In the early morning on Thursday, around 5 a.m., Bassem Tamimi, the father of imprisoned teen activist Ahed Tamimi, abruptly woke up upon hearing sounds of footsteps around his home.
He immediately knew it was Israeli soldiers, who often enter the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank during early morning hours to arrest its sleeping residents.
“I heard the soldiers slamming on the door and shouting,” Bassem told Mondoweiss. When he opened the door, five soldiers rushed into the house.
“They were very aggressive and angry,” he said. “They were shouting and demanded to see my ID.”
Five more soldiers also entered his home, one of whom was an Israeli army commander, according to Bassem.
Their target was Bassem’s 21-year-old son Waed, who was sleeping at the time. Five soldiers entered his room and pulled him out of his bed. He was only allowed to put his shoes and jacket on, before being dragged out of the house and handcuffed, Bassem said.
Bassem attempted to film the incident, but one of the soldiers took his phone from him and deleted the footage.
Bassem’s two other sons Mohammad, 14, and Salem, 12, woke up during the incident. Before leaving, the army commander turned to Mohammad and told him: “Next time I will come for you,” according to Bassem’s recollection.
Waed is now being held at Israel’s Ofer detention center near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and is undergoing interrogations with Israeli authorities, Bassem said. Waed was previously imprisoned in 2015 for almost a year when he was 19-years-old.
‘They want to arrest all the youths’
Bassem has not yet been informed of the reasons for Waed’s arrest.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Mondoweiss that Waed was arrested owing to “suspected involvement in popular terror acts,” which she said included alleged “violent riots.”
Residents of the Nabi Saleh are often arrested by Israeli forces following its weekly Friday protests against Israel’s more than half-century military occupation of the West Bank, which have continued for almost a decade.
“Waed’s arrest is just another attempt by Israel to break Nabi Saleh,” Bassem said. “This is the point of all of this. Israel wants to break the example of Nabi Saleh’s resistance to occupation.”
Bassem’s daughter Ahed Tamimi was transformed into an international icon for Palestinian resistance after the then 16-year-old was arrested in an overnight raid on Dec. 19 after a video of her slapping and kicking two Israeli soldiers went viral.
Shortly before the incident, her cousin, 15-year-old Mohammad Tamimi, suffered life-threatening injuries after Israeli soldiers shot him point-blank in the face with a rubber-coated steel bullet.
Her mother, Nariman, was arrested several hours later after checking up on her daughter who was being interrogated at the time at Israel’s Shaar Binyamin detention center.
Nariman and Ahed, both of whom are being held in Israel’s HaSharon prison, were sentenced to eight months in prison, including time served, after accepting plea deals in March.
Following Ahed’s arrest, Israeli authorities initiated a crackdown on the village. According to Bilal Tamimi, a relative of Ahed and a prominent activist in the village, at least 19 residents of Nabi Saleh continue to be imprisoned, seven of whom are minors.
Most of the residents are being charged with throwing stones, the most common charge levied against Palestinian minors. Palestinians can face up to 10 years in prison in the occupied West Bank for the charge of stone-throwing.
“There’s a continuous [Israeli] operation to arrest all the youths in Nabi Saleh in order to stop our resistance,” Bilal told Mondoweiss. “Our village has become famous all over the world, and Israel wants to stop the voices of Nabi Saleh from reaching our supporters around the world.”
‘We have the right to resist’
Bilal said that Israel uses charges, such as “supporting popular terror acts” in order to justify their crackdown on Palestinian resistance.
If residents are not being charged with stone-throwing, they are facing charges of being involved in “illegal activities,” “obstructing a soldier’s duties,” and some are being charged over their social media posts, Bilal told Mondoweiss.
Other times Israel does not need any justification, Bilal pointed out, owing to its policy of administrative detention, which allows Israel to imprison Palestinians without charge or trial based on “secret” evidence that even a detainee’s lawyer is prohibited from viewing.
“We are a people under occupation. Under international law we have the right to resist our occupier,” said Bilal, whose two sons Mohammad, 18, and Osama, 21, have been imprisoned by Israel for several months. “But for Israel any activities we do, they [Israel] will come and arrest us.”
According to Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, 6,036 Palestinians were imprisoned by Israel as of April, 304 of whom were minors. The United Nations has documented a bi-weekly average of 200 Israeli night raids carried out on Palestinian communities in 2018.
Meanwhile, after Waed’s arrest, Bassem’s home has become quieter. With his wife, daughter and son in Israeli custody, just Bassem and his sons Mohammad and Salem are left.
“It’s not easy for me knowing that my son, daughter and wife are in the hands of my enemy,” Bassem told Mondoweiss. “Each time the soldiers raid my home, I remember when Ahed and Nariman would stand in front of them and try to protect the children.”
For Bassem, each raid, arrest, court session, or prison sentence reminds him of the many other family members and village residents that have experienced the same ordeal, including himself. “It’s like the same image happening again and again, except with different loved ones,” he said.
“But this is occupation,” he added. “And we cannot keep silent under occupation. As long as this occupation continues, our duty will always be to resist.”