A group of Israeli soldiers gathered around 20 Palestinian children and teens in Hebron last week to ask them about a stone-throwing incident and then photographed each one before allowing them to leave.
The incident, which happened in Hebron’s Jaber neighborhood on May 24, was filmed by Suzan Zraqo, a B’Tselem volunteer who lives in the neighborhood. It was posted by B’Tselem on its website and Facebook page Thursday.
In the clip, the soldiers tell the children — seven of whom were under 12, the age of criminal responsibility — to first line up against a wall and then to sit down. The children, who, according to B’Tselem, were chosen at random, were asked about an incident earlier that day in which stones were thrown at a bus. A soldier then photographed each of them with his cellphone before releasing them.
The organization said that as far as could be determined, none of the children were interrogated and it appeared that they were stopped and photographed without actually being suspected of anything. B’Tselem says the purpose of the encounter was to intimidate the children, to deter them from throwing stones in the future and to make it easier for the army to identify them if they should do so.
“Given the soldiers’ conduct in this incident, it appears that their goal was primarily to intimidate the children in order to deter them from throwing stones, and to make it easier for the military to identify them in case they do,” B’Tselem said on its website. “This demonstrates blatant disregard for the military’s duty to protect the rights of minors. The legality of this course of action is doubtful: the military is prohibited from treating civilians — certainly minors, and especially those under the age of criminal liability — as potential criminals and using soldiers to deter them.”
In a statement, the army spokesman’s office said the soldiers “questioned and documented the suspects in the area” after rocks were thrown at an Israeli bus. The statement confirmed that the army uses documentation and other means “to foil the throwing of stones and firebombs at civilians and security forces.”
A military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that in the event of “serious crimes like throwing rocks at civilians that could cause casualties” investigation is necessary even if the suspects are below the age of criminal responsibility.
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