Profiles of Child Arrests in Beit Ommar
In 2011, tens of children from the village of Beit Ommar were arrested and imprisoned by Israeli forces. These children, all under the age of eighteen, were usually snatched from their homes in midnight raids by the IDF in terrifying circumstances, intended to provoke fear in the children and their families. Here we will examine the cases of three such children who were taken in circumstances such as these.
Mohammed Yousef Awad was arrested on April 1st, 2011. Soldiers smashed the doors and windows of his family home and threw tear gas canisters in. Through loud-hailers they ordered the inhabitants out into the night and, when Mohammed emerged, they beat him, bound his hands and blindfolded him, before taking him away into the night. Police dogs were also present to prevent his escape. Such a scene seems excessive for all but the most hardened criminal or dangerous terrorist. Mohammed, however, was a thirteen year old child. He spent five months
Mohammed Ahmed Abu Hashem was fifteen when the soldiers came for him in April 2012. Fourteen cars full of soldiers and a further three for intelligence surrounded his home and, in unusually cold weather, his whole family suffered the indignity of having first their home and then their persons intrusively searched. This family was no stranger to such events, Mohammed’s father and four of his brothers (including one younger brother) all having spent time in prison as punishment for their father’s activism. Mohammed himself had suffered a previous arrest some time before. He was released after four months in jail, upon payment of a 2000NIS (500$) fine.
On March 31st, 2012, Hussain Ramzi al-Alamei was arrested at a peaceful demonstration in Beit Ommar, (falsely) accused of throwing stones at the soldiers. His family were permitted a forty-five minute visit each month, but even this was an exhausting process for them. Beginning at 2 a.m, the family became the ball in a game of bureaucratic pinball. Bounced from place to place, from Hebron to Ramallah, the checkpoints and roadblocks and humiliating ‘security checks’.
His father, speaking to PSP, expressed his pain at seeing his fourteen year old son’s face ‘yellow with fear’. Hussain was often told that he would never get out, and he was physically and verbally abused. He was released just in time to celebrate Eid with his family, upon payment of a 5000 shekel ($1250) fine. When he was released the judge told Hossein that if he was seenat a demonstration the next four years he would be jailed for seven months.
It is hard to imagine the fear which both the families of the imprisoned and the children themselves feel after incidents such as this. And that, it seems, is the point.