IDF Soldiers Detain Five-year-old Palestinian for Stone-throwing in Hebron

Video shot by activist from Israeli rights organization B'Tselem shows soldiers circling child; another video shows boy alongside his handcuffed and blindfolded father; army to investigate.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Israel Defense Forces soldiers earlier this week were videotaped detaining a five-year-old Palestinian boy in Hebron, after he allegedly threw a stone at an Israeli car on Tuesday.

The video, shot by Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, shows soldiers from the Givati Brigade stationed in the West Bank city detaining Wa’adi Maswada, aged five years and nine months.

In the video, one of the soldiers is heard asking the boy, “Where is Daddy?” Several local residents try to speak to the soldiers and deter them from proceeding with the arrest. One of the soldiers then tells them [in English], “He’s a child, eh?… No, but he threw it.” Another soldier says to the boy and the crowd, “Get over here, don’t set me off.” A Palestinian teenager takes the child by his hand and leads him off to the side. The whole time the 5-year-old can be heard crying.

Six soldiers can be seen gathering around the two, as the teenager stars telling the commanding officer from the Givati Brigade where the child lives. The child is led to a military Jeep, and the officer tells the child, “Climb in with me.” The child starts to flail and tries to run away, still crying, while residents start to gather around. An older person arrives and takes the child’s hand and they climb up together, as the boy continues to weep and is eventually dragged into the Jeep.

According to reports by B’Tselem, the soldiers arrived at the home of the Maswada family together with the boy. The mother was home at the time, according to B'Tselem, and the officer told the mother he was going to turn the child over to Palestinian police, but that they refused to take him before his father, Karem, arrived. Half an hour later the father came home, and the officer told him he was arresting the boy and turning him over to the Palestinian police.

“I asked the officer, ‘Why would you arrest a five-year old?’" the father said in his testimony to B'Tselem. "A soldier standing next to the officer showed me a stone and claimed my son threw it and that it hit the tire of a Jewish settler’s car driving north near the Abed checkpoint."

The father said he tried to persuade the officer not to take the boy to the District Coordination and Liaison Administration. The officer told him he would be arrested as well if he didn’t let the boy go.

"I went inside and brought Wa’adi out," the father said. "He was hiding inside, crying.” According to testimony from the family, the two were taken to a military base where they were detained for about half an hour. Afterward the two were brought to the police checkpoint in Hebron.

Another video shows the father, his eyes covered with a piece of flannel, handcuffed, with the boy standing next to him. At the same time, one of the soldiers pulls out a digital camera and documents the B’Tselem field worker who is filming the events. According to the family, about half an hour later, a lieutenant colonel shows up, apparently from the local District Coordination and Liaison headquarters. Only after he arrives are the father’s blindfold and handcuffs removed, and the officer starts to interrogate the man. Relatives report that a Palestinian liaison officer later arrived accompanied by several policemen. The father and son were handed over and taken to the Palestinian police station. After a brief interrogation they were released.

In a letter to the legal counsel for the Judea and Samaria Division, Jessica Montell, executive director of B’Tselem wrote, “The video shows clearly that this was not the error of a lone soldier but rather conduct that, appallingly, is seen as reasonable by all involved, including senior commanding officers. It is especially astonishing that, at no point during this incident, were any red flags raised: not by the fact that they terrified a 5-year-old, threatened him and his parents about turning them over to the Palestinian police, threatening to arrest the father, which has no legal basis whatsoever, and not his handcuffing or blindfolding in the presence of his young child.”

Two days ago, the website of Hakol Hayehudi reported that a week ago, soldiers handcuffed two Jewish children, aged 10 and 13, using plasticuffs, after the two showed up at a construction site between the village of Assira A-Kabilla and the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar where reservoirs are being dug. According to the website, the soldiers who were securing the location detained the two children for several minutes and released them only after warning them never to come back to the site.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit responded to the report by saying: We regret that B'Tselem has chosen – on a regular basis – to distribute videos of this kind to the media before clarifying the issue with the army first. The incident involved a minor who threw stones at a road in Hebron. IDF soldiers detained the minor, transferred him to his parents and then to Palestinian police for further handling."

Another army official said the child was not arrested at any point, and that "it is unnecessary to point out that a stone thrown by a minor can harm a person. The military prosecutor is not yet familiar with the incident. It will be investigated by the relevant authorities."

Regarding the incident in Yitzhar, an IDF official said that forces tried to prevent the youths from acting out in the area where the soldiers were and from damaging their personal equipment. "At no point in time were the youths handcuffed or arrested," the IDF Spokesperson said.

Screenshot of the B'Tselem video.

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