Beit Ummar: Soldiers arrest boy aged 13
Khaled Bahar, a 13-year-old 8th grader, is the youngest of four siblings who live with their parents in the a-Dahar neighborhood of the village of Beit Ummar, in the Hebron District. At about 6:00 PM on 16 October 2017, Khaled was sitting with his cousin ‘Abed Bahar, 12, his brother Ahmad, 19, and five other boys from the neighborhood. The boys were sitting opposite a closed storeroom and chatting.
At the same time, and close to where the boys were sitting, four soldiers climbed up the roof of one of the homes. After they came down, two of them approached the group of boys, seized Khaled by his left arm and the back of his neck, and ordered him to come with them. They took him to the settlement of Carmei Tzur where he was held in a room for several hours, seated on a chair, blindfolded and with his hands tied. During this time, the soldiers prevented him from sleeping. After midnight, Khaled was taken to the police station in Kiryat Arba, where he was interrogated for about fifteen minutes by a police officer who accused him of throwing stones. Khader only returned home at 2:00 AM.
In testimony taken on 22 October 2017 by B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, Khader’s cousin, ‘Abed Bahar, described the arrest:
I followed one of the soldiers shouting and crying. I told one of the soldiers to give him back, it’s wrong what you’re doing, we weren’t doing anything. My older brother was with me. The soldier cocked his rifle and pointed it at us, shouting, “Go away.” I was scared and ran back home, shouting, “They’ve arrested Khaled.” My father asked me to stay at home, but I insisted and ran along a side route. I saw the soldiers taking Khaled to the gate of the settlement of Carmei Tzur. A bit later our relatives also arrived at the gate and tried to persuade them to let Khaled go.
After about fifteen minutes I saw the soldiers putting handcuffs on Khaled, covering his eyes, and putting him in a military jeep that arrived on the scene. I started to cry and went back to the neighborhood. On the way I told the neighbors, “They’ve taken Khaled, they’ve taken Khaled.”
Khaled is my friend and cousin and we spend most of our time together at school, at home, and in the neighborhood. I tried to sleep at night, but I couldn’t. I lay awake the whole night, until I heard my cousin Samir, 21, saying that Khaled had come back. It was about 2:00 AM.
In testimony taken on 22 October 2017 by B'Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash, Khaled described what happened to him after he was arrested:
The other two soldiers joined us, and the four of them took me to the gate of the settlement of Carmei Tzur, about 500 meters away. Along the way I was scratched by thorns and it was dark. I wasn’t scared, and I didn’t cry, but I did get scared at the beginning when the soldier surprised me and grabbed me. My mother came after me, calling to me, and I told her, “Don’t be afraid.”
After about fifteen minutes, a military jeep and the settlement security vehicle arrived. The soldiers handcuffed my hands in front of my body, blindfolded me, and put me in the military jeep, which took me to the military post inside the settlement of Carmei Tzur. They took me into a room while I was still handcuffed and blindfolded. I was cold, and I asked the soldiers for a blanket. A bit later a soldier brought me a blanket. While I was sitting in the room, every time I fell asleep for a bit, one of the soldiers came up to me, acting like a dog in a make-believe game, tapping me with his fingernails and barking, woof-woof, and then I’d wake up. He did that a few times. At first, I thought it was a real dog but then when he did it again, I realized it was one of the soldiers. The other soldiers laughed out loud.
I stayed in the room for a few hours. I sat on a plastic chair the whole time, thinking about what the soldiers were going to do to me and whether they would take me to prison. I thought about my mother and my brothers and sisters and wondered whether they were crying now. One of the soldiers offered me something to eat but I refused because I was blindfolded, and I wasn’t sure whether he was serious or what food they would give me.
Late at night, a soldier took me to a vehicle while I was still blindfolded and handcuffed. They took me to the police station in Kiryat Arba. At the station, a police officer took the blindfold off me and unfastened the handcuffs. He asked me why I was making problems and throwing stones. I replied that I don’t make problems and that before the soldiers arrived I’d had an argument with a boy from the neighborhood and thrown stones at him. I stayed in the interrogation room for about fifteen minutes. Then the police officer told me that I needed to wait in the office until the Palestinian DCO people came to take me home.
I got home at about 2:00 AM. I was scared and exhausted. I ate quickly. I told my family and my cousin ‘Abed what had happened. That morning I slept late, and I didn’t go to school. Since then I don’t go outside in the late afternoon when the soldiers come to the neighborhood, because I’m afraid they’ll arrest me again.
The soldiers arrested Khaled Bahar for no reason. They did not explain to him what was going to happen. They did not let him call his family and they did not bother to inform them themselves. They made him sit for hours, handcuffed and blindfolded, while harassing him and preventing him from sleeping. He was then taken alone to interrogation, without first being able to speak to an attorney.
Khaled Bahar’s story is not exceptional, and neither is the story of Beit Ummar. Every day soldiers enter the village, disrupting the residents’ lives, and arresting youths. The soldiers enter homes in the middle of the night, confiscating money and vehicles from Palestinian residents, and sometimes shooting. This item has told the story of one 13-year-old boy in one Palestinian village. But the reality it paints is part of a much bigger picture: the picture of the control and oppression Israel imposes on all the Palestinians in the West Bank, as part of the daily and ongoing implementation of the occupation regime.