Israeli Forces Arrest Two Palestinian Boys, Ages 11 and 12, in Beit Ommar

27 January 2011

Update: Hamza Abu Hashem has been released. !2 year-old Bilal is still being held by Israeli forces.

On Thursday, January 27th at 2pm, two army jeeps full of Israeli soldiers entered the Palestinian village of Beit Ommar in the southern West Bank, and arrested two Palestinian boys, Bilal Mahmood Awad, age 12, and Hamza Ahmed Abu Hashem age 11. The boys were arrested while they were playing football not far from their homes.

Bilal and Hamza were taken to the nearby Israeli settlement of Karmei Tsur and then transferred to the police station in Kiryat Arba settlement in Hebron. Hamza is the son of a member of the National Committee Against the Wall and Settlements in Beit Ommar, a committee that organizes weekly unarmed demonstrations against the occupation.

Israel was a signatory to the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which mandated that “the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort.” By all eyewitness accounts, Bilal and Hamza were only playing football in their own village at the time of their arrest. As of yet, no explanation has been given for their detention.

Israel routinely imprisons Palestinian minors under the age of 18 in the Occupied Territories, often in violation of International Law. Another Beit Ommar youth, Mohammad Awad, age 14, was released from an Israeli prison earlier this month after serving a month and a half despite his young age and affliction with a chronic medical condition.