In the early hours of 25 June 2020 and 7 July 2020, dozens of soldiers raided two homes of the extended Abu Hashhsash family in al-Fawwar Refugee Camp, under the pretext of searching for three family members. The soldiers entered both homes without masks. In the first, they beat three family members and blew up a fuse box in the metal workshop of another member. In the second, they set a dog on three members of the family and beat one of them. In both cases, right after the raid, an ISA agent called the family, who were not suspected of anything, and demanded that the relatives the military was looking for turn themselves in. In one case, the agent explicitly threatened that soldiers would return and turn the family's home into a “battleground”.
Soldiers raiding Palestinians’ homes at the dead of night, waking entire families, including small children and infants, has long since been a fixture in the routine that the occupation regime imposes in the West Bank. In these raids – which, this time, included the use of violence and intimidation against family members, as well as damage to property – soldiers are not required to show a search warrant or even provide a reason. This is yet another example of the military’s abuse of power, even in the height of a global pandemic, with a lockdown imposed on most of the West Bank and fear among residents running higher than ever.
A description of the incidents and testimonies given to B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash (a member of the family) follows.
25 June 2020, the home of Sanaa and Yusef Abu Hashhsash:
On Thursday, 25 June 2020, at around 4:00 A.M., some 30 soldiers raided a building in the center of al-Fawar Refugee Camp that is home to extended Abu Hashhsash family. Seven siblings live in the building, four of them married with children, bringing the total number of inhabitants to 25, including 12 minors . The soldiers said they were there to arrest two of the siblings, Sari (41) and Muhammad (52), who were not home that night.
The soldiers first entered Yusef (46) and Sanaa Abu (41) Hashhash’s apartment on the ground floor and ordered the couple and their eight-year-old daughter, Jud, into the living room. Another two of their children, Yasin (17) and Adam (19), ran out of the house as soon as the soldiers came in. Islam (12) continued sleeping and Mahmoud (20) was sleeping at his uncle’s home on the first floor.
Three soldiers stood watch over the family by the entrance to the living room, with their weapons drawn. The rest of the force went up to the first floor, where three of the single siblings live. Ya’qub (33) opened the door and was immediately assaulted by a soldier who hit him with a rifle butt and broke his nose. The soldiers then led him and his brother Ibrahim (42), who was not allowed to get dressed, down to the living room on the ground floor. One of the soldiers then forcefully woke Mahmoud and dragged him by the hair to the living room.
The soldiers continued to the second floor, where three of the married siblings live with their families. One of the apartments was empty that night. In the second, the soldiers asked Iyad (45) about Sari and Muhammad’s whereabouts. In the last home, a soldier assaulted Ziad (58), slapping him and kicking him in the abdomen after he stated he did not know where his brothers were. The soldiers then took him down to Yusef and Sanaa’s living room.
About half an hour later, the soldiers ordered the family to move to the building’s stairway and then went down the ground floor, where they blew up a fuse box in Yusef Abu Hashhsash’s metal workshop. Then they left the building. Ya’qub Abu Hashhsash had surgery to fix his broken nose on 29 June 2020.
As soon as the soldiers left, an ISA agent called the family and threatened to send the soldiers back unless Sari and Muhammad turned themselves in. He also called other relatives and made the same threat several times a day for three days running, after which Sari Abu Hashhsash turned himself in at the al-Fawar checkpoint. Following his arrest and interrogation, a three-month administrative detention order was issued against him. As of the time of publication, he is being held at the Ofer military prison.
In a testimony she gave on 1 July 2020, Sanaa Abu Hashhsash, a married mother of five, described that day’s events:
On Thursday, 25 June 2020, at around 4:00 A.M., I woke up in a fright from banging on the door. My husband went to open it and dozens of soldiers suddenly came in. One of them, I think he was an officer, ordered us to go into the living room and told the soldiers to search the house. I realized they were looking for my brothers-in-law, Muhammad and Sari, who weren’t home.
My husband, our young daughter Jud (8) and I went into the living room. My sons Adam (19) and Yasin (17) ran out of the house as soon as the soldiers entered. Islam (12) continued sleeping, and Muhammad (20) was sleeping at his uncle’s apartment on the first floor. Jud was petrified. It was the first time soldiers raided our home. She cried and held me tight. After a few minutes, my brother-in-law Ya’qub came into the living room. His nose was broken, and it looked crooked. A few minutes later, Ibrahim, my husband’s second brother, came in half naked, barefoot and only wearing boxer briefs. I was embarrassed to see him in that state, and so was he.
Three soldiers stood at the doorway to the living room, pointing their weapons at us. One of them told us not to move or talk. A few minutes later, the soldiers brought in Ziad, my husband’s brother, and then they brought in my son Mahmoud. Later, Mahmoud told me that soldiers had come into the room he was sleeping in and one of them had kicked him and dragged him by the hair into the living room.
They held us there for about half an hour, and then ordered us to go stand in the building’s stairway. Some of the soldiers entered a livestock pen near the house, where my husband has his workshop. A few minutes later I heard an explosion, and then they left the building. When we went back into the apartment, I was in shock and I tried to calm my daughter Jud down. Then we went to the workshop and I saw they’d blown up the fuse box.
It was one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever had. Not only did they lock me in a room with my little daughter and my brother-in-law, who was half naked, while they kept pointing their weapons at us, but I was also worried about Yasin and Adam. I was afraid the soldiers would beat them like they beat Ya’qub, or that they’d been arrested. I was also scared that a confrontation would start between my brothers-in-law and the soldiers, and then they would start shooting.
My husband Yusef is our main provider, and now after they blew up the fuse box in his workshop, it will be very hard on us financially. They caused thousands of shekels of damage, and business has been slow recently anyway because of the coronavirus.
They punished me and my family for something we were not involved in, just because we live in the same place.
In a testimony he gave on 26 June 2020, Ya’qub Abu Hashhsash recounted:
At around 4:00 A.M., I was woken by noise from the stairway. I opened my bedroom door and suddenly, a soldier hit me in the nose with his rifle butt. When I left the room, I saw that many soldiers had raided the building and were spread out inside it.
My nose really hurt , and before I realized what was happening, two soldiers carried me to the ground floor and brought me to the living room in my brother Yusef’s apartment. Yusef’s wife, Sanaa, and his little daughter were already there. Three soldiers were standing in the doorway and pointing their weapons at us. After a few minutes, they brought in my brother Ibrahim, who was half naked, and then they also brought in my brother Ziad and my nephew Mahmoud.
I put my hand over my nose and tried to stop the bleeding. The pain was unbearable. Sanaa and her daughter were frightened, and she held onto her mother and cried. After about half an hour, the soldiers took us out to the building’s stairway, and they went into my brother Yusef’s workshop. We heard an explosion. We later found out that they’d blown up the fuse box. Before they left, they ordered us to tell my brothers Muhammad and Sari that they had to turn themselves in.
In the morning, I went to al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron. They examined and x-rayed me, and it turned out that I had a fracture in my nose and that I have to undergo surgery, which is scheduled for 29 June 2020.
In a testimony he gave on 2 July 2020, Ziad Abu Hashhsash, a married father of two, related:
I woke up to loud banging on the front door. I opened up quickly and saw four soldiers in front of me, asking about my brother Sari. I told them I was asleep and that I didn’t know where he was. One of them slapped me and then repeated the question. I told him I didn’t know. Then, he slapped me again , kicked me in the stomach and ordered me to get out of the house quickly. My wife and two kids were away at her parent’s house. The soldiers carried me to the ground floor and put me in Yusef and Sanaa’s living room. My niece Jud, my brother Ya’qub, who I noticed had a nose injury, and my brother Ibrahim, who was half naked, were already in the living room. After a few minutes, they brought in my nephew Mahmoud.
They held us there for half an hour. Meanwhile, they searched Yusef’s house and the livestock pen. They then ordered us to stand in the stairway. A few minutes later, I heard an explosion coming from Yusef’s workshop.
The soldiers were looking for my brothers Muhammad and Sari, who weren’t home. After three days of phone calls from an ISA agent named “Nidal”, who threatened to raid the house again and turn it into a “battleground”, Sari turned himself in at the al-Fawwar checkpoint.
2 July 2020, the home of Arij and Musa Jamil Abu Hashhash:
Musa (51) and Arij Abu Hashhsash (41) and their five children, aged 10 to 21. Arij and Musa are distant relatives of the two wanted brothers . The soldiers said they had come to arrest the couple’s son, Muhammad (19), who was not home at the time.
The soldiers, accompanied by a dog, went up to the first floor and blew up a front door leading to a guest room, where 16-year-old Aysar was sitting. The dog lunged at him and left the room. Moments later, it came back and attacked Aysar again. Aysar held the dog’s head to stop it from moving, and a soldier yelled at him and ordered him to let go. One of the soldiers then told Aysar to stand with his face to the wall and his hands in the air. Some of the soldiers left to search the other rooms. The dog pounced on Arij and pushed her against the wall and then knocked down Musa, who has a speech impediment and difficulty walking. The dog attacked him again as he lay on the floor. After Musa had sat down in a chair opposite his bedroom, two soldiers ordered him to move into the living room. When he refused, one of them dragged him in by the arm. Then, they ordered the rest of the family into living room. An officer took Aysar to one of the bedrooms and questioned him about his brother Muhammad’s whereabouts. Every time he responded that he did not know where Muhammad was, the officer hit him.
About half an hour later, the soldiers left the house. Immediately afterwards, an ISA agent called the family’s home and threatened Arij that if her son did not turn himself in that day, the soldiers would come back. About an hour later , around 6:30 A.M., Muhammad arrived at the checkpoint and turned himself him. He was taken to an interrogation facility in Ashkelon and then to the ISA detention facility in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. From there he was transferred to the Ofer military prison, where he is currently being held.
In a testimony he gave on 23 June 2020, Aysar Abu Hashhsash spoke about the incident:
That morning, my brother Muhammad and I were in the living room, playing a game of PUBG on the mobile phone. One of our relatives asked Muhammad to help him unload petrol at a station near our house, so he left and I changed into my pajamas and got ready for bed. Then I heard a noise in the stairway. I thought it was Muhammad, so I went out to check why he was back so soon. Suddenly, I saw soldiers heading up to our floor. I closed the door, sat down on the couch and pretended to be busy with my phone. After a few minutes, soldiers broke down our door. A brown dog suddenly jumped at me and then he let go of me. It went out of the room and then came back and attacked me again. I grabbed its head to try and keep it off me, and a soldier yelled at me and ordered me to let go.
The dog left the room and then the same soldier ordered me to get up and face the wall with my hands in the air. I heard my mother shouting outside the room, but I didn’t know what was going on in the rest of the house. I saw two soldiers. One of them was dragging my father into the living room. A few minutes later they brought my mother into the living room and then my sisters Athir (21) and Batul, who is my twin, and my little brother Tamim (10).
The soldiers came and went, and I heard noises from the other rooms. One soldier stood behind me, I think he was an officer, and gave me three slaps on the back of my neck. He asked me about my brother Muhammad. I told him I didn’t know where he was and then he grabbed me by both cheeks and told me I was lying. Then he let go of me and went over to my father. He asked him about Muhammad and my father didn’t answer. My mother told the officer that Muhmmad doesn’t have a phone right now because it’s broken.
The officer took me out of the living room and into my sister’s room. He pushed my face into her mattress and started asking again about Muhammad and where he was hiding the weapons . Every time I said I didn’t know, he punched me in the back.
This happened several times and I kept answering the same thing. Finally, he hit me in the upper back with the butt of his rifle and made me stand up. Then he took me back to the living room and ordered me to stand facing the wall.
Meanwhile, the soldiers searched the house. They asked my mother about the ground floor. They left the living room and I thought that they were gone, so I opened the door to check, and then one of them yelled at me to close it. Right after they left, I told my parents and my uncle, who lives next to us, what had happened in my sister’s bedroom.
In a testimony he gave on 23 July 2020, Musa Jamil Abu Hashhsash related:
I woke up from my wife’s shouting. She was standing outside our bedroom. I went out to see what was happening and before I could get a grip, a brown dog jumped at me and knocked me to the ground. He ran to the bathroom and then came back and jumped me again, while I was lying on the floor.
I was shocked and didn’t understand what was happening. I barely managed to get up and sit on a chair in front of our bedroom, when two soldiers came to me and told me to go into the living room. I ignored them, and then one of them dragged me by the arm into the living room. I heard my wife yelling at them: “Leave him alone, he’s sick”.
I went into the living room and saw my son Aysar standing there with his face to the wall and his hands in the air. The soldier sat me on a chair and a few minutes later, they brought my wife Arij, my two daughters, Asil and Batul, and my son Tamim into the room. I saw one of the soldiers, I think he was an officer, slap my son several times on the back of his neck and tell him he was lying. The same officer started asking me about Muhammad and ordered me to call him. My wife intervened and told him that Muhammad doesn’t have a phone.
The officer asked about my illness, but I didn’t answer. I saw him take Aysar out of the room. About five minutes later, he brought him back in and ordered him to go back to facing the wall with his hands in the air. The officer put a soldier on guard to watch over us, with his weapon drawn, and left the room. A few minutes later, the officer and other soldiers came back into the room and asked my wife what’s on the ground floor. Then they left and ordered us to stay sitting and not move.
The raid on our home was unnecessarily violent. My hand hurt for a week because of the dog’s attack.
In a testimony she gave on 23 July 2020, Arij Abu Hashhsash recounted:
At around 6:00 A.M., the soldiers left. About ten minutes later, an ISA agent named “Nidal” called and spoke to me in Arabic. He told me that he was looking for my son Muhammad, and that he knows he’s not a criminal but he’s suspected of a few things and he wants to punish him by law. He said Muhammad had to turn himself in that day . I didn’t answer him, and then he said he’d give me ten minutes to think about it and call back to see what I’d decided.
After ten minutes, he called again and I told him Muhammad would turn himself in. I was afraid that if he didn’t, the soldiers would raid our home again and scare the whole family, especially my sick husband.
Shortly after that, my brother-in-law Hani arrived and went with Muhammad to the checkpoint at the entrance to the camp. Muhammad turned himself over to the soldiers, and I was told they took him to a prison in Ashkelon and from there to the Russian Compound. They scheduled a court hearing for him on 16 July 2020 . For me, the raid was a moment of horror that I’ll never forget. I was most frightened when the dog attacked me, my sick husband and my son Aysar.