According to data collected by UN OCHA, thousands of Israeli raids on occupied West Bank communities are conducted every year, many of them at night. In some of these raids, heavily armed Israeli forces arrest Palestinian children from their family homes in the middle of the night, often breaking into the family home before taking the terrified child from their bed. Military Court Watch has collected the testimonies of children and their parents, detailing this typically violent and traumatising practice.
In recent testimony collected by Military Court Watch that provides acute insight into this routine practice of Israel’s military occupation, a Palestinian mother describes the terrifying night-time arrest of her 13-year-old son by soldiers who entered her family home at 03:30 on 12 October 2022. She testifies:
“[A]round eight Israeli soldiers entered our home. They had broken open the door downstairs with a sledge hammer before coming up to our apartment… The soldiers went straight to the bedroom of our 13-year-old son…
My son was still in bed and thought he was having a nightmare when he woke and saw soldiers over his head. He later told me a soldier kicked him in the knee while he was still in bed and then grabbed him by his T-shirt and pushed him against the wall. He then passed out.
Meanwhile, when I went back to my bedroom to get properly dressed I was followed by a soldier who did not allow me to leave the bedroom. My other son was being held in the kitchen. About 30 minutes later the soldiers gathered us all in the living room…
One of the soldiers aimed his gun at us and did not allow us to move or speak. I told the soldier that my two-month-old daughter was still in her crib and I pleaded with him to allow me to fetch her but he refused. I was terrified that the soldiers might accidentally harm her as they roamed around our home. All I wanted was to hold her in my arms.
When my other daughter stood up to go and fetch the baby a soldier threw a chair at her and aimed his gun at her head. I thought he was going to shoot her. I was also worried the soldiers might use tear gas inside our house and I was panicking that my infant daughter would suffocate…
Then they took my 13-year-old son outside. I looked out the window to say good bye to him and to tell him to be strong, but a soldier aimed his gun at me and yelled at me to shut the window.
When the soldiers left we all burst into tears, sobbing and crying uncontrollably. We could not sleep… My husband blamed himself for allowing the solders to take our son away… It was a hellish night I will never forget. Our son was released on bail two days later.
Our village is very close to the Green Line and to a cluster of settlements including Maccabim and Modi’in Illit. We are close to a road which the villagers refer to as the “road of death”. It is used by settlers to commute back and forth to Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem and no Palestinian is allowed to go near it.”
Further testimonies collected by Military Court Watch and DCIP, and analysis by Israeli human rights NGOs B’Tselem and HaMoked, strongly indicate that the night-time arrest of children is used arbitrarily, with children often released a short time after their arrest. In addition, the practice contributes to a coercive environment in which Palestinian communities live in fear and uncertainty.
In addition to the calls made by Save the Children and DCIP, LPHR calls for the end of the widespread and systematic practice of arresting children from their homes in the night. For further information, see LPHR’s briefing on Israel’s military detention of Palestinian children living in the occupied Palestinian territory.