Routine abuse in al-‘Esawiyah: Police violently arrest 20-year-old
On Monday evening, 1 March 2021, a group of Israeli undercover police officers entered the ‘Obeid neighborhood in al-‘Esawiyah in East Jerusalem, and left after residents exposed them. Later that night, at around 9:45 P.M., Border Police and undercover police officers came to the square opposite the ‘Obeid family’s two-story home in the neighborhood. Mirwat ‘Obeid (38) and three of her six children – aged 8, 7 and 11 months – were on the ground floor apartment at the time. Her brother-in-law Marwan (46) and his son Tareq (20) live on the second floor. They heard the forces and asked Mirvat to leave through the back door of her apartment and go up to their apartment with the children.
Mirvat went upstairs with the three children. As soon as Marwan and Tareq entered her apartment, the officers broke down the front door and violently assaulted the two men. They dragged Tareq to the porch, where they beat him and threw two stun grenades into the apartment. About 20 minutes later, they arrested Tareq and took him to a Border Police base near the neighborhood of a-Sheikh Jarrah. Some 15 minutes after the arrest, Special Patrol Unit officers arrived with a water cannon (“Skunk”) and sprayed a foul-smelling liquid throughout the neighborhood and into the home of an elderly couple. In confrontations that ensued, residents set off fireworks and threw stones; according to the police, they also hurled Molotov cocktails at officers, who used stun grenades and pepper spray against them. According to the police, five officers were injured, two of them lightly.
About an hour and a half after ‘Obeid was taken to the Border Police base, he was transferred to the police station on Salah a-Din Street. There, he was interrogated for some 30 minutes on suspicion of having thrown stones. After the interrogation, he was taken to the police station in the Russian Compound. From there, he was sent to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center after a physician in the detention facility noticed his face was bruised. ‘Obeid was kept in the ER until noon the following day with his hands and feet tied. He was examined because his vision became blurred after the beating, and given eye drops. ‘Obeid was then taken to the Magistrates’ Court, where he was remanded in custody for two days. On Thursday, 4 March 2021, he was sent home under house arrest until Sunday, 7 March, after posting NIS 1,000 (~USD 300) in bail.
The police violence described here – breaking into the family’s home, attacking the two men and hurling stun grenades into the house, and spraying foul fluid throughout al-‘Esawiyah and into a private home – is part of routine police activity in the neighborhood, which has regained momentum over the last two months. According to data from the Silwan Information Center, from the beginning of 2020 through February 2021, more than 720 residents were arrested in the neighborhood – including 180 minors, four of them below the age of criminal responsibility.
This conduct also continues the extensive harassment campaign that the police waged in al-‘Esawiyah during 2019-2020. Israeli forces regularly enter the neighborhood, sometimes daily, sparking confrontations with residents, carrying out arrests and using crowd control weapons – all with no justification for entering the neighborhood in the first place. Police brutality against al-‘Esawiyah residents is yet another facet of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, which creates and intentionally preserves overcrowding and extreme poverty. As part of this policy, Israel refrains from drawing up master plans for the neighborhood and employs violence against residents. The overall goal is to drive Palestinians out of the area, in order to retain a Jewish majority in Jerusalem.
The testimonies were given to B’Tselem field researcher ‘Amer al-‘Aruri.
In a testimony she gave on 2 March 2021, Mirwat ‘Obeid said:
On Monday, at around 10:00 P.M., I heard knocking on the door. My brother-in-law Marwan and his son Tareq came and asked me to go up to their place on the second floor, because there were occupation forces spread out around the house. I took the back door to the stairwell with three of my kids who were home at the time – Anas (11 months), Taqwa (7) and Ahmad (8). As we were going up the stairs, I heard things smashing in my apartment, and my brother-in-law and his son shouting. I tried to go back in, but the door was locked. I knocked on it several times. After a few minutes, a Border Police officer opened it. I asked him what he was doing in my home, but he slammed the door in my face. My kids were crying and screaming in fear.
I took the kids to their uncle Marwan’s apartment and went down to the street, and from there to the main entrance to the house. I saw the occupation forces kicking Tareq, who was lying on the porch floor by the front entrance, and hitting him with their rifle butts.
I went over to the front door and saw that young guys from the neighborhood had gone into the house, apparently through the back entrance. Suddenly, I heard an explosion inside the house, like a stun grenade going off, and the lights inside went out for about five minutes. A few minute later, at around 10:30 P.M., the occupation forces started coming out of the house through the front door and took Tareq with them. When they came outside, they pushed the residents who were there, including myself. One of the police officers knocked me over.
My whole body ached after the fall. Some people from the neighborhood helped me get to my brother-in-law Ghassan’s house. I stayed there for about half an hour, and then went home. I found the lights in the kitchen and living room destroyed and the glass pane in the front door shattered. I also found a stun grenade that had been throw into the house, and some of our belongings were broken.
Marwan ‘Obeid recounted the events of that night, in a testimony he gave on 2 March 2021:
We went into the house and the occupation forces broke through the front door. They immediately started beating Tareq and kicking both of us. Then they dragged Tareq to the porch by the front door. One of the undercover officers hit Tareq all over his body with pointed brass knuckles, and especially in the face. I tried to get to the back entrance to call for help, and then five Border Police officers dragged me away and locked the door. They threw me to the ground and hit me again. I heard a grenade go off inside the house, and then the power went out. I lost my bearings and couldn’t understand what was going on around me. Meanwhile, the occupation forces left the house, taking Tareq with them.
In a testimony he gave on 13 March 2021, Tareq ‘Obeid related what happened after he was taken from home:
My father and I were in the middle of the apartment, near the kitchen, when the forces broke down the front door. Without asking a single question, they attacked my father and me, hitting and kicking us. They dragged me to the porch and an undercover officer hit me all over my body with something sharp he was holding. I heard grenades go off inside the house and the power went out. The police officers took me to a jeep that drove out of ‘Eisawiyah. Inside it, there were two undercover officers who punched me in the face for what felt like several minutes. The jeep reached the Border Police station and the officers tied by hands behind my back with cable ties. Inside the station, they also blindfolded me with a piece of cloth and sat me down on the sidewalk. They left me sitting there for a long time. They didn’t give me any water and no one asked whether I had to go to the bathroom or eat something, and I didn’t ask them for anything. After that, they forced me to put on white coveralls for protection against the coronavirus, and transferred me to the police station on Salah a-Din Street with metal handcuffs on my ankles.
At the station, they took off the blindfold and switched the cable ties on my wrists to handcuffs. I was interrogated in Arabic for about half an hour, on suspicion that I’d thrown stones at police officers and tried to escape when they came to the house. When the interrogation was over, I refused to sign the document, which was in Hebrew. From there, they transferred me to the Russian Compound. When the doctor there saw the marks on my face, he sent me to Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital. At the hospital, I was tested and given eye drops since I couldn’t see clearly, because of the severe beating I got from the undercover officers. I stayed in the ER until noon the following day, sitting on a chair, with my hands and feet cuffed. From hospital I was taken to the Magistrates’ Court in Jerusalem, where I was remanded in custody until Thursday, 4 March 2021. Another hearing was held on Thursday, at noon, and I was released on bail. I had to pay 1,000 shekels and was sent home under house arrest until Sunday, 7 March 2021.
The week after I was released, I felt physically and mentally exhausted. I had trouble sleeping and sometimes my head hurt, but now I’m better and back at work. I’m starting to get back to my life, thank God.
Walid ‘Obeid (46), a married father of four from al-‘Eisawiyah, was at home when the Special Patrol Unit officers entered the neighborhood with the water cannon. In a testimony he gave on 13 March 2021, he described what happened next:
I was at home, following what was going on. About 15 minutes after the occupation forces left the neighborhood, they came back, this time with the vehicle that sprays smelly water. They started spraying it along the road and on houses. I saw the vehicle aim the spurt of water at my parents’ apartment, one floor down from me. Thank God, they were visiting relatives outside the neighborhood that day. After the occupation forces left, I went to my parents’ place. It was in a catastrophic state. There was foul-smelling water on the floor, and a window pane in the living room had shattered. My parents can’t come home yet because of the stench, so they’re staying with relatives. We’ve cleaned the apartment several times, but it still stinks. Two days after that, the occupation forces came back to the neighborhood. In clashes that developed, they fired sponge rounds at the young guys. One of the bullets entered my apartment on the second floor. Thankfully, no one in my family was next to the window, otherwise someone would have been hit.
The truth is that this situation is unbearable. The raids and clashes, stun grenades and sponge rounds are back. I’m very worried about my family, especially my parents. Their windows and door open directly onto the street, and their house has become a target for the occupation forces.