This post has been updated with the IDF’s response (scroll down).
On Tuesday afternoon, seven IDF soldiers and an officer detained a five-year-old Palestinian child, Wadi’a Maswadeh, in Hebron after he threw a stone that according to the IDF, hit the tire of a car belonging to a settler. (The age of criminal responsibility is 12).
The soldiers took him crying and screaming in an army jeep to his home where his mother said he cannot be taken anywhere before the father gets home. (Video footage by B’Tselem volunteers Manal al-Jabri and Imad Abu Shamsia is below.) Once the father, Karam, came home, the soldiers took him and Wadi’a to Checkpoint 56, where they blindfolded and handcuffed Karam. They waited for half an hour, until a lieutenant colonel from the DCO (District Coordination Office of Civil Administration) arrived. He asked the child why he threw stones and then turned to the soldiers and scolded them for detaining a child in front of the cameras. He reportedly told them that “from a Hasbara [PR] standpoint, you are causing damage,” and told them that when cameras are around, they should treat detainees “nicely.” They were eventually met by Palestinian police offers, transferred to their custody and freed shortly thereafter.
B’Tselem has written an urgent letter to IDF Judea and Samaria legal advisor Lt.-Col. Maurice Hirsch, demanding explanation for what appears to be the routine procedure of detaining children illegally. A child under the age of 12 is forbidden by law to be detained or arrested. Furthermore, according to B’Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli, the IDF’s unequal and discriminatory conduct towards settler children who throw stones and Palestinian children who throw stones is clear from such an incident:
“We have extensive documentation of lawbreaking by young Israeli children in Hebron. Settler children under the age of criminal responsibility have often thrown stones at Palestinians with impunity. We are certainly not advocating that Israeli minors under the age of criminal responsibility are arrested – quite the contrary – but the discriminatory treatment is glaring.”
I think what is most shocking about this incident – besides the very fact that soldiers detain a five-year old child, shocking and horrible in and of itself – is how calm everything is. There was no violence exerted by the soldiers (excluding the act of arrest itself), as is often seen in arrests in the West Bank. On the contrary, this was all done very calmly without laying a hand on the child.
The scene of Wadi’a and his father sitting and waiting as he is handcuffed and blindfolded appears to be almost normal; the soldiers, don’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with the scene they are actively engaged in; it doesn’t occur to them to question the actions; and Palestinian passersby are are not surprised by the scene as arrests of this kind are in fact part of the daily routine of occupation. Some of them try to document, as the camera is really their only tool of defense.
The following videos shows different times of the detention. The first shows the child being taken away by soldiers in a jeep without his father, screaming and crying (at about minute 3:00); the second shows the child being escorted to checkpoint with his father; the third shows the father and child waiting at Checkpoint 56.
Update (7:25 p.m., July 11):
The IDF Spokesperson’s office responded with following statement: “On Tuesday afternoon a minor was caught in the act of hurling rocks towards a public street in Hebron and, by doing so, endangering passers-by in the area. IDF soldiers intervened on the spot and accompanied the minor to his parents. From there he was passed on to the care of the Palestinian Security Forces, all the while accompanied by his parents. The child was not arrested and no charges were filed.”
Detained: Testimonies from Palestinian children imprisoned by Israel
WATCH: IDF detains Palestinian children and foreign citizen in Hebron
IDF soldiers to West Bank children: ‘We are the army, be careful if we see you’