soldier stayed to guard us. The male soldier had his gun pointing at us. My children were shaking as if they were sitting inside a fridge. I brought 100 Jordanian dinars (about 140 USD) and 400 shekels to the living room and gave the money to my wife. The search lasted less than an hour. The whole time, I could hear furniture being dragged in the house and things breaking, so I tried to get up, but the soldier instructed me to stay still. During the search, the female soldier took my wife and my daughters Maram (18) and Malak (15) separately, and body-searched them in another room. My wife told me that the soldier had ordered her to take her clothes off and then strip-searched her. They found USD 100 in her bag, and the female soldier brought it to the police officer, who started counting the money.
Another soldier led me to the entrance hall and searched me, too. He took the car keys out of my pocket and gave them to the female soldier. She and five other soldiers went out to search the car. I went with them. After the search, the soldier told me that the army was going to confiscate the car. I tried to explain to her that I had bought it on an installment plan, but she wouldn’t hear it. She said the car was unlawful property and that I could go see a lawyer.
She gave me a confiscation paper and told me to sign it. The soldiers left at around 4:00 A.M. My wife and I starting checking the house. It was terrible. There was a mess everywhere. The bed in our room was turned over, and some of the furniture was broken. Ninety shekels that my daughter Maram was keeping in her closet were gone. We couldn’t sleep because we were so worked up – but also because there was nowhere to sleep in the mess. My wife and daughters spent the entire next day tidying up the house.
I bought the car with a bank loan. It cost ILS 100,000 (USD 27,537). I was making monthly payments on the loan, and only had 21,500 shekels left to pay. I served a ten year prison sentence between 1988 and 1998. I haven’t been involved in any political activity since then. Now we have no car, and it’s disrupting our lives. I have to get to work in Hebron by public transport. I stopped driving my daughter Maram to university at al-’Arrub. Over the last few years I volunteered to drive a blind 15-year-old to school. Now I can’t do that anymore, either.
In a testimony she gave on 12 August 2018, Maram Breighith (18) said:
After the soldiers and a police officer in a blue uniform counted the money and decided not to take it, the female officer took me, my mother and my sister Malak, separately, into one of the rooms to search us. She ordered me to take my clothes off and I refused. I was wearing a prayer gown, so I lifted it up and told her I had nothing on me. Later, I understood from my sister Malak and my mother that she strip-searched them.
After that we went back to the living room, and a soldier came, looking pleased and waving my father’s car keys around. I realized they were confiscating it. The soldiers went out with my father and searched the car. Then two of them got in the car and drove off. It was very sad to see my father. He was shocked and very angry. After the soldiers left we started checking on the house. They really destroyed everything. They broke the wall ornaments in the bedroom, threw everything that was in the closet on the floor and broke the bed in my parents’ room. I had ninety shekels in the closet, which was meant for things I need for school. I’d forgotten to bring it to the living room, and it was gone. One of the soldiers must have stolen it.