Criminal Trespass by the Israeli Army

Haaretz Editorial
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IDF soldiers in the Aqaba area, where they conducted nighttime raids for practice purposes, in the West Bank, October 2020.
IDF soldiers in the Aqaba area, in the West Bank, October 2020.Credit: Alex Levac
Haaretz Editorial

Two weeks ago, dozens of soldiers raided the al-Arroub refugee camp in the dead of night. They sowed terror and anger, dragged out a 16-year-old boy and took him barefoot to be arrested. The boy was left for almost 24 hours without food, and much of that time, he was outside in the cold, until he was finally questioned for a few hours and released.

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A few months earlier, the boy, Basel al-Badawi, had been summoned for a similar round of questioning, and then, a phone call to his father was enough to bring him in under his own power, without a complicated, frightening arrest operation. His story appeared today in Haaretz.

On Wednesday, Hagar Shezaf reported in Haaretz that the Israel Defense Forces has failed almost completely to carry out a pilot program to summon Palestinian teens for questioning without terrifying their families and neighbors. Six years after the pilot began, the IDF continues to drag hundreds of children and teens out of their beds and arrest them, almost every night. A report released this week by three Israeli human rights organizations, Breaking the Silence, Physicians for Human Rights and Yesh Din, described the severe psychological harm caused by these operations, which destroy Palestinian homes as protected spaces. In 2017 and 2018, there was an average of 267 raids per month on Palestinian homes. In a quarter of these, violence was used, and in a third, property was destroyed. Fully 64 percent of families said the IDF had invaded their homes more than once.

It’s no secret that some of these nighttime raids are meant to train the soldiers, and also to demonstrate control and make a show of force to the Palestinian population. In other words, some of these raids are unnecessary and even criminal. It’s not hard to imagine life in their shadow, with tens of thousands of families, including many children, feeling vulnerable and threatened every night by soldiers’ raids on their homes even when the West Bank is peaceful.

The Shin Bet security service and the IDF must therefore revise their policy on arrests and searches from top to bottom and reduce the number of raids to the minimum necessary. Nighttime raids on homes ought to be an extreme measure, not a routine modus operandi. And that is doubly true when we’re talking about the arrests of children and teens. To date, the occupation authorities don’t seem to have given any consideration to the damage caused by their actions, which are legally dubious and morally flawed.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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