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Palestinian teen describes being used as a human shield by Israeli forces in Abu Dis

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Muhammad Rabea appears at around 1:15 in the above video.

Yanking him by the collar and shoving him in the neck, the armed Israeli soldiers proudly paraded the handcuffed teen up and down the street, making a public spectacle of him in the occupied West Bank town of Abu Dis.

Armed with live ammunition, steal-coated rubber bullets and tear gas, on Friday, April 19, at least 10 Israeli soldiers confronted the crowd of protesters using 17-year-old Muhammad Rabea as a human shield. They forced him to walk at gunpoint with his hands raised in the air as they approached the protesters.

Muhammad told Defense for Children International Palestine (DCI-Palestine) that he recalls inhaling the caustic smell of the tear gas, hearing the piercing sound of gunfire, and feeling the heat of the shell casings brush past his stomach as the soldier to his left opened fire at the crowd with live ammunition.

In October 2005, the Israeli High Court of Justice banned the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. Failing to effectively implement the court’s decision, the soldiers also failed to realize their act was being captured and exposed.  Video footage of the incident shows two soldiers flashing a V-for-victory sign before opening fire at the protesters.

Israeli border police spokesman Shai Hachimi told Agence France-Presse that the police officer in charge only wanted to show the youth was unharmed during his arrest. He denied that the teenager was used as a human shield.

Since 2004, DCI-Palestine has documented 21 cases of Israel’s use of Palestinian children as human shields. In breach of Israeli domestic law and international humanitarian law, Israel has continued to use Palestinian children as human shields with near complete impunity. In 2010, two Israeli soldiers, who used nine-year-old Majid Rabah as a human shield during Israel’s 2008-2009 invasion of Gaza, became the first and only so far to be charged and convicted of the crime. 

Muhammad’s story

Muhammad told DCI-Palestine that on the afternoon he was abducted he was walking to the supermarket, approximately 200 meters (660 feet) from his home, when he saw a group of youth running away and shouting that Israeli soldiers were chasing them. Unaware that there were any clashes taking place, he began to run as well. Moments later, two military jeeps advanced toward him and a voice from behind threatened to shoot him if he did not stop. A soldier caught him and forced him into a military jeep where he was bound and blindfolded.

Violating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the UN Convention against Torture, Israeli soldiers and authorities subjected Muhammad to ill-treatment during arrest and interrogation. DCI-Palestine evidence shows that 75 percent of Palestinian children experience a systematic pattern of ill-treatment by the Israeli military, with the majority of abuse occurring during the first 48 hours.

Like other children who have been detained and tortured by Israeli forces, Muhammad shares a painful and unimaginable narrative. He points to his forehead where a soldier struck him with the stock of a rifle, at his legs where soldiers kicked him repeatedly, and at the base of his neck, wincing from the pain he still feels from being hit there with steel helmets.

He describes the verbal and physical abuse he was subjected to in the back of the military jeep during the forcible transfer to the military camp on the hill west of town. With his hands restrained by two plastic cords digging into his skin, soldiers forced him to sit on a revolving chair that spun as the jeep moved, giving them easier access to kick him from all sides.

After reaching the camp, the soldiers dragged him out of the jeep and knocked him down on the ground. “I couldn’t see anything but I remember feeling pain everywhere,” he said. “One of them hit me on my head with his helmet.” Muhammad screamed in pain and begged the soldiers to stop, but they began beating him harder for at least 10 minutes.

It was at this point that the soldiers took him back to town where he found himself in the midst of clashes. At gunpoint, soldiers forced Muhammad to walk among them as they confronted the demonstrators and opened fire in their direction.

After a few moments, he was shoved into the jeep where he was blindfolded and transferred back to the military camp. “One of the soldiers sprayed the keffiyeh (scarf) I was wearing with pepper spray before tying it tightly over my eyes, burning them,” he says. “Each time I coughed, he told me to shut up and kicked me. I wasn’t allowed to cough.”

At the military camp, soldiers forced him to stand facing a metal pole. Muhammad said the soldiers ripped his jacket and searched him, while an army dog clawed his back and calves. Following the search, soldiers knocked him down on the ground where he laid for two hours in pain as they continued to kick him in his legs, back and stomach. One of the soldiers removed the keffiyeh over his eyes and poured gasoline on it, burning it in front of him. The soldiers re-blindfolded him with a black piece of cloth and continued to hit him on the head with their helmets.

Muhammad struggled to stand for long due to the pain in his right leg, but the soldiers continued the ill-treatment by confining him in a sewage disposal system where he stood for over half an hour, blindfolded and bound. Muhammad remembers hearing the sound of a steel door slammed shut before he was caged in suffocating silence.

Following his confinement, Israeli border police transferred Muhammad to the Maale Adumim police station for interrogation. Upon arrival, he was taken to a room where he was fingerprinted, weighed and photographed. Still bound, he was taken to the interrogation room where he was accused of throwing stones. Muhammad’s father told DCI-Palestine that when he arrived at the station, he was allowed to enter the interrogation room with his son on the condition that he remained silent the entire time.

Israeli authorities gave Muhammad a confession document written in Hebrew, which he refused to sign. DCI-Palestine evidence shows that children are often shown and forced to sign documents written in Hebrew, a language the overwhelming majority do not understand. In 31 percent of cases in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, children provided a confession at the end of a coercive interrogation in 2012, according to Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Accountability Program director at DCI-Palestine.

Following a lengthy interrogation, Muhammad was later given a letter reprinted in Arabic. Due to his state of mental and physical exhaustion, he reluctantly signed the confession to halt the interrogation. At no point was Muhammad told of his right to remain silent or right to have an attorney present.

Muhammad’s father notified the Israeli authorities that Muhammad has enlarged tonsils and adenoids that restrict his breathing and require medication, which he brought with him in a bag. Muhammad told DCI-Palestine that he saw a soldier throw the bag of medication out the window shortly after his father left. After nearly two days of beatings and interrogation, Muhammad was allowed one cup of water to drink, which he was forced to fill himself as he remained handcuffed.

After questioning, Muhammad was transferred to Ofer prison where he was detained in a room with 10 other children for 21 days. During his detention, he faced five court hearings and was released from prison on May 9. He is currently awaiting trial.

Less than a month following his release, Muhammad appears visibly shaken by the abuse and trauma he sustained. His ribs are bruised and the invisible wounds he carries remain open and raw. He worries about being unable to concentrate on his studies and scoring well on his Tawjihi exam next year. This secondary education certification exam determines the future for many Palestinians.

“I just can’t remember things the way I used to before it happened,” he states in a subdued tone. He continues to suffer from a throbbing headache and a constricting feeling in his chest that interfere with his sleep and daily activities. Muhammad’s father provided DCI field researchers with medical records and documentation.

The look of apprehension and despair on his parent’s faces echoes his pain. “He wakes up jolted in the middle of the night, screaming,” says his mother. The haunting images and memories replay in his mind disrupting his schoolwork and mental stability, according to the psychological evaluation given to him by Al Marfa Mental Health Association.

The frequent raids on Abu Dis by Israeli soldiers create a source of anxiety for Muhammad, considering he could face up to a three year suspended sentence and fine if he is caught anywhere near clashes or engaging in any resistance activity.

“He’s afraid to walk to school,” says his father, “so I take him every day, but he’s still afraid they [Israeli forces] will come for him.”

Dina Elmuti

Dina Elmuti volunteers with the Accountability Program at Defense for Children International Palestine, an independent child rights organization, dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. For more information, follow Defense for Children International Palestine @DCIPalestine and join us on

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23 Responses

  1. Citizen on June 4, 2013, 1:51 pm

    Why do American teens need horror movies to entertain them when they have Israel, paid for daily by their own parents, documented annually by their parental 1040s?

    • annie on June 4, 2013, 3:07 pm

      and this is truly horrifying citizen. can you imagine watching a film about the full extent of the torture he describes? that chair scene in the back of the car, with a revolving chair and being kicked around as you’re moving. what kinds of sadists even think of this?

      and for a look at how these soldiers beat the youths i recommend this recent video

      see how they jump him. and there’s nothing screaming ‘rare’ about this other than the fact it’s caught on camera.

      • seafoid on June 4, 2013, 4:22 pm

        And hundreds of thousands of people do mitzvot and work as shatnez inspectors for this.

  2. BrianEsker on June 4, 2013, 4:39 pm

    It’s obvious that:

    1) Throwing stones is dangerous and can prompt a serious response from police & soldiers.

    2) Using children as “child soldiers” to confront the military and police is a war crime, and whoever put these kids up to it should face justice.

    • James North on June 4, 2013, 5:58 pm

      Hostage: BrianEsker has supplied an easy “argument” for you to demolish.

    • ToivoS on June 4, 2013, 6:22 pm

      1) Throwing stones is dangerous and can prompt a serious response from police & soldiers.

      Yes we all know that it is a capital offense when goyim to throw rocks at Jews in Israel. The other direction is not even enforced. This is something that is called a violation of equal protection under law, which is a concept lost to Israeli Jews, though it is still accepted by those living in the US.

      2) Using children as “child soldiers” to confront the military and police is a war crime, and whoever put these kids up to it should face justice.

      That is a good one since most of those children decide to do it on their own. So now throwing rocks at Jews is a war crime? Israeli justice is a remarkable invention.

      • NickJOCW on June 5, 2013, 5:03 am

        You cannot win exchanges with people like that, replying only dignifies their nonsense. I think they get a kick out of throwing their comments into the pool and watching evryone get riled up.

      • ToivoS on June 5, 2013, 7:12 pm

        When someone writes nonsense like this in order to stir up a pissing match, i.e. trolling, I agree responding is unproductive. But in this example, we are seeing words that represent the views of a majority of Israeli Jews and also many extremely influential Jews in the West. Many of these are honorable people who genuinely believe this stuff. It is worth the effort to expose these views to withering logic and demonstrate their internal contradictions — it might not change their minds but it can work to prevent the spread of these toxic ideas.

    • Hostage on June 4, 2013, 7:00 pm

      1) Throwing stones is dangerous and can prompt a serious response from police & soldiers.

      Most of us have been persuaded by the body of evidence that those border police and soldiers are consciously committing serious war crimes and crimes against humanity, including acts of aggression against children. The sad part is that the police and soldiers do so after giving the matter years of much more mature consideration than these little kids can even muster. During the fist intifada, Prof. M. Cherif Bassiouni, and L. Cainkar , eds., compiled “The Palestinian Intifada – December 9, 1987 – December 8, 1988: A Record of Israeli Repression, Database Project on Palestinian Human Rights, Chicago 1989”. It has tabulated data including names locations, dates, and type of fatal wounds on scores of 3-13 year-old children. Many were killed execution-style by multiple gunshot wounds to the head or chest. Furkan Doğan and Iman Darweesh Al Hams were not isolated cases.

      Remember that the criminal enterprise that Israel employed to colonize the Arab territories was described in the Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity:

      eviction by armed attack or occupation and inhuman acts resulting from the policy of apartheid, and the crime of genocide

      2) Using children as “child soldiers” to confront the military and police is a war crime, and whoever put these kids up to it should face justice.

      In the targeted killing case, the Israeli Supreme Court claimed that there has been a continuous international armed conflict in the West Bank and Gaza, ever since the first intifada. In all of those years, the Israeli government has never once reported to the responsible treaty monitoring bodies that child soldiers are being employed. During that same period experts on mission from the UN, governmental organizations, and NGOs reported that the police and soldiers have deliberately persecuted the Palestinian population and that they allow Israeli settlers to practice incitement and commit hate crimes with impunity. I think that’s a much more likely explanation of the crimes behind the rock throwing behavior.

      • Obsidian on June 5, 2013, 9:30 am


        Furkan Dogan was 19 years old. Not a minor by any definition.

      • Hostage on June 5, 2013, 3:00 pm

        @Hostage Furkan Dogan was 19 years old. Not a minor by any definition.

        Be careful, your desperation is showing again. I really don’t care how you justify murdering unarmed kids in cold blood. 19 year-olds aren’t even considered mature enough to legally purchase alcohol where I live.

      • tree on June 5, 2013, 4:32 pm

        Iman Darweesh Al Hams was a unarmed 13 year old girl on her way to school, shot execution-style (“confriming the kill”) after being wounded by IDF gunfire. I’m sure you have a pathetic excuse for that as well.

    • talknic on June 4, 2013, 7:30 pm

      @ BrianEsker You’ve certainly convinced me.

      It’s obvious that:

      You’re a brain dead supporter of Israel’s illegal activities “outside the State of Israel”, in “territories occupied”, where the Occupying Power has a “sacred trust” to protect non-self-governing territories, the people, their property and their territory.

      However, Israel has, we are told by the UNSC time and time again, illegally acquired territory by war, illegally annexed territory, illegally settled territory. Is in breach of International Law the UN Charter and the GC’s.

      “Throwing stones is dangerous…”

      That’s why the GC’s oblige Israel to keep its civilian population out of “territories occupied” where violence might erupt, instead on purposefully endangering them in order to create illegal facts on the ground.

      “Using children as “child soldiers” to confront the military and police is a war crime, and whoever put these kids up to it should face justice”

      You’re hilarious. Do you really think after three or four or more generations living under occupation their entire lives, that occupied kids need anyone to “put them up to it”? The presence of their oppressors is what “puts them up to it”.

    • Blank State on June 4, 2013, 10:24 pm



    • Qualtrough on June 5, 2013, 12:40 am

      1. Yes it is. The difference is that in most civilized countries the police/military response is not routinely lethal and/or result in long terms of imprisonment. ESPECIALLY for children.

      2. Putting aside the issue of whether or not they are being ‘used’ by others, I think you will have a very difficult time persuading legal authorities, or anyone else for that matter, that children or even adults throwing stones constitute ‘soldiers’.

      Your’s was a very, very weak argument. Please re-read the Hasbara manual or consult with an advisor.

    • Woody Tanaka on June 5, 2013, 8:07 am

      “It’s obvious that:”

      The only thing that is obvious is that you are an immoral fool, typical of your kind.

    • K Renner on June 5, 2013, 8:44 am

      It’s obvious that:

      1) You’re one of the appeasers of the Tel Aviv government.

      2) You’re also possibly a troll, because your number two isn’t based in reality unless you’re talking about the little Kahanist kids running around in the “settlements”.

    • iResistDe4iAm on June 6, 2013, 1:07 am

      2) Using children as “child soldiers” to confront the military and police is a war crime, and whoever put these kids up to it should face justice.

      Using children and their families as human shields in Israeli-subsidised settlements on stolen foreign land deep inside occupied enemy territories (previous and potential future war zones) is not only immoral, but also a war crime.

    • Talkback on June 7, 2013, 5:51 pm

      BrianEsker says: “It’s obvious that …”

      … you justify child abuse.

  3. eGuard on June 4, 2013, 6:17 pm

    I learned, and my father told me, “Germans” also took hostages. That was WWII. Nazis.

  4. Cliff on June 4, 2013, 8:54 pm

    Yes BrianEsker, throwing stones is dangerous.

    So is waging a war on a captive civilian population so you can STEAL AND COLONIZE their land.

    So expect suicide bombing for awhile, rockets for awhile, and radicalization of people who have it in them to be normal like anyone else in our privileged Western societies.

    Get out of their lives and mind your damn business inside Israel proper and maybe you won’t have to ever deal with stones being flung at your colonial-apartheid defense forces ever again, troll.

  5. iResistDe4iAm on June 5, 2013, 4:17 am

    “soldiers forced him to sit on a revolving chair that spun as the jeep moved, giving them easier access to kick him from all sides” = Israeli Ingenuity (torture category)

    Using a 9-year-old child as a human booby-trap bomb detector = Israeli Ingenuity (war crime category)

    BTW the two Israeli soldiers who used 9-year-old Majid Rabah as a human bomb detector, got off lightly with only suspended sentences and demotions.

  6. NickJOCW on June 5, 2013, 5:55 am

    It is more effective to abuse children because the abuse reverberates upwards and outwards through their extended families and beyond. There is also quite likely an element of paedophilic sadism involved.

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