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Testimony: Soldiers hold family with five-day-old baby for hours outside their house in the middle of the night in bitter cold and conduct violent search of their house, 3 March 2010

Nancy Hamdiya, 28

Nancy Hamdiya

My husband, Rafa'i Muhammad Sa'id Hamdiya, and I live in a one-family house in the Samudi neighborhood in the area of a-Zahreh in al-Yamun. We have four small children: Muhammad, 8, ‘Abdallah, 7, Asil, 4, and ‘Ali, who is five days old.

Last night (2 March 2010), I was at home with the children. When my husband arrived, I was in the living room and the children were sleeping in their room. Shortly after he arrived, around 12:30-12:45 A.M., I heard the sound of explosions next to the house. I said to Rafa'i: “The children!” He went to their room. I put on another layer of clothing, covered my head, and put another layer of clothing on ‘Ali, the baby, because it was so cold. Rafa'i took care of the three older children and I looked after ‘Ali. I heard explosions at the entrance to the house and people shouting “Open the door. . . open the door.” Rafa'i replied: “Wait! There are children.”

Nancy Hamdiya and her son 'Ali, who is five days old. Photo: 'Atef Abu a-Rub, B'Tselem, 3 March '10.
Nancy Hamdiya and her son 'Ali, who is five days old. Photo: 'Atef Abu a-Rub, B'Tselem, 3 March '10./>

After about five minutes, he opened the door. I heard soldiers tell him to raise his hands. They spoke poor Arabic. Rafa'i raised his hands. I was about one meter from him, and the children were between us. The soldiers told us all to go out to the yard, a distance of a few meters, and made me and the children sit on the side. They took my husband far from us.

When we went outside, there were three soldiers at the entrance and another few nearby. The soldiers took my husband's ID card and kept it. Rafa'i kept telling them that I had given birth a few days earlier, that we had a five-day-old baby, and that the cold was dangerous to my health and that of the baby, but the soldiers ignored him and told him to shut up.

I sat in the cold with the children, who were frightened. They were shaking and pressed up against me. I was really worried about the baby and myself; this was the first time I had gone outside since he was born. He cried and I tried to calm him, but I couldn't breastfeed him because it was cold and because I was afraid of the soldiers. He continued to cry. I got up and rocked him to calm him, but every time I stood up, the soldiers told me to sit down.

After we had been outside for about fifteen minutes, and after my husband insisted, the soldiers let him bring me a blanket to cover the children. Then one soldier stayed with us, while two others went into the house and began a search. They did it quietly and it lasted about three hours. All that time, we were outside. Three hours after they began the search, more soldiers arrived with a dog. There were about twenty soldiers there altogether. The soldiers put us back in the house. I noticed that they had not damaged anything. They put me and the children in one room and Rafa'i in another room.

One of the rooms, after the soldiers' search. Photo: 'Atef Abu a-Rub, B'Tselem, 3 March '10.
One of the rooms, after the soldiers' search. Photo: 'Atef Abu a-Rub, B'Tselem, 3 March '10./>

Then the style of the search changed. The soldiers became violent. They started turning the whole house upside down and damaged our belongings. It was cold inside the house, too, so one of the soldiers brought me and the children another blanket. I quickly breastfed the baby for a few minutes.

The soldiers moved me and the children from room to room, so they could conduct the search. As we moved from room to room I saw the damage. They left a great mess in the house. While the children and I were in the bedroom, the soldiers brought in the dog. I was really scared for the children, and went over to them to protect them if necessary.

After that, a soldier who spoke Arabic well came into the house. I think he was an officer. He said hello and asked me who else lived in the house. He asked, “Where is your husband?” I told him I didn't know, because I hadn't seen him since the soldiers had taken him away. While the officer was speaking to me, a soldier called to him and pointed outside. I think he meant to tell him that my husband was outside. The officer went into the yard, and the children and I remained in the house with ten-twelve soldiers.

I saw the soldiers throw clothes and blankets on the floor. They ruined our furniture right in front of my eyes. They tore up the children's games and trampled on the mattresses. I was really angry and considered objecting, but because I was shocked and frightened, I kept quiet./>

About twenty-thirty minutes after the officer arrived, my husband came into the house, went to the shower, put on his shoes, and went outside with the soldiers. After he left, I cried and asked the Arabic-speaking officer if they intended to take my husband. He said, “Don't worry, he'll return.” He said he promised that my husband would return. After that, the soldiers left.

After they left, I sat in the living room with the children. They were crying. The doors and windows were open and it was very cold in the house. I tried to calm the children. I didn't know what to do. After about ten minutes in the living room, I started to close the doors and windows. Later, when I got my strength back, I tried to tidy the children's mattresses a bit.

Another room in the house, with furniture damaged during the soldiers’ search. Photo: 'Atef Abu a-Rub, B’Tselem, 3 March '10.
Another room in the house, with furniture damaged during the soldiers' search. Photo: 'Atef Abu a-Rub, B'Tselem, 3 March '10./>

About ten-fifteen minutes after I closed the doors, I heard loud pounding on the front door. I was frightened, but I asked, “Who is it?” The pounding continued, and I continued to ask, “Who is it?” Nobody answered. Then I heard a voice say, “Army.” I opened the door and the soldiers asked for my husband's ID card. I found it again in the house and gave it to them, and they spoke into a walkie-talkie and read numbers. I think it was his identity number. Then they left and I remained alone with the children. It was around 6:30 A.M. A little while later, my husband's sister came over.

I still haven't checked the house. I didn't have jewelry or money to worry about. More than anything, I worried about my husband until he called and said he was on the way home. He arrived home around 9:30 A.M.

This is not the first time soldiers have come to our house, but they have never caused such damage. I think they were looking for my husband's cousin. My husband told me that they asked about him.

Nancy Kamal Taher Hamdiya, 28, married with four children, is a resident of al-Yamun, Jenin District. She gave the testimony to 'Atef Abu a-Rub on 3 March 2010 in al-Yamun.