Israeli soldiers entered the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum several days ago for an unconventional mission - to post leaflets that, from a distance, looked innocent enough, but upon closer inspection proved to be photographs of four youths from the village bearing the caption, in faulty Arabic: “We are the army. Be careful. If we see you, we’re going to catch you or come to your house.” A blog covering Israel and Palestine, 972mag.com, first reported on the posters on its site.
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In the five days since the pages were posted on Saturday night, the four boys have been the hot topic in the village. Inhabitants stop to ask them why the army is looking for them, and their families are concerned.
“We are of school age,” says Sari Braham, one of the youths pictured on the leaflets posted by the Israel Defense Forces soldiers. "We didn’t think Israel and its army would do this. We are afraid that at any moment the army will come for us. I feel ‘wanted’ [for questioning], and every time I see a jeep at the entrance to school I go home.”
Jamal, Sari's father, said the pictures the army posted were extremely disturbing. “I fear for my son’s life," he said. "How can an army that claims to be the strongest in the region threaten children?”
Kafr Qaddum has been the site of demonstrations every Friday for years, due to the closure of the road connecting it to Nablus. The IDF acknowledges the area is considered one of the main demonstration sites in the West Bank, and the army usually disperses protests with tear gas, shock grenades and sometimes uses “skunk,” a foul-smelling liquid, used for crowd control. In the past the army also used dogs, but has stopped this practice.
According to village resident Hilmi Shatiwi, “It’s all because of the demonstrations. We demonstrate because they’ve closed off the main road for 10 years and they don’t allow us free access to our lands."
He added that the army hasn’t been able to stop the demonstrations and has sought new ways to thwart them. "Now they’ve put up the leaflets," Shatiwi said. "They probably thought that people would be frightened to go to to the demonstration and that this would stop it, but we say it doesn’t matter what they do – they won’t stop the demonstration.”
“Every minute I’m thinking they’re coming to arrest me at night,” says Abboud Jum’a, 16, also pictured on the leaflet. “I sleep with my shoes on, so I’ll be able to escape. When I’m at school that’s all I think about.” The youths told Haaretz that another of the boys whose picture was posted has gone to Jericho.
In the past, the army's Central Command considered dealing with the demonstrations in West Bank villages using psychological warfare. For example, in an attempt to discourage inhabitants from participating in demonstrations, which the army claims are funded by foreign groups, one village leader was pictured in his SUV with the caption “Where do you think the money for this comes from?”
The IDF Spokesman responded: “This activity is among the various measures taken against violent disturbances and stone-throwing."
Another military source said, "This is a local initiative that is part of the IDF's handling of disturbances and stone-throwing. The use of this method will be examined.”