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Mohammd and his friend, Fadi, were first taken to Huwwara and Salem interrogation centres in the north of the West Bank, where they were held for around eight days and taken briefly before a military court. During this time, Mohammad was interrogated by a man who called himself “Jihad” who accused him of starting a fire which had spread up the hillside from the village and threatened the settlement of Yizhar – “he accused me of starting the fire and threatened to shock me with electricity if I didn’t confess to what he wanted | 89 me to confess,” recalls Mohammad. Fadi was similarly threatened, but was also told that “if you don’t confess, we’ll accuse you of having a hunting gun, and detain you on possession and stone-throwing.” Mohammad also recalls signing some papers but without knowing their contents.
On 17 June the boys were taken before Salem Military Court and their detention was extended for a further eight days. The boys’ parents were present in court but the soldiers prevented them from talking. On 21 June, soldiers came and handcuffed the boys and shackled their feet together before transferring them to Petah Tikva, an interrogation centre and prison inside Israel, located near Tel Aviv. The transfer of the boys out of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and into Israel contravened Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits such transfers. On arrival at Petah Tikva, Mohammad was again interrogated by a man who called himself ‘Nirva’ or ‘Durva’ – “Who started the fire on the mountain?” Mohammad recalls being asked, “not me,” replied Mohammad, “I was at school sitting an exam and after that I went with my friends to buy some food and I didn’t know anything about the fire.” The fact that Mohammad was at school sitting an exam when the fire started is confirmed by his mother.
It was whilst in Petah Tikva, that both boys were placed in solitary confinement for six days. “He told me that on the sixth day in solitary confinement he began to bang on the door and to scream and shout, begging the guards to take him back to the other cell to be with other prisoners,” recalls Khadra, who describes Mohammad as a very sociable boy who is always surrounded by children his own age and younger. “The guards shouted back at him, cursed him and showed no sympathy. He was on his own for six days; he didn’t see anyone and didn’t talk to anyone. He was in a small room with a mattress on the floor and two blankets. He didn’t have a pillow. The room didn’t have any windows and he couldn’t tell whether it was day or night. The guards kept the lights on the whole time and he had difficulty falling asleep. He told me he hung his underwear on the light bulb to make it dimmer in order to fall asleep. They gave him prison clothes that were too big for him, and the trousers kept falling off. He had no idea how long he was going to be there and that alone made him loose his mind.” | Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted The ordeal of Mohammad’s detention was difficult for his mother to bear. “I cried most when I saw his friends flying kites in the empty piece of land behind the house without him. I knew Mohammad was innocent but I also knew that wasn’t going to make it any less of an ordeal for him. I blamed myself for not talking to him about prison, to make sure he never confesses to anything he did not do,” says Khadra. According to Mohammad, the boys considered confessing because they could not stand it any longer, but because they were not involved in the fire, they did not know what story to tell.
On 1 July 2010, without prior notice, Israeli soldiers dropped the two boys off at a checkpoint far from home at 8:30 pm and told them to “go home.”“I cannot believe he has been released,” says Khadra, “but he is not the same boy anymore. He has changed a lot. He spends hours alone, gazing and doing nothing. He does not eat with us and spends a lot of time sleeping. He listens to adult prison songs. He breaks my heart. I don’t know what to do […] I will do anything to make Mohammad happy again.’ At around 2:45 am, on the morning of 10 June 2010, Israeli soldiers deliver a summons to the family of a seven-year-old boy from Beit Ummar.
“We woke up to banging on the front door of our house accompanied by people shouting in Hebrew: ‘open the door, it’s the IDF,’” recalls ‘Alia, the mother of seven-year-old Muhsen. “My husband answered the door and three Israeli soldiers stormed the house. One of the soldiers asked my husband, in mixed Arabic and Hebrew, for our son Muhsen, our youngest child.” ‘Alia’s husband informed the soldier that Muhsen was seven-years-old, and showed the soldier his birth certificate.
“The officer read the date of birth, which is on 17 September 2002, and laughed, but still handed him the summons ‘inviting’ my son to Etzion interrogation centre the next morning because he is ‘wanted for interview,’” recalls ‘Alia.
The document handed to ‘Alia’s husband is a standard form document printed in Hebrew and Arabic with specific details filled in handwritten Hebrew. The unsigned document appears to have been issued by the Israeli District Coordination Office on behalf of the “Israeli Defense Forces” at Etzion. The document is an “invitation” for Muhsen to attend to meet Captain Tamir at Etzion Centre at 2:00 pm, later on the same day. Etzion Centre is a | 91 place well known to the local residents as an Israeli interrogation and detention centre, located inside the settlement of Gush Etzion, halfway between Hebron and Bethlehem.
Seven-year-old Muhsen slept through the night time raid by the Israeli army, but was told what had happened the next morning by his mother. “My siblings and my mother were shocked to know that the soldiers wanted me to go to Etzion centre because I am very young,” says Muhsen, “I am still in the second grade and after the summer break I’ll be in the third grade. I don’t want my father to take me to the centre because I know, and hear people saying, that it is a prison, and if I go there, they will take me away from my family.” Muhsen’s father had to visit a relative in hospital later that day and did not take his son to the interrogation centre as requested. “I still don’t know if my father will take me there or not,” worries Muhsen, “my family doesn’t know whether the soldiers will come back to the house and ask me why I haven’t gone. Israeli soldiers often come to our town. Six months ago they came and took my uncle, and he’s still in prison. They also took my cousin, and he’s still in prison.” Subsequent enquiries found that the summons was not intended for seven-year-old Muhsen, and the name on the document, written in Hebrew, is that of another person. It appears the Israeli army delivered the summons to the wrong house, in the wrong village.
The family has not received an explanation or apology from the Israeli authorities.
On 5 August 2010, a 16-year-old boy from Azzun village, is arrested with three other children outside his village near a road used by Israeli settlers. Abed was accused of throwing stones and reports being given electric shocks in Ari’el settlement.
“I was hanging out with my friends Yahia, Nahar and Raed,” recalls Abed. “It was around 12 noon and we were near the road which connects Qalqiliya to Nablus, near our village. Israeli settlers and soldiers travel on this road. While we were hanging out, an Israeli jeep passed by and Yahia jokingly waved at it.” The soldiers turned the jeep around and started chasing the boys who ran away. The jeep was joined by another vehicle and soon the boys grew tired and stopped running. “Two soldiers got out of the jeep and started running towards us,” recalls Abed.
“They searched us then ordered us to walk with them until we reached the jeep.” A number of other jeeps soon arrived and the four boys were loaded into them and taken to the nearby Israeli settlement of Zufin.
| Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted On arrival at Zufin settlement, the boys were pulled out of the jeeps and made to sit on the ground. “Then they tied our hands behind our backs with plastic cords and blindfolded us,” says Abed. “The cords were very tight and I felt pain.” Abed was not beaten at
the settlement but he recalls hearing the sound of beating and his friend Yahia shouting:
“Don’t beat me.” The boys were left sitting on the ground for about two hours, during which time Abed was briefly taken to see a doctor who asked him a few questions about his health whilst filling out a questionnaire. Abed’s blindfold was removed in the presence of the doctor, but his hands remained tied behind his back. About two hours after arriving at Zufin settlement, the boys were loaded into a truck and transferred to a police station in Ari’el settlement.
On arrival at Ari’el settlement, Abed was led up some stairs and made to sit on a chair for 15 minutes before being taken for interrogation. “They removed my blindfold,” recalls Abed, “but kept my hands tied. I saw two interrogators in the room. One spoke Arabic and was called ‘Josef’. Josef accused me of throwing stones which I denied. He then called the other interrogator who spoke to me in Hebrew, which Josef translated. ‘If you don’t confess,’ said the other interrogator, ‘I’ll chop you into pieces.’ He was holding a small device which he said produced an electric shock. ‘I’ll shock you with it if you don’t confess,’ he said. ‘I didn’t throw stones and I don’t want to confess,’ I replied. The second interrogator then shocked me twice. The shocks were really painful and my body started shivering, but I didn’t confess. ‘This time I will shock you for longer,’ said the interrogator. The second interrogator then shocked me twice for longer than previously and I could no longer feel my arms or legs. My body started shivering and I started shouting. I felt my body was paralysed and I could no longer tolerate the shocks. ‘I threw stones and I’ll confess to anything you want,’ I said. The interrogator stopped shocking me and then Josef took my statement in which I confessed to throwing stones. The statement was written in Arabic but I wasn’t allowed to read it. The interrogation lasted about two hours during which time my hands remained tied behind my back.” On 22 September 2010, a 13-year-old boy from Hebron, is arrested by Israeli soldiers on his way home from school and later accused of throwing stones at a settler car. A military court orders house detention and no school.
Thirteen-year-old Karam lives in the old city of Hebron. “My house is only 100 metres away from the settlement of Kirya Arba, and settlers walk by our house every day,” says Karam. On 22 September 2010, at around 12 noon, Karam was walking home from school. “I was in front of my grandfather’s store located near the road used by settlers. Suddenly, two Israeli soldiers grabbed me. Things were calm at the time and I hadn’t done anything wrong.” Karam was dragged 60 metres by the soldiers and was then punched and slapped, but ‘not hard’ he says. “I was scared and crying. I didn’t know what they would do to me.” The soldiers accused Karam of throwing stones at a settler car, which he denies, and they continued to beat him for about five minutes.
Shortly afterwards, Karam’s hands were tied in front of him with plastic ties and he was blindfolded. He was then made to sit on the ground against a wall for two hours. “I felt very exhausted,” recalls Karam, “and kept wondering what would happen to me. I was very scared. It was the first time I went through something like this. I was hungry and thirsty because I had been at school all morning.” After about two hours, Karam was put in an Israeli police car and taken to nearby police station. “I knew it was a police car,” says Karam, “because a policeman lifted my blindfold and asked for my name.” A short time later Karam arrived at the police station and after another 30 minutes, was taken for interrogation. “I was made to sit on a wooden seat in front of the table. He [the interrogator] sat behind the table. ‘Why do you throw stones?’ he asked. ‘I didn’t,’ I said. ‘Yes you did, you threw stones at a settler’s car,’ he said. ‘No I didn’t,’ I said once again. He then started shouting at me: ‘Liar,’ he shouted. ‘I’m not a liar,’ I said.” Karam was interrogated for around 15 minutes and was then made to sit in a corridor.
Shortly afterwards, one of Karam’s neighbours came to the police station and tried to persuade the police to release Karam because he is young and didn’t do anything wrong.
Karam’s father was still at work at the time. After another hour of discussion, the police eventually released Karam into the custody of his neighbour. As they walked home, the pair bumped into Karam’s father who had heard about his son’s arrest and was rushing to the police station.
| Bound, Blindfolded and Convicted “The next day,” recalls Karam, “I skipped school because of my eldest sister’s engagement party. At around 10:00 am, Israeli soldiers surrounded our house and an officer ordered my grandfather to bring me outside. I wasn’t scared that much,” says Karam, “because we’ve got used to soldiers.” Karam was again put in a police car and taken to the police station. Karam’s father, Khaled, insisted on accompanying his son, and the soldiers allowed him to do so. On arrival at the police station, father and son were separated, and Karam was again taken for interrogation. “I want you to tell me how you threw stones at a settler’s car and with whom,” asked the interrogator. Again, Karam denied that he had any involvement in throwing stones. After the interrogation, Karam was made to sit in a corridor for about four hours until two policemen came and shackled his hands and blindfolded him before placing him in a vehicle and transporting him to Ofer prison, near Ramallah. Whilst his son was being interrogated, Khaled was being held in a shipping container before being sent home alone. On arrival at Ofer prison, Karam was placed in Room Number 5 with six adult detainees.