15-year-old Mohamad Abu Hashem released from prison
On April 23, Mohamad (Hamouda) Jamal Abu Hashem was woken up in the middle of a night raid by his brother, who told him that soldiers had broken into the house and were there to arrest him. Soldiers took 15-year-old Hamouda, charged with throwing stones at a recent demonstration, first to the military base in the nearby settlement Karmei Tzur and from there to the Gush Etzion detention center two hours later, where they began to interrogate him. They slapped him and demanded to know why he and his family, many of whom are involved in the resistance movement, participated in the local Beit Ommar protests. They showed Hamouda pictures of other Palestinians and demanded that he identify and give information on them, and continued to question him for two more hours when he replied that he didn’t know them.
The next day IOF forces transferred Hamouda, who had spent the rest of the night alone in a cell, to the prison in Ofer. There, he was hit and interrogated for more than three hours by three different officials and then put in a juvenile cell with nine other boys, four of whom were also from Beit Ommar. Although only individuals between ages 16 and 18 are technically allowed in the unit, according to Hamouda a 12-year old boy and three others younger than 16 were also held in the juvenile unit. Police came into the cell three times a day to count them, though often they would wake the boys up in the middle of the night for additional role calls. Hamouda was held in prison for over two months, finally being released June 20th after paying a 2,000 shekel charge.
Muhammad’s story is not unusual in Beit Ommar: currently twenty-one out of the 112 minors held in Ofer are from his village. According to a recent PSP report, each year approximately 500-700 Palestinian children (12-17 years) from the West Bank are prosecuted in Israeli military courts after being arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army, police or security agents. It is estimated that since the year 2000, around 7,500 Palestinian children have been detained and prosecuted in the system. Credible reports of torture and/or ill-treatment during the arrest, transfer and interrogation stages in the system have persisted for years. Like Muhammad, the majority of these children are charged with throwing stones.
Even now, Muhammad is still dealing with the effects of his imprisonment: Since his return home, he has not been able to sleep, and he may have to repeat his junior year because of missing so much school. Being home has not meant being reunited with his whole family: his older brother Emad, arrested April 17th, and father Ahmed, arrested May 12th for participating in the local demonstration, are still being held without charge in Ofer.
Despite his arrest and experiences in prison, Muhammad said he will continue participating in demonstrations. Even while in Ofer, Muhammad still took part in the resistance movement: Despite receiving insufficient food, he and all of his cellmates fasted every other day in solidarity with the hunger strikes of Mahmoud Sarsak and other Palestinian activists. When asked why, Hamouda responded “It’s for the land.”