Israel Defense Forces soldiers and police officers conducted 185 raids on Palestinian homes (including in East Jerusalem) during the first nine days of 2017. But this is a misleading statistic if, for example, you take into account what happened in Kafr Qaddum last Tuesday night.
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In the daily reports on IDF and police operations in Palestinian territory – based on the reports of the Palestinian security forces – only one raid is noted in Kafr Qaddum (out of 36 raids on that day alone). But in reality, the force raided no fewer than 10 homes in the village, all belonging to the Juma’a extended family.
Considering the large number of targets, it was a swift operation. Armed and masked, the soldiers began to break into the homes at around 11:30 P.M. and left about two hours later, the head of the local council, Hamza Juma’a – whose home was also broken into – told Haaretz in a telephone interview.
No one was arrested (during those nine days, Israel arrested some 180 Palestinians in total). Also, they did not report the overturned closets, broken doors and other damage frequently caused during raids. During the raid on every home, the soldiers separated the women and children from the men and, as Juma’a told Haaretz, one of the masked men began to question and warn the men in a separate room.
“He turned off the light,” said Juma’a about his own experience. “I asked him to turn the light back on; he didn’t.” The soldier warned him and the others, especially the young men, not to participate in the weekly protests on Fridays. As the family members told Abed al-Karim a-Saadi, a field researcher for B’Tselem, the soldier who was issuing the warning said something like, “Now we are behaving politely, but in the future it won’t be like this. You have been warned.”
Hamza Juma’a counted 13 masked soldiers inside the house, and about another 12 moving around outside. He thinks it was only one group of soldiers who went from house to house, in order to warn 10 families in the dead of night – some 70 people in all – not to participate in the protests against blocking the road from their village to Nablus, and not to let their young family members.
What made this night raid, one of many, not disappear into the daily statistics of armed Israeli soldiers breaking into a house and waking up all its residents is what happened to 80-year-old Shafiqa Juma’a.
She and her six sons, and their families, live in a single residential compound: Shafiqa lives on the ground floor of a structure with three apartments for three of the brothers, and the other three live in separate houses in the compound.
Shafiqa Juma’a was sleeping in a room with three of her granddaughters. “Around 1 A.M. on Tuesday,” she told Saadi, “I woke up to the sound of a strong banging on the door of the house, which seemed like an attempt to break in.”
Although her granddaughters live with her in the same room (to help with tasks she finds difficult to perform), at such frightening moments she is the responsible adult. Her first thought was to protect them, the younger and less experienced ones.
“I immediately got up from my bed and woke up the granddaughters,” she said. This is a common Palestinian custom: When soldiers break in, the adults immediately wake the children – before a pointed rifle or blinding flashlight does so.
“I opened the door and many Israeli soldiers entered the room, black masks on their faces, shouting at us. I told them in a quiet voice not to scare my granddaughters who were with me, but the soldiers were very nervous. One of them pushed me with his hands and I fell to the floor, hitting my bed on the way. Probably after the fall and the blow to my head and body, I was in pain and lost consciousness,” she recalled.
Shafiqa’s 22-year-old granddaughter, Sara, said she got dressed immediately after her grandmother woke her and her sisters up and told them soldiers were raiding their home.
“I started hearing sounds of a commotion and shouting by the front door,” said Sara. “Grandma opened the door and a group of armed and masked Israeli soldiers broke into the room where we were. While Grandma spoke to them so they wouldn’t frighten us, one of the soldiers pushed her with his hands and she fell to the ground, her body hitting the bed on the way,” she added.
The three sisters began to scream. The oldest picked her grandmother up and helped her to sit on the bed. “Grandma was shaking and feeling pain, and then lost consciousness,” recalled Sara.
She wanted to bring scent to rouse her grandmother, but the soldiers refused to let her leave the room to do so. She screamed so that the rest of the family would know there was a problem, but the soldiers silenced her. Luckily, the soldiers left the house straight afterward.
A Red Crescent Movement ambulance was summoned. It took Shafiqa to the hospital in Qalqilyah, with her concerned sons accompanying her. The examinations and X-rays ruled out any fractures.
“Now I am lying in bed and suffering from pains in the head and body,” she told Saadi on Wednesday. She also made sure to add: “The military forces raided my sons’ homes, searched them and shouted at them. The behavior of the soldiers, their uniforms and black masks caused anxiety among the women and children. My granddaughters are still scared and feel anxious because of what happened,” she said.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office told Haaretz in response: “Every week, violent disturbances occur in Kafr Qaddum toward the community of Kedumim. With the goal of identifying the rioters, and to deal with them in a focused manner, IDF forces conduct various activities in the village to locate the rioters.
“During the entrance of IDF forces into one of the homes, one of the residents of the house felt unwell. Contrary to the claims raised in the story, the soldiers did not push the woman and did not prevent the residents of the house from approaching her. In every operation, the forces are briefed to carry out their missions while preserving the dignity of the Palestinian residents, particularly the elderly and children,” the IDF Spokesman’s Office added.