Israeli soldiers arrest 5-year-old Palestinian for throwing stone
Israeli soldiers detained a 5-year-old Palestinian boy in the West Bank for two hours for throwing a stone, threatened his family with arrest, before handcuffing and blindfolding his father, an Israeli human rights NGO reported Thursday.
According to a B’Tselem press release, a group of seven Israeli soldiers and an officer detained 5-year old Wadi’a Maswadeh on Tuesday afternoon, after the boy allegedly threw a stone at a Jewish settler’s car at a checkpoint near Hebron.
Palestinians residents tried to intercede in favor of Wadi’a. In a video recorded by B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Jaabari, a Palestinian man can be heard pleading that the boy will not throw stones again, to which a soldier replied that the stone “could kill somebody.”
The soldiers then took the crying child, accompanied by a Palestinian, into one of their vehicles and drove to his family’s house.
Once at the family’s home, the soldiers informed Wadi’a’s mother that they would hand him over to the Palestinian police. She refused to let them take the child before his father came home.
About half an hour later, Wadi’a’s father, Karam Maswadeh, arrived at the scene, where he was told by the soldiers that if he did not comply, he too would be arrested.
“The officer told me that he was going to arrest Wadi’a and hand him over to the Palestinian Coordination,” Karam said. “I asked him: ‘why arrest a 5-year-old boy?’”
“I tried to persuade the officer not to take Wadi’a to the DCO [District Coordination Office], but he said that if I didn’t bring him, I’d be arrested…I went inside the house and got Wadi’a, who was hiding there. He was crying.”
Wadi’a and Karam Maswadeh were then taken to an Israeli army base, where soldiers handcuffed and blindfolded Karam before walking the father and son to a police checkpoint.
They were held for another half hour in public view, as seen in footage filmed by B’Tselem volunteer Imad Abu Shamsiyeh.
The video shows the arrival of an Israeli lieutenant colonel, who reprimanded the soldiers for “harming our public image” by arresting a child in front of cameras, adding that detainees should be “treated nicely” in front of recording devices.
A soldier then removed Karam Maswadeh’s blindfold, and him and his son were then transferred to a Palestinian police station, where they were briefly questioned and released.
“The footage clearly shows that this was not a mistake made by an individual soldier, but rather conduct that, to our alarm, was considered reasonable by all the military personnel involved, including senior officers,” B’Tselem Director Jessica Montell wrote in a letter addressed to the legal adviser to “Judea and Samaria” – the Israeli term for the West Bank.
“It is particularly troubling that none of them apparently thought any part of the incident was problematic: not the fact that they scared a five-year-old boy out of his wits, nor threatening him and his parents to “hand him over” to the Palestinian Police, nor threatening to arrest the father on no legal grounds, nor handcuffing and blindfolding the father in front of his son.”
The age of criminal responsibility is 12 in the military judicial system in the West Bank, according to B’Tselem. However, Palestinian minors are often detained by Israeli soldiers for allegedly throwing stones, an offense which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Israel has signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, but it has faced extensive criticism for not applying its statutes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Palestinian children in the Gaza and the West Bank, captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said in a June report.
“Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released,” it said in a report.