Soldiers repeatedly harass B’Tselem volunteers’ family in Hebron, threaten wrongful arrest of teen son
Narmin and Mahmoud Abu Haya volunteer with B’Tselem’s camera project. They live in Hebron, near the Israeli settlement of Beit Hadassah, with their four children, aged 2 to 14 year. The reality created by the Israeli occupation gives rise to frequent clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents in the area. Often, settlers throw stones at Palestinian residents and the latter throw stones at soldiers and settlers. Soldiers usually take decisive action against Palestinians suspected of throwing stones, even in cases of minors under the age of criminal responsibility. In contrast, the military systematically turns a blind eye to violence by settlers against Palestinians, even when committed in the presence of soldiers. B’Tselem has cautioned repeatedly regarding this conduct and warned that soldiers do not provide any protection to Palestinians.
In April 2015 B’Tselem documented persistent harassment of the Abu Haya family, Palestinians who volunteer with our camera project. The Abu Hayas were subjected to a string of threats and harassment by soldiers. In one instance, on 6 April, soldiers detained 14-year-old Maher Abu Haya near his home, apparently while they were in pursuit of teens suspected of throwing stones. When Maher’s father, Mahmoud, arrived on the spot, the soldiers told him that his son had thrown stones. After Maher denied the allegations and a conversation between the soldiers revealed the claim was baseless, the soldiers began claiming that Maher knew the identity of the stone-throwers. They also said that Maher is regularly seen near Beit Hadassah when stones are thrown there – willfully ignoring the fact that he lives right next to the settlement. The soldiers threatened Mahmoud Abu Haya that should they see Maher in the vicinity again when stones are thrown, they would arrest him even if he had nothing to do with it. They further threatened to hold Maher tied up all night and compel his family to pay a fine for his release. They also threatened to search the family’s home and destroy it in the process. They then released Maher. [link to video]
Soldiers detain Maher Abu Haya, a minor, threaten wrongful arrest
Following this incident and other harassment of the Abu Haya family by soldiers between 4 and 10 April, including repeated visits to their home by day and night, B’Tselem wrote on 21 April to the Legal Advisor in Judea and Samaria and to OC Judea and Samaria Division. Attaching video footage of the incidents, B’Tselem demanded that the harassment immediately cease and that soldiers be clearly instructed that such actions are wrong and against regulations. No response has been received to date.
The saga of harassment described in detail below palpably hampered the Abu Haya’s daily lives routine and constitute a violation of their rights. While martial law does confer upon security forces in the West Bank far-reaching authority to search homes and arrest individuals, it is evident that in these instances the soldiers abused their power. For example: threatening to arrest a 14-year-old boy for actions committed by others; using the roof of the family home for their private purposes; and repeatedly entering the family’s home with the clear intent of harassing them. These actions, whether meant to pressure the family into preventing stone-throwing by other Palestinians or as a form of retaliation for insisting on filming soldiers with B’Tselem’s video cameras, are unacceptable and unlawful. This is not the first time that B’Tselem has documented Israeli security forces harassing and abusing its Palestinian volunteers, even though filming and photographing security forces in the West Bank is permitted by the military itself.
Given the protracted harassment, B’Tselem has chosen to give a detailed account of the incidents:
On Saturday afternoon, 4 April 2015, a group of soldiers came to the Abu Haya home. They ordered the father, Mahmoud, to go up to the roof with his four children. Once there, they accused Maher, 14, of throwing stones at the nearby settlement of Beit Hadassah. Maher denied the allegation but the soldiers claimed that he was seen doing so on the settlement’s security cameras. Maher and his father were taken to the military base at the settlement of Beit Romano, where they waited for some two hours without being questioned. They were then handed over to the Palestinian District Coordination Office and released without any further proceedings. Two days later, on 6 April, soldiers again entered the Abu Haya home, instructing the family to leave so they could search it. Mahmoud Abu Haya waited outside with his children, while his wife Narmin stayed inside and filmed the soldiers as they came in. A soldier ordered her to go out and stop filming, threatening to remove her by force. Mahmoud, who had gone back inside to get his identity card which one of the soldiers demanded he present, insisted they have a right to go on filming and demanded to speak to the commanding officer. A soldier claiming to be an officer, although he did not carry officers’ insignia, said that he had authorized the search. After this exchange and after the family presented their IDs, the soldiers left, taking nothing.
Soldiers try to keep members of Abu Haya family from filming search of their home
That evening, Maher was detained after leaving the house, as described above.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, 7 April 2015, the family heard noises outside their home. When they went outside to check, they saw some 40 soldiers climbing up to their rooftop. The soldiers did not bother to explain their presence and some of them used their mobile phones to take pictures of the watching family. The soldiers posed on the roof for a group photo, stayed there for approximately an hour and then left. Late the following night, 8 April 2015, a group of soldiers came to the house, disrupting the family’s sleep. Once more, the soldiers went up to the roof. They stayed a short while and left, entirely ignoring the family throughout .
Soldiers use Abu Hayas’ roof to pose for group photo
Late the following night, 8 April 2015, a group of soldiers came to the house, disrupting the family’s sleep. Once more, the soldiers went up to the roof. They stayed a short while and left, entirely ignoring the family throughout.
Late at night: Soldiers come to Abu Hayas’ roof
On Thursday evening, 9 April 2015, a group of soldiers again came to the house. After a short exchange with the family, the soldiers demanded that Mahmoud Abu Haya, the father, show them his ID card. The soldiers pointed out one of them as the commanding officer and he read out the ID details over the two-way radio. The soldiers then decided to leave the home. On their way out, they told Mahmoud they would be back the next day. Indeed, the next day – Friday, 10 April 2015 – saw soldiers come to the house again. They went up to the roof and then left.
Soldiers threaten repeat research of Abu Haya home; return the next day