Israeli forces stormed Aida refugee camp on Wednesday, arresting Ali Jawarish, a 14-year-old disabled Palestinian boy, who as of today is still being held in Israeli detention. The arrest was caught on video by youth from the camp, and depicts Israeli forces tearing off the boy’s shirt, and violently throwing him into the back of a military jeep.
Mutaz Baraka, also 14 and one of Ali’s friends, told Mondoweiss that he, Ali and around a dozen other children their age had just gotten out of school and were playing in the street next to the refugee camp’s community center when Israeli forces opened the gate in the nearby separation wall. Through the gate, an Israeli military jeep came driving quickly towards them.
“Everyone ran but Ali was the slowest, so he didn’t get away, they caught up to him,” he said.
Mutaz said he is worried for Ali, because he understands what it means to be taken in by Israeli forces. On Oct. 6 Mutaz was taken from his home during a pre-dawn night raid and was held for five days before Israeli authorities released him.
On Wednesday, Rana Musafana, Ali’s 30-year-old cousin, heard what happened and came rushing down to the street, arguing with Israeli soldiers to allow her to speak to Ali.
“I told him he was sick, and they said we know he is sick, but if you don’t raise him right, we will,” she said.
Israeli forces refused to allow any guardian to speak with the 14-year-old, and because of the family’s financial constraints, his lawyer is one appointed to him by the Israeli military court he is being prosecuted under.
Ali was supposed to have a court hearing on Friday, but Israeli authorities told his family that the hearing had been postponed to an unscheduled date.
While no official charges have been levied, Ali’s family told Mondoweiss that Israeli forces are accusing the boy of throwing a pipe bomb at the separation wall that hems the refugee camp — a claim locals say is impossible, due to Ali’s special conditions.
Rana explained that Ali’s arrest was a particular strain on the already struggling family.
Ali’s father died of natural causes five years ago, and a year ago his mother also passed away due to health complications. Ali’s 19-year-old brother has been in Israeli prison for the past five months, and another was shot and killed by Israeli forces in 1997. Ali’s two eldest living brothers, 30 and 32 years old, took over raising Ali and his two sisters after their parents’ death. The 14-year-old also has epilepsy as well as moderate physical and mental disabilities that held him back in school two years.
“The way they arrested him was savage,” Rana said. “It was from a savage way, they beat and kicked him in the jeep and he’s sick, he was premature when he was born, he’s been sick all his life.”
The video of Ali’s arrest only shows the first few moments of the arrest, because the youth who filmed the incident filmed it on a social media messenger app that only allowed for 15-second video recordings at a time. Witnesses in the area during the arrest however, told Mondoweiss that after Ali’s shirt was ripped off and he was thrown into the jeep, Israeli forces began beating the teen.
Rana said what happened to Ali is not uncommon in the refugee camp.
“It’s not right what happens here to children, there needs to be a way to stop these kinds of crimes committed by the occupation,” Rana said. “They are only children — Ali is a child, he needs to have a childhood — all the children should be able to have a childhood.”
According to Defense of Children International — Palestine (DCIP), “Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts,” which according to the group, “lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees.”
DCIP also found that children often “arrive at an interrogation and detention center alone, sleep deprived and often bruised and scared.”
“Interrogations tend to be coercive, including a variety of verbal abuse, threats and physical violence that ultimately result in a confession,” the report continued.
As of today, Ali’s family has been unable to make any direct contact with him, and are concerned for his safety and health.
“If you beat a child, they’ll say anything you ask of them,” Rana said. “Holding a child for interrogation is not human.”
Currently, there are at least 300 Palestinian children being held in Israeli prisons, 11 of which are under the age of 16, according to January’s documentation by Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights NGO.
According to Addameer, around 700 Palestinian children under the age of 18 from the occupied West Bank are prosecuted every year through “Israeli military courts after being arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army. “
The group added that the most common charge levied against children is “throwing stones, a crime that is punishable under military law by up to 20 years in prison.
Since 2000, more than 12,000 Palestinian children have been detained by Israeli forces, according to Addameer.