An 8-year-old Palestinian who was allegedly forced by soldiers to help hunt down stone-throwers doesn’t even live in the neighborhood where the incident was filmed, casting doubt on the army’s story that the soldiers were simply escorting him home.
Rights group B’Tselem released a video last week that purportedly showed Israeli soldiers taking Sufian Abu Hita from house to house in the West Bank town of Hebron last Sunday. Both B’Tselem and the boy’s mother said the soldiers were trying to get him to identify children who had thrown stones at Israelis.
The Israel Defense Forces denied this. It said a lookout had spotted a firebomb being thrown at the adjacent Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, and “an IDF force dispatched to the site caught a suspect and led him to his parent’s house because he was a minor.”
But Haaretz visited the family home and discovered that, just as the family said, it was in a different neighborhood of Hebron from the one where the video was filmed, making it unclear how the soldiers could have been escorting the boy home.
The boy himself told Haaretz that the soldiers tried to make him identify stone-throwers.
“I was looking for a toy I wanted to play with,” he said. “I didn’t find it in the house, so I went outside. Suddenly, I ran into the soldiers. They dragged me from place to place. I was very afraid, and I didn’t know what they wanted from me.”
The soldiers asked him to point out stone-throwers, Abu Hita said, adding that he himself had not thrown any stones. “They said to me, ‘Who threw stones?’ I don’t know who threw stones. They took me from place to place and I wanted to go home, I wanted to be at home.”
Since then, he said, he has been afraid to sleep by himself “I want to be with my mother and my brothers all the time.”
His mother, Amana, told B’Tselem she was standing nearby when the soldiers seized Sufian; she begged them to free him but they refused. In a B’Tselem press release, she quoted the soldier as replying, “’If you want to take him, you need to convince him to provide us the names of the children who have been throwing stones.’”
As she put it, “I tried to explain to the soldier that we don’t live in the neighborhood, and that we had only come to visit my parents, and that the boy doesn’t know the names of the children in the neighborhood. The soldier ignored what I said.”
She told Haaretz that her son returned half an hour later.
“I don’t know who returned him, but in any case this conduct shows what the occupation is,” she added. “I don’t expect anything, and I don’t think anyone will demand an accounting of those soldiers.”
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