| 29 March 2023
| ****, West Bank
On **** 2023, the home of a 16-year-old minor from **** was raided by Israeli soldiers at 1:00 a.m. He was not home so the soldiers took his father as hostage. The minor later surrendered himself at a checkpoint. He reports being denied his basic legal rights and spending 45 days in solitary confinement. He reports physical violence in prison after 7 October 2023.
Israeli soldiers raided our home at around 1:00 a.m. About 50 soldiers took part in the raid. Twenty of them came inside our house, many were masked. They broke the wardrobes, the seats and couches. They brought a muzzled dog into my parents’ bedroom. The dog sniffed my mother which made her terrified. They asked about me but I was not home, my father told them I was at my grandparents’ house.
The commander called me on my phone but I did not answer. The commander was furious that he could not find me. He then told my father he was going to arrest him until I handed myself over. He told him I had until 9:00 a.m. and if I failed to show up at his office I would be killed. Then they blindfolded my father, tied his hands behind his back and took him away.
They remained inside our house for about two hours. My younger sister later told me how terrified she was so she hid under her bed. When the soldiers left, my mother phoned me and told me all this. She told me the commander had also phoned my older brother and threatened to assassinate him if I did not show up at his office.
Then the commander phoned me again and I answered this time. He told me he was going to kill me if I did not hand myself in and that he would never release my father. I was very concerned about my father and older brother and decided to hand myself in. My brother-in-law drove me in his car to Huwwara checkpoint, near Nablus and left. I arrived at around 11:00 a.m.
The soldiers at the checkpoint took me aside and searched me. Then they handcuffed me to the back with metal handcuffs and tightened them. The handcuffs were very painful. They also blindfolded me and shackled my feet. At around 2:30 p.m. I was taken to the commander’s office at Huwwara military base near the checkpoint. I was still handcuffed, blindfolded and shackled.
The commander removed the blindfold. He immediately started to swear at me. He called me "a son of a whore". He did not inform me of my right to silence and did not allow me to speak to a lawyer. He accused me of serious allegations and showed me video footage of the incident. I denied the accusation. He was furious. He threatened to assassinate me if I did not confess. He threatened to assassinate members of my family. He threatened to lock me up in solitary confinement if I did not confess.
He questioned me for about two-and-a-half hours. At the end he asked me to sign a document written in Hebrew with an Arabic translation next to it. I read the Arabic version and then I signed when I realised it was identical to what I had told him.
After the interrogation I was taken to Petah Tikva interrogation centre, inside Israel. I arrived there at around midnight. I was searched in my boxer shorts and then I was taken to a small cell where I spent 45 days in solitary confinement. During this time, I was interrogated, on average, three or four times a week. I was very tired, physically and mentally.
The cell measured about 3 x 3 meters and did not have any windows. There was a light in the ceiling which they left on 24 hours. This made it difficult for me to fall asleep. The walls were rough and painted grey. I did not know day from night. I was psychologically drained. I had no sense of time and I did not sleep well. I felt my head was empty, all I was thinking about was how to figure out what time of the day it was. It was a feeling I had never felt before. The first three days were especially hard.
My first interrogation was on the day I arrived. I was allowed to phone a lawyer. The interrogator phoned a lawyer and had the speaker phone turned on so he could hear everything. The lawyer introduced himself to me and told me he was representing me. The call lasted for less than a minute.
The interrogator told me I had the right to remain silent. I understood what he meant but I decided not to remain silent because I felt I needed to defend myself against his allegations.
Then the interrogator accused me of serious things I had nothing to do with. When I denied the accusations and told him I was not going to confess to something I did not do, he yelled at me and threatened to leave me in solitary confinement for a long time. He was aggressive but I did not confess. At the end he asked me to sign a document written in Hebrew. I signed without understanding what it said because I did not want him to yell at me anymore.
I had about 20-25 rounds of interrogation. I only spoke to a lawyer before a few of these sessions. I was informed of my right to silence before each interrogation. Some sessions lasted 45 minutes, others were 90 minutes long. After each session I was asked to sign documents in Hebrew and I always signed.
After spending 45 days in solitary confinement, I was taken to Megiddo prison, also in Israel. I was strip searched before being taken to the collaborators’ cell. My uncle who spent time in Israeli prisons used to tell me about the collaborators’ cell. They are referred to as “asafir” which means "birds". I could tell from the way they looked and from the questions they asked me. I was careful and the collaborators did not get anything from me. Then I was transferred to the minors’ section at Megiddo.
My first military court hearing was about two weeks after my arrest. It was held at Salem military court, near Jenin. My mother and brother attended and my detention was extended. I attended about 30 court hearings, the last one was on the day before I was released. During that session my detention was extended again and I was not sentenced. My parents visited me six times in prison and I was allowed to call home twice a month from a phone provided by the prison authorities prior to 7 October.
Conditions in prison became unbearable after 7 October 2023. We briefly heard the news of the Hamas attack on the day it happened but then the guards took away the radio and television. We were disconnected from the outside world. They also took away the hot plate we cook our food on. The food they gave us was unappetising and not enough for the large number of boys in the cells.
We were all frustrated because they banned our families from visiting us and did not allow us to call home.
One day one of the boys removed an Israeli flag which the guards had put up to stir us up. He tore it and set it on fire. The guards went crazy. They raided our cell and used physical force against all of us. They beat us up with batons and sprayed tear gas in the cell. They also let the police dogs into the cells. A dog bit my hand and back and I was bleeding. They did not give me any medical treatment. They fractured the arm and leg of one of the boys and did not give him any treatment either. We used a broom stick to hold his arm in place.
After this incident we tried to keep our morale up by talking to each other about our lives outside prison. We wanted to imagine a better life.
On ** November 2023, at around 6:00 a.m. I was called by a security guard and told I had to go for another interrogation. I was concerned because they called 10 other boys. I thought they wanted to punish us because of what happened on 7 October. I was taken to a room and told to change into grey pajamas. Then I was taken to see the intelligence officer for my area.
The intelligence officer told me he could not believe I was going to be released in the Hamas-Israel deal. Then he told me he promised to get me back. Then he threatened if I get involved in anything, even if I picked up a stone on the street he was going to "erase me from the surface of the Earth". He told me I was not allowed to raise any flags of any political faction and not allowed to post anything on Facebook. He also told me I was not allowed to celebrate my release in any way. He made me sign a document saying I was being released in a deal with Hamas.
I was then taken together with the other boys to Ofer prison, near Jerusalem, where we waited for a long time. Then I was taken to Al-Bireh town hall where I met my brothers who took me home. I arrived home at around 5:00 a.m. It was the best feeling ever, to be at home with my family and friends.
* Some information in this testimony has been concealed as some minors report being threatened if they speak publicly about their experience in prison following their release as part of the prisoner swap deal post 7 October 2023.