Hanaa (39) and Jamal (49) Karamah live with their six children – Jamil (20), Jannah (19), ‘Othman (16), Baraah (13), Muamen (10) and Tasnim (5) – in Wadi Abu Katilah, in the northwestern part of the city of Hebron. The neighborhood is located in Area H1, ostensibly under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Between 25 August and 20 September 2018, soldiers showed up at the family’s home in the middle of the night on four different occasions.
On 25 August 2018, soldiers arrived at the Karamahs’ home at 1:30 A.M. They handed the parents a summons to appear for an ISA (Israel Security Agency) interrogation the next day, and took a photo of Jamal Karamah holding the summons. The soldiers also demanded to photograph Hanaa Karamah with the summons, but she refused and they relented. The next night, after neither parent appeared for the interrogation, soldiers arrived at the home at around ten o’clock. This time, the soldiers assaulted members of the family, searched the home, turning it upside down, and then arrested Jamal Karamah and confiscated the family car. Shortly after they left the house, friends of the family told them the soldiers had abandoned their car after it broke down. Jamal Karamah was held in custody until 30 August 2018. About ten days after his release, soldiers once again arrived at the family home and once again confiscated the car.
On 19 September 2018, at around 11:30 at night, Jamal Karamah received a phone call from a man who introduced himself as an ISA officer and demanded to know why he and his wife had not appeared for interrogation as required in the summons they were given on 25 August 2018. When Karamah said he was willing to undergo an interrogation, but his wife would not come to the ISA office, the officer told him soldiers would come to the family home that same night to arrest his wife. Dozens of soldiers showed up at the home shortly before dawn. The events that unfolded were exceedingly severe even for the routine violence West Bank residents are subjected to.
That night, at around 4:00 A.M., the family was already awake because the children (including the eldest children) were getting ready to set out on a trip to Israel with some relatives. Scores of soldiers surrounded the house. They knocked at the door, and when the family took some time to open it, they hit the door with a hammer, breaking it, and causing it to get stuck. When the family finally managed to open the door, the soldiers immediately dragged the father outside, then went inside and began assaulting other family members. The soldiers ultimately arrested the father, the mother and the eldest son Jamil and led them to jeeps that were parked near the home.
On the way, the soldiers passed by the Karamahs’ relatives, who had come out into the street after hearing the family’s shouts. One of the soldiers threw a stun grenade. It landed under the wheelchair of 30-year-old Samir Karamah and went off right beside him. Samir Karamah fell on his face, and when his 13-year-old nephew Zuheir Karamah tried to come to his aid, the soldiers assaulted him too, as well as other family members who came to their aid. By the time the incident was over, seven members of the extended Karamah family required hospital care. They were treated at ‘Aalia Hospital in Hebron. Most were treated for contusions. One received treatment for a fractured wrist and another for a cut to the ear.
The soldiers finally left, taking Jamal and Hanaa Karamah and their son Jamil. They let out Jamil near the northwestern exit from Hebron, stranding him there. The parents were taken to the Etzion Police Station, where Hanaa was interrogated about her acquaintance with other women who were under arrest. She was then taken to the Kiryat Arba Police Station, where the interrogators accused her of participating in prohibited activities and harming the security of the area. Jamal was interrogated at the Kiryat Arba Police Station for allegedly assaulting a soldier when the military entered his home that morning. Hanaa Karamah was released in the early afternoon on a NIS 3,000 [approx. USD 810] bail. She was given a summons for a court appearance, which was later canceled. Jamal Karamah was released that evening, on a NIS 500 [approx. USD 135] bail. He too received a summons to appear in court, in a year’s time.
Soldiers raiding homes in the middle of the night has become a common part of life not only for the Karamah family, but across the West Bank. These raids, which take place also in areas that are ostensibly under the full control of the Palestinian Authority, are carried out with no need for a search warrant, whenever and wherever the military chooses, in keeping with the sweeping arbitrary powers it has granted itself. There is absolutely no justification for these actions, which are clearly designed to intimidate and terrify the residents.
In testimonies they gave to B’Tselem field researchers Manal al-Ja’bri and Musa Abu Hashhash, members of the family described the ordeal they endured that night.
In a testimony given on 23 September 2018, Jamal Karamah said:
On Wednesday, 19 October 2018, at around 11:30 at night, an ISA officer called on my wife’s phone and asked to speak with me. He started out by asking, “How are you?”. Then he asked why my wife and I hadn’t come to the meeting with the ISA. I said I was willing to go, but that I wouldn’t bring my wife. He got angry and started threatening me that soldiers would raid our home and arrest us. Then he hung up.
On Thursday, at around 4:00 A.M., we were already up because the children were getting ready to go on a trip. We heard the sound of a car engine outside and thought the bus that was going to take them on the trip had arrived. Jamil went outside and came right back in yelling: “It’s the army! The army”! The soldiers knocked at the door. Little Tasnim started screaming. I picked her up to calm her down a little and went over to the window overlooking the entrance. I saw soldiers surrounding the house. One of them had his gun pointed at me. I asked him to wait a moment until the women put on their head covers, but they wouldn’t wait and kept pounding at the door. The children were scared and so were we, scared that they’d come in and jump us, so we were hesitant to open. The soldiers started breaking the door with a hammer, as I was speaking to them and asking them to calm down, but it didn’t do any good and they didn’t stop. The children called out to the neighbors for help. The door broke and got stuck because of the soldiers’ hammering, but in the end, my son Jamil managed to open it.
The soldiers continued banging on the door and another group of soldiers went inside and spread out throughout the house. Five of them jumped me, knocked me down and continued hitting and kicking me. I saw another soldier going for my daughter Jannah, who was filming what was going on. The soldier grabbed her by the neck, pulled and dragged her over to a female soldier who held her hands behind her back and started hitting her. A soldier punched ‘Othman in the face and two others dragged him into one of the rooms. Other soldiers dragged Jamil into the bathroom. I saw my wife trying to get the kids away from the soldiers who had them, and at the same time trying to shield me and get the soldiers away from me. One of the female soldiers went for my wife and dragged her out of the house.
Four soldiers grabbed me by the arms and legs and threw me out of the house. They handcuffed and blindfolded me and put me into a jeep where there were at least six Border Police officers. The jeep started moving, and during the ride, which lasted about twenty minutes, they beat me all over with a gun barrel, also on my back, and stepped on me. I told them I had had surgery on my left arm and leg and asked them not to hurt me there, but that was exactly where I got hit a lot.
In a testimony she gave on 23 September 2018, Hanaa Karamah recalled:
The soldiers pounded on the door while I was hurriedly trying to get my headcover on and go open the door. My husband spoke to them through the window and said he was coming to open the door. He was anxious because our little girl, Tasnim, who’s just five, was crying a lot and clinging to him. The soldiers kept pounding on the door aggressively until they broke its window pane. The door got stuck because of their banging, but in the end, Jamil managed to pry it open. About ten soldiers came inside. One of them attacked Jamil, and then several soldiers dragged him into the bathroom. In the meantime, the other soldiers attacked my husband, kicking his legs. Another soldier chased Muamen, who is ten, grabbed him and hit him and punched him in the neck. The younger children were screaming and crying. A female soldier grabbed my daughter Jannah and kept a tight grip on her while soldiers dragged Jamal outside. ‘Othman, who is 16, was dragged by the soldiers into one of the rooms in the house.
Then a female soldier dragged me outside. I screamed: “My children! My children!”. I asked her to let me stay with them, but she kept dragging me until we got to one of the jeeps parked outside and the soldiers threw me into it. The soldiers brought my son Jamil to the jeep handcuffed and blindfolded. They beat him inside the jeep, next to me, and then took him to a different jeep. They blindfolded me and placed metal handcuffs on me, keeping my hands in front me.
In a testimony she gave on 24 September 2018, Jannah, 19, recounted what happened after her parents were taken away:
After the female soldier who was holding me let me go, I went into the guest room and heard a soldier tell my mother she had to go with them. I realized they were arresting her. I cried and screamed that I wanted to say goodbye to my mother. One of the soldiers pushed me back and another female soldier took my mother outside. I couldn’t see either of my parents anymore. I was in shock and I was crying. There were still two soldiers in the room, and suddenly, one of them grabbed me by the neck and shoved me. I fell down. They then started going toward the front door, and my sisters and I followed them. We saw five soldiers beating my brother Jamil and we started screaming. A few minutes later, the soldiers took Jamil. We tried to follow them outside, but one of them wouldn’t let us pass. He closed the door and yelled at us to get inside. My little sister Tasnim kept yelling and crying and calling: “Mama! Mama”! I tried to calm her down and told her that if she wouldn’t be quiet I wouldn’t take her on the trip, so she kept quiet.
Those were scary moments for all of us.
Some relatives who rushed over having heard the shouting described being attacked by the soldiers:
Testimony given on 23 October 2018 by Naelah Karamah, 28, a married mother of three (aged 5 to 13), one of them Zuheir:
Israeli military raids on our homes have become routine. They barge into our homes late at night, harass us and scare everyone, especially the young children. It’s been happening more frequently in recent months.
On Thursday, 20 September 2018, my nine-year-old son Muhammad woke me up just after 4:00 o’clock in the morning to say there were soldiers outside. We all woke up. We were scared they’d barge into our home. When we saw they weren’t coming to our house, we went out into the yard. We saw dozens of soldiers surrounding the area. One of them pointed his gun at my brother-in-law ‘Alaa and told us to get back inside, but we could hear cries for help coming from Jamal Karamah’s house, who is my husband’s cousin. Mostly we heard his wife Hanaa screaming. We refused to go inside because we were worried about them. We tried to get closer to Jamal’s house, but the soldiers wouldn’t let us through.
When the soldiers left Jamal and Hanaa’s house they passed by us and one of them threw a stun grenade that fell under my brother-in-law Samir’s wheelchair. It went off and Samir fell face down. Everyone started yelling at the soldiers. My son Zuheir, 13, went over to his uncle to help him up, but five soldiers dragged him away quickly and started beating him. When my husband Samer tried to shield him, the soldiers beat him too. They kicked him and hit him with their rifle butts.
Mu’taz (27), my sister-in-law’s son, who was staying with us that night, tried to intervene and protect Samir and Zuheir, and the soldiers assaulted him too. He managed to break free and flee into our house.
I saw my young son, Muhammad (9) running into the house screaming and crying uncontrollably. I ran after him. Mu’taz was in the living room, moaning in pain. We found out later that when the soldiers beat him with their rifle butts they fractured a bone in his hand.
Then soldiers left. I still can’t get the sight of them hitting my son and husband out of my head, I can’t stop thinking about Muhammad’s fear. They threw the stun grenade at Samir, who is in a wheelchair, without any justification. They were so aggressive, for no reason. We no longer feel safe even inside our homes. We can’t just relax. Our nights are spent in fear of soldier raids.
Zuheir Karamah, 13, spoke about what he went through in a testimony he gave on 24 September 2018:
When the soldiers left Jamal’s home, they were very violent and told us to get inside. Suddenly, I saw a soldier throwing a stun grenade that went off under my uncle Samir’s wheelchair. The chair tipped over and he fell out. I was angry and I went over to help him up, and then one of the soldiers grabbed me by the right arm, gripping me hard. I tried to break loose and he dragged me a few meters away. Then a few more soldiers came and started beating me. I fell down, and the soldiers kicked and punched me and hit me with their rifle butts. My uncles ‘Alaa and Salman got me away from them and brought me inside the house. My right cheek was all swollen, and I was sore all over my body.
After the soldiers left, my father drove me, my uncle ‘Alaa – whose ear had been injured, and my cousins Mu’taz and ‘Othman to ‘Aliya Hospital in Hebron.
Mu’taz Karamah, 27, Zuheir’s cousin, spoke about the incident in a testimony he gave on 2 October 2018:
I was woken up by the screams coming from my Uncle Jamal’s house. I didn’t know why they were screaming. I got dressed quickly and went outside. I saw five or six relatives of mine near the house, looking agitated. There were a lot of soldiers there too. The soldiers tried to get my relatives to go back inside and one of them threw a stun grenade under Uncle Samir’s wheelchair. He fell to the ground, face down. I saw Zuheir approach him and then five or six soldiers jumping him and starting to beat him.
The soldiers kept trying to get us to go back inside. I wouldn’t, and then a soldier assaulted me, punching me in the shoulder and chest. I ran toward my grandfather’s house, and four soldiers chased me and attacked me. I fell down, and when I got up, one of the soldiers hit my left wrist with his rifle butt. It hurt real bad. I went inside after that and the soldiers left me alone. Later, in the hospital, it turned out I had a hairline fracture in my left wrist. They set it and put it in a cast.
Jannah Karamah added:
After the soldiers left, my uncle Samir, who lives next to us, called me. Despite everything that had happened, my uncles tried to calm me down and convince me everything was going to be okay and that we should go on the trip. At first I refused, but they said my father had told them not to cancel the trip.
About fifteen minutes after the soldiers left, Jamil called and said they’d left him in the middle of the street, in the Farsh al-Hawa neighborhood. He asked that we come get him. My Uncle ‘Abd a-Salam picked him up and then drove us to the ‘Aliya Hospital in Hebron. They examined us and took x-rays. We all had minor injuries, except my cousin Mu’taz, who had a hairline fracture in his hand and it was put in a cast. We went home at 7:00 A.M. and then went on the trip. We got home at eleven o’clock at night. When we were in Herzliya [in Israel], mother called and said she’d been released. I asked her about Dad and she said they’d told her he was being released. When I came home he was already there.
Jamal Karamah added in his testimony:
My young daughter Tasnim now panics every time someone comes to visit us. I don’t understand why they harassed our family. Why terrorize us like this and arrest us? Why did they even call us in for a meeting with the ISA?
A version of this post was originally published by B’Tselem on October 31, 2018.