Beit Ummar Child Arrests, Case Study I
“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 soldiers 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 an 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 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 the 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.