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Home » Children »

Testimony: A.F.S.F.


Name:  A.F.S.F.
Age:  16
Date:  **** 2023
Location:  ****, West Bank
Accusation:  Throwing stones / weapon possession

On **** 2023, Israeli soldiers raided a home in **** refugee camp at 6:30 a.m. looking for a 16-year-old minor. When they did not find the boy they took his older brother hostage until he turned himself in. The minor was released in a prisoner swap deal and describes conditions in prison after 7 October 2023. 

I was at work when Israeli soldiers raided our house at around 6:30 a.m. looking for me. My colleague at work told me he saw on social media that soldiers were in my neighbourhood. I tried to call home to see what was going on but no one answered. When the soldiers left our home I saw on social media that they had taken my older brother. 
I phoned home again and my mother answered and told me the soldiers had taken my brother as a hostage when they did not find me at home. My mother told me that the soldiers told her that I had to turn myself in for an interview with the area commander. After my interview I would be released. The soldiers told my mother that the whole thing would only take two hours or so.
I went home prepared myself and then went to **** checkpoint with another brother to turn myself in. We arrived at the checkpoint at around 8:00 a.m. The soldiers would not allow my brother to accompany me. 
I was taken to a room which had cameras mounted on the wall. An Israeli policeman came in and called the area commander, "Hamza", and told me to speak to him. The commander asked me some personal questions and wanted to know if I had any medical conditions. I told him I had fractured my hand in an accident. He did not pay much attention. Then I was taken to another room which did not have any cameras and three security men came in, searched me, and then started to beat me all over my body. They swore at me as they beat me hard. 
About 30 minutes later some soldiers came, searched me again and beat me some more.  Then they blindfolded me and tied my hands behind my back with three plastic ties: one on each wrist and another connecting the two. The ties were tight and painful and left marks on my wrists for about four days. Then I was taken to a troop carrier where I sat on a seat.  I was taken to a military base near the village of Beit Sira. At the base I was given a quick medical examination.
After the medical check I was taken back to the troop carrier which took me to the police station in Etzion settlement. I arrived there in the afternoon. Until this time I was not given any food or drink and I was not allowed to use a toilet. The soldiers dropped off some other detainees at Etzion and then we continued on to Ofer prison, near Jerusalem. At Ofer I was strip searched and then taken to section 13.
Two days later I was taken for interrogation by an intelligence officer at Ofer. I was handcuffed to the front with metal handcuffs. The interrogator was in civilian clothes. He had a camera in the room. Before questioning me he phoned a lawyer and allowed me to speak to him. The lawyer told me I was going to be interrogated. When I told him I hadn’t done anything wrong, he told me to be careful what I say to the interrogator and that all will be good. He told me to try not to fall into the "interrogator’s trap". The interrogator left the room while I spoke to the lawyer for about a minute. 
When the interrogator returned he told me I had the choice of either answering his questions or remaining silent. Then he asked me about some young men and boys from the camp and wanted to know if I knew them. He showed me their photographs. I recognised only one of them. Then he accused me of throwing stones, weapons possession and throwing explosives. I denied all the accusations and told him they were all false. Then he named a person and told me he had confessed against me. I told him I had a dispute with that person and that was why he said false things about me just to hurt me.
At first the interrogator was aggressive and thumped the table to threaten me and make me confess, but then he calmed down. I continued to deny all the accusations. He questioned me for about an hour and at the end he showed me documents, some of which were in Hebrew, others in Arabic. He asked me to sign the Hebrew ones and I did, then he showed me the first page of the Arabic document and then asked me to sign all of them without really giving me a chance to read them, and I signed. 
After the interrogation I was taken to Ofer military court but I did not enter the court room. I was later told there was a mistake. The following day I was taken to the military court again. My brother was there. My detention was extended by a week to allow the prosecutor to prepare a charge sheet. 
In all I had eight military court hearings. The last one was on ** September 2023 and it was postponed until ** November 2023. But then the war on Gaza started and all military court hearings were suspended. My case was not concluded and I was not convicted. 
During the war, prison conditions became harsh. First of all, the prison authorities took away the television set, they did not want us to know what was going on in Gaza. Two days later they took away all electrical appliances including the hot plate we used to cook our food on, the electric kettle we used to make tea and coffee, electric shavers, fans and electric heaters. They closed the cantina where we bought essential items like soap, shaving cream, snacks and other things. They also closed the laundry room which meant we could not wash and dry our clothes. 
The prison authorities also stopped our classes where we learned Arabic, Hebrew and mathematics. Most of the time we had no hot water to shower and wash and they took away the cold drinking water fountain. They limited our time outdoors; the longest time we were given in the exercise yard was 15 minutes. 
During this time the prison authorities also increased the number of detainees in each cell from six to 10. This meant that four of us had to sleep on the floor. Food was limited; sometimes they brought us two plates of rice for 10 detainees. Sometimes they brought us uncooked and smelly food which we could not eat. 
The prison authorities also conducted frequent and aggressive searches of the cells and took away all our clothes except the ones we were wearing and one spare set. When more prisoners were brought in we had to share our clothes with them so we were left with only the clothes we were wearing. They also suspended all family visits and limited the number of visits by our lawyers. 
On ** November 2023, at around 11:00 a.m., we saw a large number of heavily armed prison guards approaching our cell. We were worried because they had high ranking officers with them. Then they called some names including my name. A prison guard told me I was going to be taken for interrogation. I was surprised and worried; it did not sound like good news. Then I was tied and told to walk out with my head down. I was strip searched and then I was taken for a meeting with the intelligence officer in charge of my area. 
The intelligence officer asked me if I knew why I was in his office and when I told him I thought I was there for an interrogation, he told me I was going to be released as part of the prisoner’s deal with Hamas. I did not believe him and asked if he was joking. He told me he was serious. Then he told me I was not allowed to celebrate my release openly and not allowed to raise any flags. He told me to be careful and to take care of my future and that he did not want to see me back in prison.
After the interview I was left in a waiting room until around midnight when a representative from the Red Cross came in and told us we were going to be released. I was driven to Al-Bireh municipality where I met my brothers and uncles and they took me home. We arrived home at around 3:00 a.m. My mother was happy to see me; she told me she was worried about me since the war started and had heard rumours about the bad treatment in prison.
I am in twelfth grade and I am planning to go back to school. 
* Some information in this testimony has been concealed as some families report being threatened if they speak publicly about the experience in prison following the release of their child after 7 October 2023.