|Date of incident:
||15 February 2012
||Beit Ummar, West Bank
|Nature of incident:
||Night raids / arrest of children
On 15 February 2012, a 43-year-old mother from Beit Ummar, near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, describes repeated night raids on her home and the arrest of her children.
“Our village is surrounded by settlements in all directions and a road used by the army and settlers passes close by,” says Hamda. “We have lots of problems because of the settlements and because of this road. Many children are arrested and the village is raided by the army almost every day. The first three months of this year alone were a disaster,” recalls Hamda.
“I was at home getting ready to sleep on a cold winter night in mid-February. I don’t remember the exact date. I found it hard to sleep so I looked out the window to the hill across the valley where the settlement of Karmi Zur is built. I saw army jeeps and soldiers moving around and I immediately knew this was not good news for the village. I woke my husband and told him it looks like the village might be raided. I wondered who the unlucky mother is whose son will be arrested tonight. It did not occur to me that they might be raiding our house.”
“My husband went to the bathroom and came back and told me soldiers were surrounding our house. I didn’t believe him, so I looked out to see for myself. I wondered who they were looking for. My son Yousef was already in prison and my other children are too young. I thought maybe this time they had come for my husband,” recalls Hamda.
“I got dressed. It was around 2:30 am when we heard the knock at the door. When my husband went to the balcony overlooking the entrance the soldiers verbally abused him. I think they recognised him because he takes part in the weekly demonstration against the settlements. They called my husband a dog and a donkey and my husband answered them back. They told him to come down and open the front gate. We all went down with him. They asked to see my husband’s identity card. They looked at the details and read the names of our children registered on the card. One of the soldiers asked for our son Mohammad who was standing next to me. When Mohammad identified himself one of the soldiers grabbed him from the front of his T-shirt and pulled him aside.”
“I was shocked when I finally realised they were here for Mohammad,” recalls Hamda. “It didn’t occur to me that they had come for him; he is only 15 years old. When my other son Hamza saw they were about to arrest his brother he lost his mind and even kicked a soldier. I got into an argument with a soldier too. I wanted to know why they were arresting Mohammad. 'He hasn’t done anything wrong,’ I shouted, 'he is only 15, leave him alone,’ but they did not listen to me,” says Hamda.
“When I realised Mohammad’s arrest
was inevitable, all I wanted to do was to give him warm clothes to put on as it was a freezing night. The soldier refused but I insisted. When the soldier started to shout at me and to humiliate me I asked to see his superior. 'I want to speak to someone who will listen to me,’ I said, 'I want my son to put on warm clothes.’ The supervisor agreed with me and I was able to give Mohammad some warm clothes.”
“Minutes later they took him away on foot. They did not tie his hands or blindfold him, but later my sister-in-law, who lives next door, told me she saw him blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back. She also told me that the young men in the neighbourhood started throwing stones at the soldiers. She saw that they put Mohammad in front and used him as a shield to protect themselves from the stones. They shouted at Mohammad and told him to tell the young men not to throw stones. Mohammad later told me that he was hit by two stones.”
Hamda’s son Mohammad was detained for several days. “During that time he was detained at the settlement of Karni Zur, then they transferred him to Gush Etzion settlement and then to Ofer prison near Ramallah. All this time we didn’t know where he was or why he was taken. We contacted an Israeli human rights organisation who later told us he was in Ofer. They also told us he was assigned a military court hearing and that he was accused of many things,” says Hamda.
“That night I wasn’t able to sleep at all. I was worried about Mohammad and feared that they might beat him up. I felt sick for three days and stayed in bed. This is what happens to me each time my house is raided and one of my children is arrested. This is an unbearable situation; living in constant fear is affecting my health. I have high blood pressure and I sometimes have problems breathing. I take medicine to keep me going. It is very hard. Luckily Mohammad was released on bail several days later, but my other son, Yousef, is still in jail. He was arrested in October 2011.”
“Yousef’s arrest was a terrible experience for me,” says Hamda. “They beat him on his head in front of my eyes. I nearly lost consciousness as I watched helplessly. They tied his hands behind his back and took him away. They forced him on the ground with his face down and then crushed his head with their boots. I saw about 15 soldiers taking turns to beat and kick him all over his body, even in his sensitive parts. They beat him with plastic batons. He screamed out in pain and called for me. When I approached to try to protect him a soldier hit me with the back of his gun in my chest. I was in severe pain and later found out that my rib was fractured. I still feel pain in my chest nearly six months later.”
“Yousef and I are very close. He is kind-hearted and always offers to help. He is detained in a prison inside Israel
and I haven’t seen him for months. I applied for a permit to enter Israel to visit him but my application was rejected. It is killing me that I cannot see his face and speak to him. When I attended his court I saw how badly he was treated; there were bruises all over his face and he had lost weight,” recalls Hamda.
“My children’s lives are being destroyed. The time they spend in jail is crucial time in their lives which is lost forever. My other children suffer too. We are all depressed around each other. When I am sick and stay in bed the whole house comes to a standstill. I lose my ability to do my house work as usual and I neglect my younger children. I then force myself out of bed when I realise this is not going to help. I am unable to rest or sleep, not even at night, I am vigilant all the time, listening for sounds and looking around the house. The image of Yousef being hit on the head so harshly does not leave my mind. They deliberately wanted me to see him being beaten. I haven’t seen or heard from him for five months now. I miss him and wonder how he is doing.”
“The happiest time for me is when I have all my children around me at home. I cook for them, I chat with them and I know they are safe. Unfortunately we haven’t had a peaceful time together in a long time. My house was raided so much during the last six months that I can’t even remember how many times. Night raids have become a routine. This affects the young children and disturbs the relationship between the adults. We are all anxious and tense all the time and have no tolerance for each other. I sometimes blame my husband for this situation and he blames me. He doesn’t have a regular job and he spends a lot of time at home. “
“If my husband could find regular work things would be much easier for us. We can hardly make ends meet. We also have to pay a lot of money for lawyers and fines; it is very hard. The village has lost so much land to the settlements and we lost so much income we used to receive from agriculture. The situation is not looking good, not for my husband and not for my children. There is nothing to look forward to in the future. I am sad and I have lost hope,” says Hamda.