Israel arrests four Palestinian children in first week back at school 

Israeli operations to arrest Palestinians in the small hours of the morning occur frequently in the occupied Palestinian territories (AFP)

Shatha Hammad

Middle East Eye  /  September 1, 2021

Families of the teenagers described scenes of fear and anxiety when Israeli soldiers raided their homes in the early hours of the morning.

The Israeli army arrested four Palestinian children in the early hours of Wednesday from their homes in the occupied city of Bethlehem in the southern West Bank.

The four children, Yousef Jamal al-Harimi (15), Adam Ayyad (15), Mansour Saleh Faraj (16), and Issa Muhammad Zarina (17), are all students at Al-Mahd School in Bethlehem. 

Manar al-Harimi, sister of Yousef, described scenes of fear and anxiety when Israeli soldiers raided the house at 3:00am.

“They knocked on the door loudly, and my father who works later was not home at the time,” Harimi told Middle East Eye.  

The soldiers then searched the house, Harimi added, before asking Yousef’s mother to sign a set of documents that included a declaration that the teenager was free of illnesses at the time of his arrest and that he was not subjected to any violence during the raid.  

“Youssef tried to hide his fear and was telling us that he would return in a few hours and that his detention would not be long,” Harimi said.

“We do not know what he is going through now.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, the family was still not aware where Yousef was being held, his sister said.

“Youssef is a young child and has never been arrested. We demand his immediate release,” she said. 

Mohammad Ayyad, the brother of Adam Ayyad, told MEE a similar story of the Israeli raid which came an hour after Harimi’s arrest. 

“We were shocked by Adam’s arrest, we never expected it,” Ayyad said. 

“He is a young child who is supposed to be on his way back from school right about now,” he added. 

The whereabouts of Adam Ayyad are still unknown to his family, who say they have yet to be informed where he is being detained, which only adds to their stress and worry. 

Detention without warning

Hundreds of Palestinian teenagers are arrested by the Israeli military every year in nightly raids, violating the military’s own regulations with regards to issuing summons for interrogation before detention, according to Israeli human rights group HaMoked.

Earlier this month, the Israeli military said it was launching a new procedure to replace the detention of minors without warning with a summoning procedure. 

HaMoked, which brought the petition to end the practice, insisted that exceptions and conditions in the new regulation will limit its implementation.  

Exceptions to the regulation include the need to search the minor’s home; the presence of serious concern over possible flight or obstruction of justice; “immediate danger” posed by the minor; or if summoning one minor will interfere with the arrest of other suspects in the same case. 

“There is reason for concern that little will actually change and that most Palestinian minors wanted for interrogation would not be summoned but would continue to be arrested in a traumatic manner late at night,” HaMoked said in a statement on 3 August. 

According to data gathered from the Israeli police, 483 children were arrested in the occupied West Bank alone in 2020, out of which 383 children were arrested from their homes in the middle of the night or the very early hours of the morning. 

Shatha Hammad is a Palestinian freelance journalist