Soldiers detain 7-year-old in Hebron and threaten his mother to arrest him next time
On Thursday, 16 December 2021, seven-year-old Muhannad Misk left home in the a-Sheikh neighborhood of Hebron’s Old City and went to play in the local French Library, which was offering activities for children. About an hour later, on his way home, he came across Palestinian children who were throwing stones at soldiers. The soldiers chased after the children, who ran towards Muhannad. He panicked and ran into a store.
One of the soldiers entered the store, grabbed Muhannad by the shirt collar and led him outside screaming and crying. Muhannad’s mother Nadiah (33) heard the commotion and looked out her window. When she saw soldiers detaining her son, she ran outside and freed him from their grasp. Neighbors and passers-by joined in and tried to persuade the soldiers to let the child go, but the soldiers pushed them and refused to release him.
After some time, the soldiers explained to a Hebrew-speaking neighbor that they demanded Muhammad identify the children who had thrown stones. They showed Muhannad photographs of children and demanded he lead them to their homes. When Muhannad replied that he did not know them, one of the soldiers ordered him to stand with his back to the wall and photographed him. The soldier then called his commanding officer, who spoke with Muhannad’s mother and informed her that the child would be released but would be arrested next time.
This is not an exceptional occurrence. In fact, it is a matter of routine for Palestinians in central Hebron and throughout the West Bank, who experience daily violence at the hands of Israeli security forces, even directed at young children. In this case, six armed and armored soldiers detained a frightened seven-year-old clinging fearfully to his mother. None of the soldiers spoke up against the detention, and they all went along with it as a matter of routine. The officer who spoke with the boy’s mother on the phone even threatened it might happen again. This is not a mistake or a misunderstanding of military protocol; it is the policy of the Israeli apartheid regime.
B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari spoke with Muhannad and took testimonies from his mother Nadiah and from their neighbor, Mustafa al-Julani, on 19 December 2021.
Muhannad Misk (7) described what happened that day:
I had a short day at school and went home at 10:30 A.M., so I asked my mom if I could go to the French Library near our house to play and take part in the children’s activities. My mom agreed and I went over there with my friend. We played there for about an hour, and then I decided to go home. On the way back, near the al-Jaza’ir School that’s close to my house, I saw children throwing stones at soldiers. The soldiers ran towards me. I was scared of them, so I quickly went into a shoe store that’s near there. A soldier followed me, grabbed me by the collar and took me out into the street that leads to my house. I was screaming and crying because I was afraid, and I said to them, “It wasn’t me.”
When we were close to my house, my mom came down and pulled me away from the soldiers. There were five or six soldiers surrounding me. My mom hugged me and I held her tight. I was crying and shaking because I was so afraid of the soldiers. One of them tried to pull me away from my mom and shouted in her face, but she didn’t let me go. She told them I was her son.
The soldiers attacked people who tried to help my mom and me, and I got even more scared. One of the soldiers showed me pictures of kids on his cell phone. Our neighbor explained that the soldiers wanted me to take him to the kids in the picture. I told him I didn’t know them.
Then the soldier handed me his phone. Someone on the other end said he wanted to talk to my mother. She took the phone and after she finished talking, the soldiers let go of me and left. I was still crying. I was afraid the soldiers would take me away and kill me.
After the soldiers left, my legs hurt. I didn’t do anything and didn’t throw any stones. I only tried to run away, because I was scared when I saw the soldiers running towards me.
In her testimony, Muhannad’s mother, Nadiah Misk (33), a mother of four, recounted:
I heard a commotion down on the street. I looked out the window and saw a soldier holding my son Muhannad by the shirt collar. Muhammad was screaming and crying and there were about six soldiers surrounding him. They were acting rudely towards him and towards our neighbor, who was trying to free Muhannad from their grasp.
I quickly went down to the street and over to the soldiers. I pulled Muhannad away from the soldier and hugged him tightly. Muhammad cried and held onto me. He said, “It wasn’t me.” The soldier pulled Muhannad by his clothes, but I told him he was my son and that he was a little boy. I asked him what they wanted from him. An older man who was passing by tried to intervene, but the soldiers pushed him up against a wall. Our neighbor Mustafa Julani (18) tried to intervene again, but the soldiers pushed him, too. I saw a soldier press his rifle into Mustafa’s chest and I was afraid he’d kill someone. The soldiers were very violent and aggressive. They attacked every person who tried to intervene.
Everyone backed away and I stayed there alone with Muhannad, who was clinging to me. He was crying and shouting, “Don’t let them take me.” The soldiers came up to me and pushed me several times to separate me from Muhannad, but I didn’t budge. Meanwhile, some neighbors gathered around us again and tried to stop them from arresting Muhannad. Two of the neighbors were from the al-Julani family, and one of them spoke with the soldiers in Hebrew and tried to calm them down. I understood the soldiers were accusing Muhannad of throwing stones. One of the soldiers showed us photographs of children on his cell phone. One of the photos showed Muhannad standing on the street. We told them it didn’t mean anything because Muhannad was just standing there, not doing a thing. He wasn’t throwing stones. The soldiers showed Muhannad photographs of other children and demanded that he lead them to their homes. Our neighbor translated what the soldier was saying. Muhannad said he didn’t know those kids.
Then one of the soldiers demanded to take a photo of Muhannad. I didn’t want them to touch him, so I stood him up against the wall. The soldier took his photo and then called someone and handed the phone to Muhannad, who was crying and shaking with fear. He couldn’t talk. The man told Muhannad to give me the phone, and I answered. The man on the phone told me, in Arabic, that he was the officer in charge of the Old City and that Muhammad had thrown stones at the soldiers. He said he’d let him go this time but that if he threw stones again, the soldiers would arrest him. Then he hung up and the soldiers left, after intimidating everyone who had tried to help.
Muhannad couldn’t calm down and kept crying. We went home. Muhannad went into his room and stayed there until the following morning. At first, he refused to go to school. In the end, he agreed on the condition that his older brother or sister go with him. He’s even refusing to go to the grocery store opposite our house. He says he’s afraid the soldiers will come back and arrest him. He refuses to wear the clothes he was wearing that day, too.
In his testimony, Mustafa Julani (18) recalled:
I work in a grocery store in the neighborhood. At around 11:30 A.M., I heard a child screaming and crying on the street. I ran out of the store to see what was happening. I saw six soldiers with Muhannad Misk (7). One of them was holding him by the shirt collar and leading him along the street. The boy was crying and shouting, “It wasn’t me.”
I went over to the soldiers and asked them why they were taking him. I told them he was a little boy. Two of the soldiers pushed me. At that moment , the boy’s mother arrived. She managed to pull him out of the soldiers’ hands and hugged him. The soldiers tried to pry the boy out of her hands. The boy was screaming and crying and clinging to his mother.
Meanwhile, an older man, about 60 years old, passed by. He didn’t do anything except talk to the soldiers. They pushed him hard against the wall, too. I tried to intervene again and they pushed me, too. One of them pointed his rifle at me. The older man went away, and the neighbors pulled me to a spot by the grocery store because they were afraid the soldier would shoot me. I watched what was happening from a distance. I saw my cousin trying to help and the soldiers pushing him, too.