Palestinian activists on Sunday filmed Israeli forces dragging an 8-year-old Palestinian boy through the al-Harika neighborhood of Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank for more than hour.
The video, received and edited by Israeli rights group B’Tselem, shows 8-year-old Sufian Abu Hitah crying and barefoot, being pulled by his arm by an Israeli soldier.
The boy was surrounded by at least between 8-18 Israeli soldiers while being taken around the neighborhood, as Israeli forces tried to get the boy to identify other children who soldiers suspected of throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba earlier that day.
Sufian was taken down a gravel road through the neighborhood with no shoes on, and seemingly no care taken for the boy’s feet on the rocky path. The video then shows soldiers taking the boy up onto a roof top. On the way down from the roof, Sufian is shown in tears as Palestinian neighbors and family members awaited the soldiers, attempting to convince them to release Sufian.
A woman eventually got ahold of the 8-year-old’s arm, pulling him away while Palestinians surrounded the boy trying to protect him from continued detention. Israeli forces followed the boy and the adults who took him back for several minutes before retreating, giving up on the chance of getting the 8-year-old to give them information about other children.
Amit Gilutz, spokesperson for B’Tselem told Mondoweiss that the incident was a normal display of Israeli military tactics.
“Unfortunately, an appalling treatment of minors is not unusual, but part of the occupation’s routine,” Gilutz said.
B’Tselem did an investigation into the incident and released a detailed report on Thursday.
During the investigation, the rights group spoke to the boy’s mother, Amani Abu Hitah.
Amani said she had been visiting her parents in the al-Harika neighborhood of Hebron. The mother sent her son to pick up his younger brother from school. When he got back, he took off his shoes to enter the house and realized he dropped a toy along the way, B’tSelem reported.
Amani knew Israeli soldiers were in the area, so she told Sufian not to go out looking for the toy, but the 8-year-old snuck out, and went on the hunt for his missing toy.
A few minutes later Sufian was picked up by Israeli soldiers, and local boys ran to tell his mother.
“I saw more than fifteen soldiers surrounding Sufian. Two of them were holding him by both arms and dragging him towards the gate of Kiryat Arba. A few neighbors had already gathered in the street and were trying to rescue Sufian from the soldiers,” Amani told B’Tselem.
“I went up to one of the soldiers and asked him to give me back my son. He refused and said: ‘If you want to get him back, convince him to tell us the names of the children who were throwing stones.’”
“Sufian was shaking with fear. I saw him talk to the soldiers and tell them that he doesn’t know anything, but it didn’t help … I was really scared and worried about Sufian. I started crying and ran after the soldiers as they moved from house to house, to try and get them to let him go,” she said.
After an hour of dragging the boy around the neighborhood, women from the village were able to get the 8-year-old away from Israeli forces to safety.
According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, at least 12,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in an Israeli military detention since 2000.
Last month Mondoweiss reported on a 14-year-old boy, Ali Jawarish, who was violently arrested by Israeli forces from Aida refugee camp.
The incident was also caught on camera. The video depicted Israeli forces tearing off the boy’s shirt, and violently throwing him into the back of a military jeep.
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.
In a report, Defense of Children International – Palestine (DCIP) condemned Israeli actions towards Palestinian children, noting that the Israeli system is “notorious for the systematic ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children.”
“The majority of Palestinian child detainees are charged with throwing stones, and three out of four experience physical violence during arrest, transfer or interrogation,” the report said, adding that “no Israeli child comes into contact with the military court system.”