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From the field

IDF demolishes home of the al-'Aaraj family in al-Wallaje, March 2004

Zakaria al-'Aaraj, owner of the house, aged 46, resident of al-Wallaje, Bethlehem District

On the morning of Thursday, 11 March 2005, five days after soldiers arrested [my son] Hatem, at 2:00 A.M., I heard a banging on the door, which woke me and the others in my family. I figured they were soldiers. I got up and opened the door. About thirty soldiers were standing at the entrance to the house. They came in, spread out around the house, and searched it for about half an hour. We remained in the house while they conducted the search. After that, the soldiers ordered us to go into the street. We did not know why. The soldiers ordered us to sit in the street. Seven of them stood around us. The others stayed in the house. While we were outside, I saw ten army jeeps parked on the street.

About an hour later, some ten soldiers came out of the house and went to my brother Musa's house, which is about thirty meters from my house. The soldiers made his family leave the house, put his son Majid, 22, up against the wall and had the others sit down on the ground next to us. A few soldiers remained in Musa's house. About an hour later, the soldiers came out of Musa's house, came over to us and ordered us to walk in front of them. They took us into one of the bedrooms in Musa's house. Five soldiers guarded us, and kept their rifles aimed at us.

They kept us closed up in the room for two hours or so, and soldiers guarded us the whole the time. We did not know what the soldiers were doing outside, and nobody told us anything. Around 6:30 A.M., I heard a gigantic explosion from very nearby, but I did not know exactly from where. At that moment, the five soldiers left the room. Musa and I followed them to see what was happening outside. I was surprised and shocked to see that the soldiers had blown up my house from inside. I saw smoke, black dust, and a pile of stones covering the house. I saw that the interior walls had collapsed, all the contents were destroyed, the roof was cracked, and all the windows were shattered. The house was uninhabitable.

When I saw this, I got very mad and went over to the jeeps that were still parked in the street. I asked to speak to the commanding officer. The soldiers referred me to their commander, and I asked him, in Arabic: "Why did you destroy the house? What did we do to you?" The commander responded, in Arabic: "Because of your son." I replied: "What did he do? He is a student and he was never detained before. This is the first time that you detained Hatem." The commander responded: "At the court hearing you will find out what Hatem did." Then he ordered me to go back to the house'…

Zakaria Mahmud al-'Aaraj is 46 year-old, married and father of five. He is a laborer who leaves in al-Wallaja. The testimony was given to Suha Zeyd in al-Wallaje on 11 March 2004.