Israeli soldiers forcibly seize 9-year-old Yazan Idris at his elementary school, Hebron
On 19 March 2019, at around 12:30 P.M., after school had let out, Yazan Idris (9) and his brother Tayyem (7) came running back to Ziyad Jaber Elementary School, Hebron. They reached the door to the principal’s office and stood there crying. Seconds later, a military officer and a soldier ran into the school and reached the principal’s office, saying they had come to arrest the boys for allegedly throwing stones. The officer grabbed Yazan by the hand; a teacher took Tayyem into the principal’s office and shut the door to keep the child safe. The officer responded by threatening to arrest the teachers if they kept him from taking the boys. The officer opened the door and an argument ensued between the teachers and the soldiers, four more of whom had arrived as reinforcements, with the teachers trying to extricate Yazan. The soldiers would not relent, and ultimately took him from the school by force, pushing the teachers away. After leaving the school grounds, the soldiers threw a stun grenade in the street. They then took Yazan Idris to the Worshipers’ Road Checkpoint, which the military had installed about ten meters away from the school. After an hour or so of verbal arguments with the school staff who followed them there, and with Yazan’s mother who came to the checkpoint, Yazan was let go.
The school, in the Wadi a-Nassara neighborhood of Hebron, is attended by 299 children. The military has installed two checkpoints nearby – the Pharmacy Checkpoint, several meters away, and the Worshipers’ Road Checkpoint, about 40 meters from the school. Having soldiers so close to the school has led to frequent altercations with the children after school lets out. Throughout 2018, B’Tselem documented several instances in which soldiers burst into the school compound, fired tear-gas canisters into the yard, or arrested students and teachers after school hours.
This is not the first time, in the West Bank, that Israeli security forces have illegally detained Palestinian children below the age of criminal liability without informing their parents. B’Tselem documented several similar incidents, in which the forces justified this conduct on the absurd grounds that they were “merely” detaining the children before handing them over to the Palestinian authorities. It is unacceptable for armed forces to hold a young child alone for any time at all, and especially without notifying his or her parents, regardless of whether the child has thrown stones or not. The fact that Israeli authorities believe that this conduct is acceptable speaks volumes as to the moral blindness afflicting them.
Muhannad a-Za’tari, a teacher and deputy principal at the school, related the incident in a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri the next day:
School lets out at 12:30 these days, because it’s exam time. Yesterday, I was sitting in the principal’s office after school hours with the principal, some teachers and the school security guard. Suddenly, two brothers, Yazan from the fourth grade and Tayyem from the second grade, ran in shouting and crying. Before we could work out what was going on, two armed soldiers showed up at the door to the office and one of them grabbed Yazan. We tried to pry Yazan out of his hands, but the soldier shouted at us and fended us off. One of the teachers, Radi Abu Mialeh, managed to get Tayyem into the office and closed the door.
Tayyem hid behind a desk and the soldier opened the door and threatened to arrest us if we didn’t hand the two boys over. Another teacher, Radi, argued with the soldiers against arresting the children and especially Tayyem, who is only seven. The other teachers and I tried to intervene and stop them from arresting the children, but then more soldiers showed up. One of the two soldiers who had first come in pushed me and pointed his rifle at us. Then the soldiers left, taking Yazan with them. I followed them, but one of them stopped me from getting close. Some neighbors gathered around the soldiers and tried to convince them to let Yazan go. The soldiers threw a stun grenade into the crowed and carried on towards the Worshipers’ Road Checkpoint. Yazan’s mother came there. After an hour of arguing, they released Yazan and his mother took him home.
Yazan’s mother, Ibtesam Idris, 32, who is married with six children and lives in the Jaber neighborhood of Hebron, related in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri the next day:
At around 1:00 P.M., I was making lunch. I was a bit worried because the kids were late. Someone knocked on the door and when I opened it, there were three children standing there. They told me soldiers had arrested Yazan. I grabbed my head cover and ran to the checkpoint on the Worshipers’ Road. When I got there, I found Yazan crying and immediately took his hand. The soldier made me stand back and said Yazan had thrown stones at soldiers. I told him that couldn’t be true and tried to get Yazan out of his grip. Some neighbors were there, also trying to get Yazan away from the soldiers. Yazan was pale and terrified. The school principal and I tried again, but the soldiers refused. I asked them to call for the police but a soldier put Yazan on the phone with someone. I heard Yazan say into the phone that he hadn’t thrown any stones. The soldier handed the phone over to me and I told the man on the other end of the line that my children are young and haven’t thrown any stones.
A few minutes later, a Civil Administration car drove up. An officer spoke with the principal, who then told me that I could take Yazan home. I grabbed Yazan and we went to get Tayyem from the school. Then we went home along the dirt path that runs behind the school, to avoid the checkpoint. It was tough. It’s the first time that soldiers have ever detained Yazan. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that soldiers with rifles wanted to arrest my nine-year-old boy. Today he went to school via the dirt path because he was afraid to go by the checkpoint.