Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem caused a social media storm on Tuesday when they posted photos of a 4-year-old Palestinian boy being taken to an Israeli police station for interrogation, escorted by his family and locals from his hometown of al-Issawiya.
The boy, identified by local media as Mohammad Elayyan, was allegedly summoned by Israeli police along with his father for questioning in regards to the boy’s participation in stone-throwing at police vehicles during a raid on the town.
Linah al-Saafin, a producer for Al Jazeera, said on Twitter that Israeli forces raided the boy’s house the night before in an attempt to detain him, but the family stepped in and prevented the arrest.
Three yr old Mohammed Alayan from Issawiya, Jerusalem, was summoned by Israeli forces for interrogation after he was accused of throwing a rock at Israeli military jeeps.
Israeli army raided his house last night in attempt to detain him (again, a 3yr old) but family stopped them https://t.co/MAQSnFEqs9
— لينة (@LinahAlsaafin) July 30, 2019
“That is a sign of the failure of the occupation state”, Mohammad Abu Hummus, a member of the local council in al-Issawiya, told the Quds News Network. “The children of al-Issawiya are being chased like grown-ups,” he said.
Local groups and media have reported an escalation over the past month in Israeli arrest raids and use of violent force on Palestinians in al-Issawiya.
According to local news website Felesteen, the council in al-Issawiya called on locals to participate in escorting Mohammad to the interrogation center in front of the media “to expose the occupation.”
Photos and video of the boy’s father, Rabi, and a group of locals escorting him to a nearby police station were widely circulated on social media. Mohammad can be seen clutching a bag of chips and other snacks while walking.
Photos of the group outside the police station showed Mohammad drinking a bottle of chocolate milk while being held in the arms of an unidentified male.
In a video posted on Twitter, Rabi Elayyan recounted the series of events leading up to his son’s alleged summons.
“They [Israeli police] told me to take care of my son and not allow him to play in front of our house, or they’ll arrest him.
They said ‘he’s a little boy, he shouldn’t throw stones at the [Israeli] army’. I said that he doesn’t even know what an army is. It is absurd to order me not to allow him to throw stones at the army or play outside.
I don’t know what to say. The child is only four-years-old, you’re treating him as if he’s the country’s most wanted man.”
Elayyan went on to say that in order not to scare his son on the way to the police station, he told him they were going on a swimming trip.
When they arrived at the station, Rabi said Mohammad was frightened by the soldiers standing at the entryway, saying “Dad, they’re holding weapons, they’ll shoot me!”
According to local media, the boy’s summons was “cancelled” upon arrival to the police station, and his father was taken into holding for interrogation instead.
Quds News Network posted a video on Twitter showing Rabi kissing Mohammad and handing him off to another man in the group before walking past the crowd into the police station.
The event caused a stir on Palestinian social media, drawing the attention of senior PLO official Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, who tweeted “Only #IsraeliCrimes can sink so low!”
The Israeli police handed the family of THREE-YEAR-OLD Muhammad Rabi’ ‘Eleyyan from the Jerusalem village of ‘Esawiyyeh a summons for him to appear for interrogation tomorrow claiming that he threw a stone & damaged a military vehicle. Only #IsraeliCrimes can sink so low!
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) July 29, 2019
Israeli police deny summons
Following the social media uproar, Israeli police issued several statements refuting the Palestinian narrative of events.
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld tweeted a response to the incident, calling it “fake news.”
Fake news. Father summoned for Q. He sent his son to throw rocks at police. Father brought son on purpose to create media event. Boy never Q pic.twitter.com/7bPeylyfTv
— Micky Rosenfeld (@MickyRosenfeld) July 30, 2019
Rosenfeld claimed that only Rabi was summoned for questioning, and that he “sent his son to throw rocks at police.”
“Father brought son on purpose to create media event,” Rosenfeld tweeted.
Separately, Rosenfeld spoke to Middle East Eye, adding that it was ”standard procedure” to summon parents over alleged infractions committed by their underage children.
“It’s an educational process and at the same time community policing to deal with that incident,” Rosenfeld told MEE.
Additionally, MEE cited a researcher at Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP) as saying that DCIP had seen the summons “and confirmed it was addressed to Rabiaa Elayyan.”
Despite the claims of Israeli police, Rabi stood by his version of events, telling reported that both him and his son were summoned.
In light of the disputing claims surrounding Tuesday’s events, critics of the Israeli occupation were quick to point out that whether the child was actually summoned or not in this case, Israeli forces routinely arrest and imprison Palestinian minors in the occupied territory.
Last year, Israeli forces were heavily criticized after a video went viral of soldiers temporarily detaining a frightened three-year-old Palestinian boy at a checkpoint in Hebron.
Israeli NGO B’Tselem reported that at the end of June 2019, 210 Palestinian minors were being held in Israeli prisons as security detainees and prisoners, including two minors under the age of 14.
According to DCIP, since 2000, at least 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in an Israeli military detention system, “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,” DCIP reported.