Undercover Israeli forces detain 8 Palestinian children from Aida refugee
Oct. 10, 2016 8:54 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 10, 2016 8:54 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an – Palestinian news agency) — Undercover Israeli forces
detained eight Palestinian children from Aida refugee camp in the southern
occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem Monday afternoon, as residents of the
camp — particularly minors — have recently been subject to an
intensification of violent military raids.
Locals told Ma’an that after clashes broke out between local youth and
Israeli forces in the camp, a unit of undercover Israeli forces disguised as
Palestinians infiltrated the crowd to “kidnap” the young Palestinians, who
were all under 15 years old.
A group of uniformed Israeli soldiers rushed to back up the undercover unit
who then took the eight children to an unknown location.
They were identified as Amir Ismael Elayan, Izz al-Din Badwan, Mohammad
Wahid Qaraqe, Adam Mohammad Darwish, Mohammad Nasser Darwish, Abd al-fatah
Abu Shera, Daoud Raed Sharara, and Yousif Mohammad Jawarish.
Sources added that Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear
gas canisters at the protesting youth and civilian houses nearby.
In a response to a request for comment, an Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an
that the Israeli army was not involved, and said Israeli police were behind
the operation, despite the area being located outside of police jurisdiction
in Area A of the occupied West Bank.
When contacted by Ma’an, Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said he
was not aware of the raid.
The incident came just a day after Israeli forces released three 14-year-old
residents of the refugee camp — Mustafa Budair, Omar Radi, and Mutaz
Baraqaa, who were detained from their homes Thursday morning in a raid
without being charged, according to the Lajee Center, a community
organization in Aida that provides refugee youth with cultural, educational,
social, and developmental services.
“The arrests occurred in the midst of renewed clashes in the camp, where
nightly raids and afternoon tear gas attacks have become the norm,” a
statement published on the center’s Facebook page said last week.
The statement said that 14-year-old Mutaz Baraqaa was allegedly violently
hit by a blunt object during his detention last Thursday, however the extent
of his injuries remained unclear as news of his release emerged Sunday.
“For the past three months, Israeli arrests of the youths have shown a sharp
rise, especially after the start of the latest ‘uprising,’ which began on
October 1, 2015. At that time, 13-year-old Abd al-Rahman Ubeidallah was shot
dead (on Oct. 4, 2015) while on his way home from school by an Israeli
sniper, flaring the protests and clashes,” the statement said.
Ubeidallah was the fourth Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces since
the unrest began last year, with a total of 232 Palestinians being killed by
Israeli forces and settlers since — 60 of them minors. In total, 11
Palestinian children under the age of 14 were killed, and another 49 between
the ages of 15 and 17.
While the violence has largely been characterized by alleged, attempted, and
actual small-scale attacks committed by Palestinians against Israeli
targets, 62 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during clashes,
police and/or army raids, a number of whom who were not involved in clashes
when they were killed.
Aida refugee camp is one of three refugee camps in Bethlehem, in addition to
the nearby al-Azza near the northern entrance to the city and al-Duhiesha
refugee camp located south of central Bethlehem.
Due to the typically aggressive nature of the near-nightly raids into the
camps, clashes often erupt between local Palestinian youth who throw stones
and are met in response with tear gas, sound grenades, rubber-coated steel
bullets, and even live ammunition, often resulting in serious, sometimes
Israeli police and soldiers have come under heavy criticism over the past
year for what rights groups have referred to as “extrajudicial executions”
and excessive use of force against Palestinians — against youth and
children in particular — who did not pose an immediate threat or who could
have been detained through non-lethal means.
Aida is particularly vulnerable to excessive use of force and detention
raids — commonly carried out without evidence of any wrongdoing, as the
camp is located beside Israel’s separation wall and next to an Israeli
military base, with Israeli soldiers being stationed around the clock in a
watchtower that looms over the camp.
A report recently released by the Bethlehem-based NGO BADIL in August warned
of an intensification of the “systematic targeting” of Palestinian youth and
children in the occupied Palestinian territory since the beginning of 2016,
particularly in refugee camps in the West Bank.
BADIL’s initial investigations into the trend focused on the district of
Bethlehem, where at least 83 people were shot with live ammunition between
the beginning of the year and mid-August, the majority in their legs and
knees, causing both permanent and temporary disabilities.
The escalation of live fire injuries came amid reports of an Israeli army
commander responsible for the near-nightly raids into Bethlehem’s three
refugee camps threatening to disable all the youth in al-Duheisha.
BADIL’s investigations continued, releasing another report at the end of
September, which documented testimonies from families in al-Duheisha of
Captain Nidal making death threats to several camp residents, saying that
“the time of shooting you in the legs is over.”
The NGO said that the most recent threats “reinforce the claim made by BADIL
that these threats and actions are not accidental or isolated incidents, but
rather result from a systematic Israeli military policy aimed at suppressing
resistance, terrorizing Palestinian youth, and causing permanent injuries
and damage to their physical and mental well-being.”
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs said in September
that at least 1,000 Palestinian minors between the ages of 11 and 18 had
been detained by Israel since January, including around 70 children from
occupied East Jerusalem who were placed under house arrest.
A lawyer for the Committee, Hiba Masalha, cited at the time a number of
cases in which Palestinian minors were abused and tortured while in
Interrogations of Palestinian children can last up to 90 days according to
prisoners’ rights group Addameer, during which in addition to being beaten
and threatened, cases of sexual assault and placement in solitary
confinement to elicit confessions are also often reported, while confession
documents they are forced to sign are in Hebrew — a language most
Palestinian children do not speak.