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Occupation routine : my home is not my castle - The ‘Ammar family in Qaffin, Tulkarm district and The ‘Ali and ‘Omar families in Kafr Qadum, Qalqiliyah district

Every day and every night, soldiers may enter Palestinian homes. Such invasions of private space have long been an integral part of security forces’ operations in the West Bank. Palestini...
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Occupation routine : my home is not my castle - The ‘Ammar family in Qaffin, Tulkarm district and The ‘Ali and ‘Omar families in Kafr Qadum, Qalqiliyah district

Every day and every night, soldiers may enter Palestinian homes. Such invasions of private space have long been an integral part of security forces’ operations in the West Bank. Palestinians know that soldiers may enter their homes at will, invade their bedrooms, wake their children and rummage through their belongings. 

For most of us, the home is a safe and secure space. This is not the case for Palestinians. Control, humiliation, and oppression penetrate the very sanctity of the home. Such invasions – so blatantly infringing upon residents’ rights and privacy – are yet another example of how the military controls subjects devoid of political rights.

Throughout October and November 2020, Israeli security forces entered 493 homes in the West Bank. Last week, we published a description of incursions into homes in the village of Kobar, Ramallah District. Below are descriptions of two such incursions, one in Tulkarm District and the other in Qalqiliyah District.

9 November 2020, Qaffin, Tulkarm District: The ‘Ammar family

On Monday night, 9 November 2020, at around 2:30 A.M., some 25 soldiers escorted by two police officers raided the home of the extended ‘Ammar family in the town of Qaffin, north of the city of Tulkarm.

The ‘Ammar family lives in a three-story building. The parents, Fahmi (70) and ‘Aishah (62), who have eight children, live on the first floor with their son ‘Udai (24). Their son ‘Imad (42) and his wife Hanan (30), live on the second floor with their four children, aged two to four. Another son, Soheil (45), and his wife Mays (24), live on the third floor with their two-month-old son, Kinan.

The soldiers raided all three apartments simultaneously, breaking down their doors and entering the bedrooms while some of the family members were asleep. In ‘Imad and Hanan ‘Ammar’s apartment, the soldiers ordered ‘Imad to remain in the bedroom, and then the rest of the extended family, who live in the other apartments, to gather in the children’s bedroom in ‘Imad’s apartment.

Hanan ‘Ammar, who was still in her pajamas and without a headscarf, sat huddled under the blanket. Her brother-in-law Soheil implored the soldiers to let her get dressed, and then a soldier brought her a headscarf and a jilbab (outer garment) from her room. The family members were kept in the children’s room for about an hour and a half, after which the soldiers took ‘Imad with them, leaving behind chaos and filth in all three apartments. The soldiers confiscated the family’s eight mobile phones and about 8,000 shekels (~2,462 USD).

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi the next day, Fahmi ‘Ammar described the raid on his home:

At around 2:30 A.M., my son ‘Udai woke me up after he had heard noises and said someone was trying to break the front door down. I got up and came out of the room and was surprised to see several soldiers shining flashlights in my face. I was shocked. One of the soldiers asked me who lives in the house. I answered my wife, who was still asleep, my son ‘Udai, and I. The soldier ordered me to wake up my wife and demanded we all go into the living room, and that’s what we did. The soldiers confiscated our cell phones, and then one of them led us to my son Imad’s apartment on the second floor. Six or seven soldiers stayed in our apartment. When we went into ‘Imad’s apartment, the soldier ordered us to get into the children’s bedroom. Hanan was sitting there, frightened and covering herself with a blanket, without her headscarf. Her children were sleeping. My son Soheil, his wife Mays, and their baby Kinan were also in the room.

Soheil ‘Ammar, a taxi driver, recounted what he and his family went through that night:

At around 2:30 A.M., my wife woke me up and said that robbers were trying to break down our front door. I got up in a fright, but when I tried to leave the room, I saw armed soldiers with flashlights on their helmets. I stayed in the doorway, told my wife to get dressed, and turned on the light. I put on pants and immediately took out the cash I keep at home. I had almost 1,800 shekels (~555 USD) and 1,000 Jordanian Dinar (~1,410 USD). Some of the money belongs to the taxi company where I work. One of the soldiers demanded I give him the money, and that’s what I did.

The soldier led my wife and me to my brother Imad’s apartment on the second floor. There were two police officers there who accompanied the soldiers, and the soldier handed them the money. The officer put the cash, my two cell phones, and my wife’s cell phone in an envelope. The soldiers then ordered us to get into the children’s bedroom. Hanan was sitting there, frightened and in her pajamas, covering herself with a blanket. I asked the soldier who was standing in the doorway to let her go get dressed, and then he went to her room and brought her clothes and a headscarf. Meanwhile, my parents arrived as well.

A few minutes later, one soldier approached me and asked me about the gold jewelry and 1,800 shekels he’d found in the bedroom that I’d forgotten about. I explained to him that these were gifts my wife had received for our baby's birth about two months ago. The soldier handed me the jewelry and the money but didn’t return the cash that was taken before and didn’t give me any confirmation of the confiscation.

Hanan ‘Ammar, who had to leave her room in her pajamas without a headscarf, spoke about her fears that night:

One of the doors the soldiers broke down. Photo courtesy of the family

I woke up from noises made when someone tried to break the door down. I woke up my husband ‘Imad, and suddenly, soldiers entered the apartment while we were still in bed. I was shocked by the sight. I never expected to go through something so scary, having strangers come into my bedroom while I was still in bed in my pajamas. I was terrified, especially when one of the soldiers entered our room and shouted at us to put our hands up. They led me into the children’s room. They were still asleep. They wouldn’t let me get dressed. I was petrified, for myself, for my children, and my husband.

About half an hour later, my brother-in-law Soheil and my sister-in-law Mays came in with their baby. Soheil saw I didn’t have clothes on and asked the soldier to let me get dressed, but he wouldn’t let me leave the children’s room and went to bring me clothes and a headscarf from my bedroom. A few minutes later, my mother-in-law and my brother-in-law ‘Udai arrived. We all stayed in the room together. No one asked us anything. A soldier was standing in the doorway.

At around 4:00 A.M., the soldiers left the house, and we heard the jeeps driving away. They took my husband with them. We came out of the room, and then I saw the mess they’d made in our bedroom. The soldiers took my and my husband’s cell phones. I don’t understand why they arrested him. He’s a bookkeeper and always has clients’ money with him. We’ve been married for 10 years, and this is the first time he’s been arrested.

In his testimony ‘Udai ‘Ammar, a lawyer, recounted:

Before we went into the children’s bedroom in my brother ‘Imad’s house, one of the soldiers frisked me. We found Hanan in her pajamas and without a headscarf inside the room, her kids, who were still sleeping, my brother Soheil, his wife Mays and their baby, and my parents. ‘Imad wasn’t in the room. One soldier stood in the doorway and wouldn’t let anyone leave the room, not even Hanan, who wanted to go get dressed. In the end, after Soheil asked the soldier several times, he went into her bedroom and brought her clothes and a headscarf.

We stayed in the room for about an hour and a half. Then the soldiers left without us knowing and without us having a chance to say goodbye to ‘Imad. I went down to the first floor to check on the house. I went straight to the bedroom. I work as a lawyer and have files from work that I keep in my room. There was also a sum of 600 shekels (~185 USD) there. My father, who came with me, found his clothes lying on the floor without the 1,500 shekels (~462 USD) he'd left in his pant pocket. His ID card and driver’s license, which were in his shirt pocket, were also lying on the floor. They took our cell phones, mine and my father's and mother’s in the beginning and didn’t return them.

The next morning, friends from Tulkarm called us and told us that soldiers had also raided ‘Imad’s office downtown. I went to the office and discovered soldiers had taken two computers and some of his clients’ files.

20 November 2020, Kafr Qadum, Qalqiliyah District: The ‘Ali and ‘Omar families

On Friday, 20 November 2020, after the midday prayer, residents of Kafr Qadum set out, as they have done since 2011, to the weekly protest against the closure of the eastern entrance to the village. About 150 residents marched out of the village center and advanced east towards the roadblock. During the demonstration, Palestinian youths burned tires and threw stones at soldiers, who fired rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters and hurled stun grenades at them.

Wa’el ‘Omar (20) was struck by a “rubber” bullet in the forehead. He was rushed to the hospital, where his wound was stitched, and he was discharged. The next day, at around 3:00 A.M., about 20 soldiers raided two village homes, arresting Wa’el and another 20-year-old man, Qays ‘Ali, on the grounds that they had thrown stones at soldiers during the protest.

The following are testimonies B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi collected on 21 November 2020 from their family members:

The arrest of Wa’el ‘Omar:

In her testimony, Wa’el’s mother Fadiyah ‘Omar (41), a homemaker and mother of four, described what happened:

Disarray the soldiers left behind in the ‘Ali home. Photo courtesy of the family

I woke up from noises at around 4:00 A.M. and heard someone trying to open our front door.

I got out of bed to see what was going on, and then about 20 soldiers broke the door’s lock with some kind of device and raided the house. They entered the living room where my sons ‘Ahed (22) and Wa’el (20) were and immediately tied their hands with zip ties and blindfolded them. They covered Wa’el’s eyes, even though he’d been injured above the left eye during the demonstration. Some of the soldiers asked Wa’el about his wound and why he had a bandage around his head.

They took ‘Ahed out of the room and led him to one of the rooms in the house. He stayed blindfolded and handcuffed until the soldiers left the house. Several soldiers spread out in the house and searched the bedrooms. My husband ‘Abdallah (53) recently underwent pelvic surgery. He was in another room and called me to bring him his wheeled walker and help him get out of bed and walk.

The soldiers let me go to him. I brought the walker closer to the bed where he was lying. While he was getting up and trying to lean on the walker, one soldier kicked it away, and my husband fell to the ground. I shouted at the soldiers and demanded they help me lift my husband and put him back to bed. One of them did.

They ordered us to stay in the rooms, and we didn’t know what was going on until the soldiers left the house. We came out of the rooms, and I managed to see them taking Wa’el out of the house, handcuffed and blindfolded. They put him in one of the military jeeps waiting outside.

The soldiers stayed in our home for about an hour and a half. It was raining that night, and they smeared mud all over the floor. They didn’t let us say goodbye to Wa’el. I tried to go after them and give them the antibiotics and painkillers he was given at the hospital, but none of them would take it.

‘Abd a-Rahman ‘Ali (45), a married father of six and an officer in the Palestinian Police, described the arrest of his son Qays:

A door the soldiers broke in the ‘Ali home. Photo courtesy of the family

At around 3:00 A.M., my eldest son, Qays (20), woke me up. He had stayed up smoking a hookah in the kitchen. He told me he heard noises as if someone was about to break down the door. He thought they were soldiers.

I got up quickly and went to the front door. I said aloud in Arabic, “I’ll open the door.” But the soldiers shouted at me, and one of them told me in Hebrew to shut up. They broke down the door with some kind of device, and about 10 soldiers entered the house. Their shoes were muddy because it was pouring outside. When they broke into the house, my family and I had already gathered in the living room.

The soldiers pushed Qays to a corner of the living room, and then one of them headbutted him with his helmet. Qays fell to the ground, and I started shouting at them and asking them why they were using such violence when my son hadn’t done anything. I asked, “What’s the reason for all this violence?”. The soldiers yelled at the rest of the family and me and ordered us to shut up. Qays was wounded by the headbutt and bleeding from his head. The blood covered his face.

The soldiers ordered us to get into a room and kept only Qays in the living room with them. They went into the rooms, dirtying the rugs, rummaging through the closets, and throwing our belongings on the floor. They held us in the room for about an hour, and then I heard them calling out to me as a sort of heads up, so I’d know they were leaving. We didn’t get the chance to say goodbye to Qays or even see him. He was wearing only shorts and a tank top, so before the soldiers left the house, I gave one of them pants and a coat for him.

Shortly before the soldiers left, an ISA officer also came to the house. He knew I was an officer in the Palestinian Police. He told me they’d come to teach Qays a lesson because he participated in the protest and threw stones at the soldiers. The officer threatened my children, Layth (18) and Islam (15), that he’d arrest them, too, if they kept participating in the weekly protest.

There’s no justification for the soldiers’ behavior, which is only meant to scare us. That’s why they broke the front door down, threw our belongings and clothes on the floor, and dirtied the house and the carpets.

I don’t know what happened to Qays after they took him and if they treated the injury he got from the headbutting.

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