Two teens arrested as Israel turns attention to Balata refugee camp

Mariam Barghouti

Mondoweiss  /  November 9, 2022

Teenage brothers Wael and Yousef Musheh were beaten in their own home before being arrested and put before a military court, facing charges of being part of a militant cell.

During the dawn hours of Monday, November 7, Israeli military forces conducted a large-scale military raid on Balata refugee camp, arresting two Palestinian minors, Wael and Yousef Musheh, 15 and 16 years old, respectively.

“At approximately 4:00 a.m, a large Israeli military force invaded the camp,” Abu Eyad, 54, told Mondoweiss. “We thought that these forces were invading to target the resistance fighters,” he said in a distraught voice, as he remembered the attack two days later. 

“We were all surprised when we found out that this large military force of armored vehicles was here for two kids.”

During the violent raid, both teenagers were beaten by a group of soldiers, according to the family. Soldiers had broken into the building where the two teenagers live with their mother and younger siblings, Ghazal, Mohammad, and Rama.

Targeting minors

“It was the first time my children were ever beaten,” 39-year-old Huda Musheh told Mondoweiss. Abu Eyad, who is the teenagers’ uncle, had been helping take care of the boys and their siblings ever since their father was arrested and imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority (PA) almost five years ago. 

“I think this was the first time these kids were exposed to this kind of brutality by soldiers,” Abu Eyad said.

Since the beginning of the year, Israel has arrested 739 Palestinian children and minors. Of those, 119 of were in the month of October, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Society. 

The two brothers were separated from one another — starting in their own home, when each boy was restrained and forced into a corner. Wael was taken to the living room by four soldiers, according to Abu Eyad. “They kept beating him and bashing his head,” he said.

Yousef, on the other hand, was locked in the bathroom. Soldiers continued to abuse him, while pointing their guns at 5-year-old Ghazzal, demanding that she inform them of the whereabouts of her brother’s phone. 

“The gun was put to her head,” Abu Eyad said. “She didn’t know what to say. Her finger began moving from side to side like a car window wiper, not sure what the right answer was for the soldier.”

“I was beaten,” Wael, only 15, said during a court hearing on Wednesday afternoon. “I was beaten during the arrest, and then again during the interrogation, and they are still beating me now,” he explained to the military judge. 

Both are held in the Israeli interrogation center of Petah Tikva, notorious for its abuse and torture of children, as well as the coerced confessions that are extracted from detainees there. 

On Tuesday afternoon, a separate court hearing for Yousef showed that the Israeli courts are attempting to charge the boys with belonging to a militant cell. The young brothers have a court hearing next Tuesday, in Salem courthouse.

While the young boys are being denied their basic rights according to the ICRC, ratified by Israel in 1991, their family and younger siblings are still traumatized by the assault. Rama, 12, has been yelling in night terrors, while Mohammad, 9, has been peeing himself. Ghazzal is still in shock.

The Balata Brigade protects a vulnerable community

During the invasion on the Musheh home, the Balata Brigade, the armed resistance group based in Balata refugee camp, exchanged fire with the invading army. The Brigade had exposed an undercover Israeli special forces unit east of the camp. “The Balata Brigade confronted the occupation forces from point zero,” the group said in a statement a few hours after the assault.

As confrontations continued, in the Musheh household, Israeli forces were still beating the young boys. “The Balata Brigade confronted [the Israeli occupation] defiantly,” Abu Eyad said. “I think it was because the arrest was disrupted [by the Brigade] that the soldiers had to rush their exit and, as a result, had to stop beating the kids,” he told Mondoweiss.

Two days after their arrest, Israeli forces had invaded Balata refugee camp and killed 17-year-old Mahdi Mohammad Hashash, a resistance fighter affiliated with the Balata Brigade, which took to calling him “the lion of the Brigade.”

This name recalls the similar nickname given to Lions’ Den resistance fighter Ibrahim al-Nabulsi — “the Lion of Nablus” — who was assassinated by Israeli forces in August of this year. On the evening before Al-Nabulsi’s assassination on the morning of August 9, Israeli forces had invaded near the Old City of Nablus — also under the pretext of arresting someone. Hours later, it was found that undercover special forces had remained behind as part of an assassination mission against the 18-year-old. This illustrates a pattern of multiple operations taking place in the same area when conducting assassinations, for the purposes of dividing Palestinian resistance groups and facilitating targeted assassinations.

“These are children, and I have spent close to 25 years in Israeli prisons,” Abu Eyad said“I know the torture and violence in that space,” he said in frightful anticipation of what lies ahead for the young boys. 

“Yousef can’t see without his glasses,” Huda told Mondoweiss in a shaky voice. “And when Wael was taken he was limping from the beatings,” she said. 

As she listed the different injuries she last saw her teenage boys incur, she added that “their mental well-being and physical health are at risk, they’re already being traumatized.”

“Bring my boys home,” she said in a final plea.

Mariam Barghouti is the Senior Palestine Correspondent for Mondoweiss