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Dogs, Shooting, Explosions at 4 A.M.: Just Another Routine Night of Israeli Raids

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Israeli security forces raid a home in the West Bank.
Israeli security forces raid a home in the West Bank. Credit: Israel Defense Forces Spokesperson's Unit
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The sound of an explosion woke up the household at 4 A.M. on Wednesday, November 11. Sharif Zibar, 32, didn’t even have time to utter “the army” before he found himself beneath a large black lump panting above him – a dog that had hurtled into his bedroom. While his pregnant wife was screaming, scared for her baby, Zibar, who underwent knee surgery a month earlier and now walks with crutches, found the strength to turn over and lie on top of the dog.

“Release the dog,” he heard someone shout. The same person demanded that they get out of the house. Zibar shouted back that he has trouble walking. “So crawl,” came the reply, in mother-tongue Arabic. The exchange mingled with loud shouts in the background. Meanwhile Zibar’s 70-year-old mother and his children – his 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son – had gotten up and were standing near the exploded door. His mother tried to explain to the people who had broken in that her son had recently had surgery. Zibar felt that the dog underneath him had calmed down, “like he had received instructions,” and let go of it.

A stun grenade was thrown into the house while they were still inside. With his wife’s help, Zibar limped outside. He discovered dozens of black-uniformed men and soldiers spread out on the stairs and in the street. They had more dogs with them, maybe 10 of them. As opposed to the dog that had attacked him – “who had an iron mask,” as his son described it – the other dogs were not muzzled.

Zibar’s two brothers and their families also live in the same three-story house – a total of 22 people. He said a man in black at the entrance slapped him when he said that he works for the Palestinian customs police. “Don’t hit him, he had surgery,” his son scolded the man in black. One of the black-uniformed men handcuffed Zibar behind his back and helped him to descend just a few steps before walking away. Then Zibar had to sit on the next step and slide down, one step after another.

In the street he was separated from his children, his wife and his mother. The Shin Bet security service officer who had accompanied him pointed his head at the wall and told him: “Your uncle is in your house. I’m going to kill him. I’m going to blow up the house.” The same officer also told the children that he was going to blow up their house. He asked Zibar the names and ages of the other residents of the building. At one point Zibar told him that he had to get a blanket to warm up the knee that had been operated on. “I’m not your doctor,” replied the officer.

The sounds of shooting and stun grenades emerged from the house. At about 6:30 A.M. the forces also broke into the last two apartments: They broke the lock of one apartment and blew up the front door of the other, although its residents, who were awake, wanted to open it themselves. All the residents were assembled downstairs, in the street, until 8 A.M. Zibar’s two brothers and two of his nephews were arrested, and all four were released a day later.

Across from Zibar’s house lives his uncle, and he’s the one the Shin Bet is looking for. In the past he served a 13-year prison sentence for activity in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. His wife was also arrested on November 11 and was released the next day. His 18-year-old son was arrested about two weeks ago, and is still under investigation.

“We’re actually members of Fatah,” explained Sharif Zibar to Haaretz, “and my uncle is experienced enough to protect us, not to involve us in anything.” When they returned, they found an apartment full of smoke, with torn clothing and mattresses, bedding and closets riddled with bullet holes. The children say that they weren’t afraid, but since then they have trouble falling asleep and go to sleep in their parents’ room. And on rainy nights they have to be reassured that it’s thunder and not the army.

Maybe the Shin Bet received false information, maybe it still believes that such raids are effective. What’s certain is that breaking into homes is a routine way of demonstrating superiority. Maintaining the fourth Kingdom of Israel requires the creation of generations of frightened children, who will grow up to be desperate and angry adults, wanted by the army, and the uncles of other frightened children, and so on and so forth.