Israel condemned for night raids against Palestinian children

Update Israel condemned for night raids against Palestinian children
Mourners attend the funeral of Omar Khumour, 14, in Bethlehem’s Dheisheh refugee camp, in the occupied West Bank, on January 16, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 16 January 2023

Israel condemned for night raids against Palestinian children

Israel condemned for night raids against Palestinian children
  • 14-year-old boy killed during raid into refugee camp in Bethlehem in occupied West Bank in surging violence

RAMALLAH: Israel has been condemned for its use of night raids against Palestinian children in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israeli Human Rights organization HaMoked said that Israeli security forces arrest hundreds of children a year in planned raids that cause trauma for all involved.

In “On Flimsy Grounds: Israel’s Pervasive Night Arrests of Palestinian Children,” published on Jan. 16, the group said that the practice was often a first recourse, even when a child was only detained for a short time and released without charge.

In 125 cases it examined last year, The group found that not one Palestinian family received a summons before Israeli forces stormed their homes.

It said that Israel’s refusal to reduce the use of the tactic suggests that it is purposefully used to intimidate the Palestinian population.

The latest accusation against Israeli forces came as the Palestinian Ministry of Health said that a 14-year-old Omar Lotfi Khumour was shot in the head and killed on Monday by Israeli soldiers in Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem.

Crowds of Palestinians massed outside the hospital where the teenager was taken, chanting protests against Israel.

The death raised the number of Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of the year to 14, including four children.

HaMoked’s report was based on information from 294 families who contacted it to locate their child after his detention. Of these, 125 were concerned with an arrest operation in the middle of the night.

“Israel’s conduct toward Palestinian children wanted for questioning constitutes a severe violation of its international legal obligations,” the report said.

In a High Court petition in 2021, the group had forced the Israeli military to introduce a “procedure for summoning suspected minors before planned arrest.”  

HaMoked has appealed to reassert its challenge. The hearing is scheduled in March.

The research shows that night arrests are used even on children suspected of minor offenses.

The group said that the vast majority of cases it reviewed were  back home with their families within weeks of arrest, most with no charges filed. Many were detained for a few days or even for just a few hours.

“Night arrests should be the last option, and Israel should use all other options before they reach the point of a huge group of soldiers bounding on a family home in the middle of the night,” Jessica Montell, executive director of HaMoked, told Arab News.

“This is a hugely traumatic experience both for the boy being arrested and for his whole family.

“While Israel has introduced this new procedure to issue a summon instead of a night arrest, HaMoked research from the past year shows there is no improvement in the situation. 

“We documented 125 night arrest cases last year, and no one case was summoned.”

Ayed Abu Qtaish, director of the Accountability Program at Defense for Children International, told Arab News that it was clear Israeli forces were ignoring previous court rulings on the use of unannounced arrests.

Abu Qtaish also said that most of the arrests happened at night while the children were asleep, accompanied by the violent storming of homes by heavily armed forces, waking them up and taking them to interrogation centers, which causes psychological trauma.

The forces hand the family a summons request for investigation only If they do not find the child to be arrested at the house, he said. 

The Palestinian Prisoners Club’s Amani Saraneh told Arab News that Israeli security forces had arrested 882 children last year in such raids. He added that 150 remained in prison.