Testimony: Fatima A.A.
|Date:||27 July 2022|
|Location:||Beit Fajjar, West Bank|
|Incident:||Night raid / child arrest|
On 27 July 2022, Israeli soldiers entered a home in Beit Fajjar at 2:00 a.m. and arrested a 12-year-old boy. Beir Fajjar is located in close proximity to the Israeli settlement block of Gush Etzion and a road used by settlers.
About five months ago I received a phone call from an Israeli policeman who told me my husband had to bring our 12-year-old son, Yousef, to the police station inside the settlement of Beitar Illit for questioning. He did not give details but said my husband had to bring our son to the police station immediately.
My husband and son did as instructed and were at the gate to the settlement by 10:00 a.m. A police car picked them up and took them inside where they waited for hours. During this time no one talked to them. Hours later a policeman told them to go home and come back the following day.
The following day my husband and son went again and the same thing happened; they waited at the police station and hours later they were sent home and told to come back the following day. This happened three times. On the fourth occasion my husband decided not to go as it was a waste of his time.
Ever since that day I have found it hard to sleep. I constantly worry that soldiers will come and raid our home in the middle of the night. When I do finally fall asleep I wake up to the slightest sound. As a result I am chronically tired. I check my phone constantly all night for updates on soldiers’ activities in our town. I try to keep track of the soldiers’ locations on Facebook as other families post updates. The soldiers come to our town every other night, making arrests and conducting searches. Meanwhile I am awake worrying that our home will be raided next.
Then, on or about 23 July 2022, soldiers arrested our neighbour’s son who is my son’s friend. I knew then that my son would be next and panicked. For four nights I could not sleep at all. I told my 12-year-old son to sleep in my bedroom because I wanted him to feel a bit more secure when the soldiers came.
Sure enough, four days later, on 27 July 2022, a white car stopped outside our house at around 1:30 a.m. The car left after about 30 minutes and then I started hearing voices outside. Soon afterwards my daughter came to my bedroom and told me she saw Israeli soldiers outside. I barely had time to wake our son before there was loud banging at our front door. A person shouted “open up, open up, the commander is here”. My husband opened the door six soldiers entered our home.
The soldiers immediately asked for our phones. A female soldier took me and my daughter to the bathroom and searched us. She was rough and humiliated us in the way she touched our bodies. Then the commander told me, my husband and our two children to sit on the couch in the living room. A soldier aimed his gun at us for about two-and-a-half hours.
During this time I was so scared my knees were shaking. I was worried that the soldiers would trash our home. I felt dizzy and found it hard to breathe and nearly passed out. After my daughter fetched me a glass of water I felt a bit better.
Meanwhile the other soldiers searched my son’s bedroom but did not find anything. Then, the commander gave my husband a document filled out in Hebrew and told him they wanted to arrest our 12-year-old son, Yousef. He circled a telephone number on the document and told my husband to call the number if he needed to check on our son.
The soldiers then took our son outside where they blindfolded him, tied his hands and took him away. I burst into tears and could not stop crying. My husband called the number on the document but no one answered; he tried many times but without success.
The house without Yousef is unbearable. I find it hard to eat without seeing him sitting at the dining table with us. He is too young to be in prison.
At the time I worked as a cleaner at a school in the nearby Israeli settlement. When I went to work the next day my Israeli employer told me my work permit had been revoked and I had to leave. I was devastated because I am the only breadwinner for our family as my husband is unemployed.
My son was released one week later after we accepted a plea bargain in an Israeli military court. My son was accused of being present when a Molotov cocktail was thrown. My son's sentence included time served (7 days); a suspended sentence; and a fine of NIS 1,700. We agreed to the plea bargain because we just wanted our son home. The fine is going to add to our difficult financial situation now that both my husband and I are unemployed.