Occupation routine: my home is not my castle - Palestinian homes in Hebron district raided by the Israeli military during October-November 2020
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. In recent weeks, we published descriptions of incursions into homes in Ramallah, Qalqiliyah, and Tulkarm Districts. Below are descriptions of several raids on homes in Hebron District during these months.
6 October 2020, a-Dhahiryah: The Abu Sharkh family home
At around 3:00 A.M., some 10 soldiers raided the home of Samer (29) and Suzan Abu Sharkh (25) and their three daughters, aged seven, five, and three. One of the soldiers, who was holding brass knuckles, punched Samer in the eye, knocked him to the ground, and kicked him along with another soldier. Suzan and her two older daughters, who woke up from the commotion, witnessed the attack helplessly.
A few minutes later, the soldiers let go of Samer, who was bleeding from the eye, and demanded to see his ID card. Meanwhile, other soldiers searched the house, turning it upside down, while a soldier held Suzan and her daughters at gunpoint. After a brief inquiry, the soldiers apparently realized that they had arrived at the wrong house and left, having spent 20 minutes in the home. Samer told the officer he wanted to go to the hospital, but the former threatened to shoot him if he did. It was not until about an hour later that Samer went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with an eye injury with possible damage to the optic nerve.
In a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari on 24 October 2020, Suzan Abu Sharkh recounted what she and her daughters went through that night:
My husband, our daughters Rinata (7), Hanin (5) and Minas (3), and I rent an apartment on the top floor of a four-story building. I’m a homemaker, and my husband owns a workshop for window shades. On 6 October 2020, at around 3:00 A.M., we woke up from soldiers shouting in Arabic, “Military, open up.” Before my husband even managed to open the door, the soldiers broke it down. One of the soldiers, who was holding brass knuckles, immediately punched my husband in the eye, knocking him to the ground. Then this soldier and another soldier pounced on him and kicked him.
My two older daughters, who woke up, and I, stood and watched the horrible sight. We screamed and cried. It lasted for several minutes, less than 10, but it felt like we were in a nightmare. Samer was shouting at the soldiers to stop because of our daughters, but they kept attacking him until one soldier, probably an officer, told them to stop because he wanted to check the ID. He took my husband’s ID from the table, photographed it, and sent someone to check it. Samer's eye was bleeding, and his face and shirt were covered in blood. The rest of the soldiers spread out in the house and searched it. The girls and I were standing aside as a soldier pointed his weapon at us. The girls were crying with fear, and I was also terrified and didn’t understand why they were doing this to Samer and what they wanted from him. It was the first time that soldiers entered our home. The officer showed my husband a picture and asked him if it was him. Samer said no.
The soldiers’ raid lasted for about 15 to 20 minutes, in which they managed to assault Samer and terrify the girls and me. After they left, Samer tried to leave the house to go to the hospital, but the officer threatened to shoot him if he didn’t go back inside. Samer went in and sat in the living room, and I watched the soldiers through the window. They stayed in the neighborhood until 4:00 A.M.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash the next day, Samer Abu Sharkh also recalled what happened to him that night:
I heard soldiers shouting, “Military, open up.” I went to the door straight away and said I was opening up. I didn’t manage to tell them there were little girls in the house before they broke the door down and went in. There were about 10 of them. One soldier, who had brass knuckles in his hand, punched me in the right eye, and I fell to the ground. That soldier and another one started kicking me all over my body. I yelled at them to stop because there were little girls in the house. My wife and two older daughters stood and watched the attack, crying and screaming, but the soldiers wouldn’t stop. My eye was bleeding.
A few minutes later, I heard one of them, probably the officer, telling them to stop because he wanted to check my ID card. He asked me where the ID was. I completely forgot where I put it, but he found it lying on the table. He showed me a photo of someone who resembles me on his phone and asked if it was me. I said no. I spoke with him in Hebrew. He photographed my ID and sent it to someone who told them I wasn’t the wanted person they were looking for.
Meanwhile, the rest of the soldiers spread out in the house and searched it. I heard them moving furniture. After about 10 minutes, the officer called the soldiers and told them to stop the search, that they were leaving. I told the officer I wanted to go to the hospital, but he threatened me that he'd shoot me if I left the house. That whole time, a soldier stood and pointed his weapon at my wife and daughters, who were standing aside.
At around 4:30 A.M., my brother and my friend came and drove me to the hospital. It turned out that my vision was impaired, and there might be damage to the optic nerve. The doctors recommended that an ophthalmologist monitor me. Two days ago, I went to see a doctor in the village, and he told me that the vision in my right eye deteriorated from 6/12 to 4/12.
The next day (the day after the raid), I realized they’d arrested my neighbor that night. They must have mistaken me for him.
1 October 2020, Dura: The ‘Amru Family home
At around 9:00 A.M., more than 20 soldiers, accompanied by an ISA officer and two dogs, raided a house in the town of Dura, where Karam ‘Amru (40), his wife Anwaar ‘Amru (Rajub) (28) live with their four children, aged 10 months to 9 years. The force searched the house, ransacking it and throwing groceries from the refrigerator onto the floor. One of the female soldiers took Anwaar to the bedroom, searched her, and then ordered her to wake her two daughters, a two-year-old and a ten-month-old. The soldiers then ordered them to go out to the building’s yard. It was not until an hour later that they allowed them to go into ‘Amru’s parent’s apartment in the same building.
The soldiers left the house about three hours later, taking Karam with them. They first led him to the family’s new house, which is still under construction, about 200 meters away from their current home. There, the soldiers put him in a military jeep, where more than ten soldiers were sitting. One of them tied Karam’s hands behind his back and blindfolded him. During the ride, the soldiers beat him until he lost consciousness. He regained consciousness at around 2:30 P.M. and was evacuated by ambulance about 20 minutes later. Tests conducted at the hospital revealed that Karam had contusions on his neck and back. The doctors advised to keep him in the hospital him for observation, but he preferred to return home, where he arrived in the evening, exhausted and in pain.
B’Tselem field researchers Manal al-Ja’bari and Musa Abu Hashhsash collected testimonies from the couple on 21 November 2020:
In his testimony, Karam ‘Amru recalled the events of that day:
I woke up around 8:30 A.M. and sat down in the living at the entrance of the house to drink coffee. Suddenly, about 20 soldiers raided the house with an ISA officer. The officer pointed at me and told the soldiers, “It’s him.” He asked, “Who’s home?” and I said that my wife and two daughters were home.
The officer said that soon a female soldier would come and search my wife. She took my wife, who was in the living room, to the bedroom, and after several minutes, they came out with my two daughters. Then, about 10 soldiers entered the rest of the rooms and searched them. At first, the officer let me accompany them, but he ordered me to go out to the yard after a few seconds. They had me sit there, and three soldiers stood guard over me. A few seconds later, my wife and daughters joined me in the yard and sat under the tree. After about an hour, the soldiers ordered them to go to my parents’ apartment, which is on our building's second floor.
I asked the officer, “What do you want from me?” He answered that I knew what they wanted and said they’d raid the house whenever they wanted. This isn’t the first time soldiers have raided our house. The last time was in October, and even then, they ransacked the house. They usually come with dogs.
The search lasted for about three hours, and then they put me in a military vehicle, and we drove for about 200 meters until it stopped by the new home that I’m building. I was surprised to see several soldiers around the house. Only later did I find out that they’d blown up two pits in the ground, one used as a cesspit and the other for slow cooking in the ground (Zarb).
They sat me down on the floor of the military vehicle, between about 12 soldiers. One of the soldiers handcuffed and blindfolded me, and then they started cursing me and kicking me. I don’t know how many of them beat me. At one point, one of them put his head on mine, cursed me, and threatened to “Teach me a lesson.” I moved my head away and cursed him back, and suddenly felt a strong blow to my back, below the neck, and I blacked out.
I came to at around 2:30 P.M. and found myself on a stretcher that the soldiers had put up by the roadside. I didn’t know where I was and what happened to me. I was bleeding from the arm and didn’t understand why, and then I saw four soldiers standing around me and realized they probably tried to put an IV into my arm.
My phone rang, and one of the soldiers told me to tell whoever’s on the line to call an ambulance. It was my friend from a-Dhahiryah. I barely managed to talk to him and asked him to call an ambulance. When he asked me where to send it to, one of the soldiers took the phone and told him we were next to Beit ‘Awwa. I later realized that we were in an area called Mitzpe Lachish.
About 20 minutes later, an ambulance arrived from the nearby town, Idhna, and drove me to al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron. I was examined and x-rayed. My limbs were stiff, and I couldn’t bend them. I had a strong headache. The doctors recommended I stay at the hospital for observation, but I preferred to go home. To this day, I suffer from intense headaches and dizziness.
In her testimony, Anwaar ‘Amru (Rajub) spoke about what happened that day:
At around 8:30 A.M., while I was tidying up the house, my husband Karam woke up, made some coffee, and sat in the living room at the entrance of our home. Suddenly, there was a loud knock on the front door, and about twenty soldiers and four female soldiers raided the house. They brought two large dogs with them, and a police car was waiting outside.
They spread out inside the house, and one of the female soldiers took me to a room and ordered me to take my clothes off. I wouldn’t do it and only lifted my shirt and folded my pants. She was pointing her weapon at me during all this, and then, after she let me put my outer garment on, she told me to leave the room. She ordered me to wake up my daughters, Asinat[, and Patricia, who were sleeping in their room. When they saw the soldiers and the dogs, they started crying. I calmed them down, and then the soldiers took the girls and me out to the yard.
We sat down under a tree. I saw Karam sitting in the yard with soldiers around him. Some of the soldiers continued searching the house. I asked the soldiers who were outside to let me go to my father-in-law’s house on the second floor. At first, they refused, but about an hour later, when the girls got cold and hungry, they let us go. Meanwhile, my mother called to ask how I was doing, and then a soldier took the phone out of my hand in the middle of the conversation and only gave it back to me when they left the house.
When they left, they took Karam with them. I went in to check on the house and discovered they had turned everything upside down. They even took groceries out of the fridge and threw them on the floor. They took all the clothes out of the closets and threw them around the room, and broke parts of the dresser in the bedroom and its drawers.
I tried to call Karam and asked how he was doing, but I couldn’t reach him. The soldier must have taken his phone. I was afraid they’d arrested him and worried for him. At around 3:00 P.M., his brother called me and told me Karam lost consciousness after the soldiers beat him and the ambulance took him to al-Ahli Hospital in Hebron. Karam came home in the evening. He was exhausted and had bruises on his back and neck.
16 November 2020, al-‘Arrub Refugee Camp: The al-Badawi family home
At around 2:00 A.M., about eight masked soldiers raided the al-Badawi family's two-story home at al-‘Arrub Refugee Camp. Haitham and Hajar al-Badawi (both in their fifties) live in the house with their three children, Ahmad (27), Maram (24), and Basel (16).
The night before, a memorial service was held for their son ‘Omar, who had been killed by the military. The couple’s two married daughters and their four children also stayed overnight at the house that night.
Maram woke her parents. She opened the front door, and the soldiers burst into the house. They refused to explain what they wanted and why they entered the home and pushed Maram and Ahmad, who tried to defend his sister.
The soldiers then spread out in the house, smearing mud on the floor and carpets. They locked Maram, Ahmad, Basel, and their father in the living room. The soldiers locked the mother, the two daughters, and their children in another room. They demanded the sons hand them their IDs, and when Basel told them that he was minor and did not have an ID card, they led him to the kitchen, where a soldier handcuffed and blindfolded him. They led him out of the house, refusing the family’s request to allow Basel, who was barefoot, to wear shoes. Basel was taken to a military camp in the settlement of Carmei Tzur with other detainees from the village. On the way, the soldiers swore at him, and one of them pulled his hair and shouted at him. He was kept waiting until the morning hours, mostly sitting on a chair, with no one explaining to him what was going to happen. In the morning, he was taken along with the other detainees to the Gush Etzion police station, where he also had to wait. He was interrogated throughout the day, at times violently, by three different interrogators, each for a short time, on suspicion of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. He waited in the yard most of the day with no explanations given. At around 7:00 P.M., after being detained for almost 16 hours, during which he was not given food and drink and was not allowed to sleep, he was released without charge.
Below are testimonies collected by B’Tselem field researchers Manal al-Ja’bari and Musa Abu Hashhsash.
In a testimony she gave on 19 November 2020, Maram al-Badawi (24) recounted:
At around 2:00 A.M., I woke up from a toothache and heard noises outside and then knocking on the door. When I asked who it was, I was told it was the military. I immediately went to wake my parents. My brothers and my sisters — who were staying over because there was a memorial service for my brother ‘Omar, who was killed by a soldier last year — were already awake.
When I opened the door, about eight soldiers burst in. I was terrified. I tried to prevent them from coming in, and then one of them pushed me to the wall. I shouted at them and told them, “You’ve killed my brother ‘Omar. What do you want from us now?” One soldier swore at me. My brother Ahmad, who was standing beside me, shouted at the soldier who pushed me, and then he swore at him, too. My nephews were shaking with fear and started crying.
The soldiers spread out in the house and dirtied the floor and the carpers. When Ahmad complained about it, one of the soldiers intentionally smeared mud on the living room sofa with his boot.
The soldiers locked me, Basel, Ahmad, and our father in the living room. They locked my mom, my two sisters, and their children in another room. Soldiers stood by the doorway, guarding us. They demanded my brothers hand them their IDs, and Basel told them he didn’t have one yet because he was minor. They asked for his name, and when he answered, they took him out of the living room, closed the door, and wouldn’t let us out. Ahmad and I tried to get out, but one soldier held the door on the other side and wouldn’t let us out.
In the end, we managed to open the door and saw them blindfolding Basel and tying his hands behind his back with plastic zip ties. He was barefoot, and it was cold outside. We asked them to let us give him shoes, but they refused.
My mother was in shock and didn’t react at all to what was happening. I tried to pull Basel away from the soldiers’ arms, but one of them pushed me to the wall and punched me in the chest. I tried to pass Basel the shoes, putting them near him, but a soldier kicked them and pushed them away. They took Basel outside barefoot.
We heard sounds of gunfire and stun grenade explosions outside. Residents of the camp must have been throwing stones at the soldiers. My mother was in a terrible state, and we gave her blood pressure medicine. She still hasn’t recovered from the trauma of my brother ‘Omar getting. None of us have recovered from this pain yet. I’ve also been in a bad mental state since then, and even more so since yesterday.
In a testimony he gave on 19 November 2020, Basel al-Badawi (16) described the night he was arrested:
I heard noises outside, looked out the window, and saw soldiers advancing towards our home. I told my brother Ahmad, and we went down to the first floor, where my parents and sister were. The soldiers were inside the house. They put me, Ahmad, Maram, and my father into the living room. An officer demanded to see my ID, and I answered that I don’t have one because I’m a minor. He asked me for my name and then led me to the kitchen. There were two other soldiers there, and one tried to tie my hands with plastic zip ties, but they wouldn’t open. He started cursing at me, took out more zip ties, tied my hands, and blindfolded me.
Three soldiers took me outside, barefoot. I heard Maram and Ahmad asking the soldiers to allow them to give me shoes. Then one of the soldiers shouted at them to get back inside.
The soldiers led me barefoot for about 100 meters. There were children there who were throwing stones at the soldiers. Midway, my brother Ahmad called out to me and told me not to be afraid. I told him not to worry, and then one of the soldiers hit me in the back of the head with his rifle and ordered me to shut up.
While they led me away, I heard explosions of stun grenades and smelled gas. The soldiers put me in a jeep and sat me on the floor. They cursed at me. I asked them why they were cursing me, and then one pulled my hair and shouted at me to shut up.
The jeep drove for about 10 minutes, and then they dropped me off at a yard and sat me down on a chair for about an hour. I was still barefoot, blindfolded and had my hands tied. I later found out that it was a military camp in the settlement of Carmei Tzur.
Meanwhile, the soldier brought in more detainees. I heard them say their names to the military doctor. I heard the soldier walking around us and cursing at us. One of them stepped on my foot.
About an hour later, they put me in a room, where I sat handcuffed and blindfolded for about two hours. Then they put me in a jeep that drove for about twenty minutes and took me back to the same room. I could see it from under the blindfold.
At around 8:00 A.M., they took me by military vehicle with the other detainees to the Etzion police station. They sat us down on the floor for over two hours, and then an interrogator came and put me in a shipping container. He gave me used shoes and told me to wear them. Then he took off the blindfold and the zip ties.
The interrogator took me to a room and showed me flags of Palestinian parties. He asked me which one I belong to, and I told him, “None of them.” He accused me of throwing stones and a Molotov cocktail. I denied it, and then he said I was a liar, handcuffed me again, and took me out to the yard. The zip ties were too tight, so I asked one of the soldiers to loosen them a bit, but he cursed at me, kicked me in the stomach, and told me to shut up.
At around 1:00 P.M., another interrogator arrived, led me to the interrogator room, and showed me pictures, but I wasn’t in them. He told me it would be better if I confessed that I threw stones at the fence but not at the soldiers. He promised me that if I did, he’d release me. I denied it once again. Then a third interrogator, whom they called Moshe, came in. He put one music in Hebrew. He also accused me of throwing Molotov cocktails and stones. I denied it again, and then he pushed me against the wall and took me out of the room.
I stayed in the yard until about 7:00 P.M., and then one of the interrogators came out. I heard him talking with my brother Ahmad and telling him to come to the station at Etzion to pick me up. A few minutes later, the interrogator released me, and when I was at the door about to go out, he kicked me from behind. I waited for about 10 minutes until Ahmad arrived in a relative’s car.
I was exhausted and starving. The whole time I was detained, almost 16 hours, they didn’t give me food or drink, and I couldn’t fall asleep even for a minute. I didn’t go to school the next day.
29 November 2020, al-Fawar Refugee Camp: The Husniyeh family home
At around 1:30 A.M., dozens of soldiers, accompanied by an Israeli Security Agency (ISA) official, raided the extended Husniyeh family's three-story home. The parents and their two chlilren, Jana (5) and Ahmad (4) live on the first floor. The father's five children from his first wife, who passed away, live on the second floor.
The soldiers broke the lock on the building's front door and spread out on the first and second floors. On the first floor, they entered the parents’ bedroom. They did let the mother get dressed and then ordered the couple and their children to go up to the apartment on the second floor.
About 10 soldiers entered the apartment on the second floor. They locked Muhammad (20) and ‘Abd a-Jalil (17) in their rooms and locked the three daughters, Ibtehal (22), Du’aa (15), and Janat (13), in their shared bedroom, to which they led the parents with their two young children.
The soldiers demanded that Muhammad unlock his mobile phone. When he claimed he had forgotten the password, they handcuffed him and led him out of the house. At the same time, ‘Abd al-Jalil tried to leave his room, and then a soldier hit him in the face, injuring his mouth.
The soldiers confiscated two computers and three mobile phones from the family home and left taking Muhammad. When the family members went down to their apartment on the first floor, they discovered that soldiers had ransacked the house, smearing mud on the floor and some of their clothes.
B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhsash collected testimonies from members of the household on 31 November 2020.
In his testimony the father, Mustafa Husniyeh, an Arabic teacher and father of 14, described what happened that night:
At around 1:30 P.M., my wife and I were surprised to discover when four soldiers broke down our locked bedroom door and went inside. I shouted at them and demanded they leave the room and let us get dressed. They only let my wife get dressed, and then one of them yelled at us and ordered us to go up to the second floor with the rest of the family.
I didn’t understand how they'd entered our apartment because I was awake at the time and didn’t hear any noises. I woke up our children, four-year-old Ahmad and five-year-old Jana, and we all went up to the second floor. When we go there, I saw that the soldiers had locked Ahmad and ‘Abd al-Jalil each in their own room, and the three girls, Ibtehal, Du’aa, and Janat, in their bedrooms.
We went into the girls’ bedroom. Three soldiers were standing in the doorway, and one of them pointed his weapon into the room. I felt ill and asked the ISA officer who was there and introduced himself as Nidal to go to the bathroom to wash my face, and he agreed. When I came back, the officer led me to Muhammad’s room, where there were three soldiers.
Muhammad’s face was red, and he was angry. I realized that he’d been beaten. The officer told me to convince Muhammad to give them his phone’s secret code and threatened to confiscate all our phones. Muhammad insisted that he’d forgotten the code. After about 10 minutes, the officer led me back to the girls’ bedroom.
After several minutes, I heard my son ‘Abd al-Jalil shouting. I went out towards his room, even though the three soldiers standing in the doorway of the girls’ bedroom tried to prevent me from leaving. I went into Abd al-Jalil’s room and saw him bleeding from the mouth. I separated him from the soldier who wanted to continue attacking him. Then I saw two soldiers leading Muhammad out of the house with his hands tied behind his back. I turned to the ISA officer, Nidal, who was standing in the hallway, and asked him why they were using such violence, but he ignored me.
I saw soldiers confiscating two computers, one of which belongs to my daughter’s friend, and three mobile phones belonging to the family members. Then they left the house. I kept watching them from the window and saw three military jeeps in the street. The soldiers put my son Muhammad in one of them and left the area.
I called my son Bilal, who’s married and lives next door, and we both took ‘Abd al-Jalil to ‘Alia Hospital in Hebron. The doctor stitched ‘Abd al-Jalil’s upper lip with two stitches. When I came home, I found out that the soldiers had rummaged through all of our belongings in our apartment on the first floor and smeared mud on the floor and some of our clothes.
I still don’t know where they took Muhammad. I called HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, and they said they’d update me within 24 hours.
In his testimony, ‘Abd al-Jalil Husniyeh (17), a high school student, also recalled that night’s incidents:
That night, at around 1:30 A.M., I was still awake, doing homework. Suddenly, several soldiers entered our apartment on the second floor. Three soldiers entered my room and forbade me to move or leave the room. One of them pointed his weapon at me.
I saw the soldiers locking my brother Muhammad in the room in front and closing the door. My bedroom door was open, and I could hear the soldiers’ shouts from Muhammad’s room. I didn’t understand what was happening.
I saw the soldiers walking around the hallway. I stayed like that, sitting on my bed, for about half an hour and then suddenly saw two soldiers taking Muhammad out of his room. His hands were tied behind his back, and they were pushing him violently. I couldn’t stand it. I got up and tried to leave the room, but then one of the soldiers hit me in the mouth with his weapon. I started yelling, and my father came into the room and tried to separate me from the soldier who hit me. My lip was bleeding, and I heard my father shouting at someone. I later found out that it was an ISA officer named Nidal. My father asked him why they were acting so violently.
The soldiers left and took Muhammad with them. Bilal and my father took me to ‘Alia Hospital in Hebron. We went to the ER, and the doctor stitched my upper lip. We came home early in the morning and discovered that soldiers had searched the apartment on the first floor, rummaged through personal belongings, and left dirt everywhere.
I didn’t go to school the next day. My upper lip still hurts when I speak, eat, or drink.