With President Obama’s visit to Israel dominating headlines, barely anyone noticed that over two dozen Palestinian schoolchildren were arrested by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Hebron as they made their way to school yesterday morning.
Around 30 young boys aged betweeen 7 and 15 years were arrested between 7 and 8 am this morning, the 20th of March, on their way to the Al-Khalil and the Al-Ibrahimi school in Hebron. Various witnesses reported the soldiers entered the school and arrested all boys that were present at the time. More children were arrested on the street. Soldiers claimed that they were looking for children who had thrown stones.
Inhabitants of the area surrounding the school reported that Israeli soldiers forced their way into a private appartment, moved the family to one room and took pictures of the children passing by on the street. Other soldiers hid in buildings near the school, making traps for the children. The arrested boys were violently dragged behind by the soldiers and beaten and kicked, as shown in video footage from human rights organisation B’Tselem below.
Most of the children were released to the Palestinian Authority around four hours later, but there are reports that some may still be detained by Israeli military, along with protesters who were arrested for walking down Shuhada Street wearing Obama masks, as Obama arrived into Israel today.
The Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, uploaded a shocking video of the arrest showing Israeli soldiers dragging, shoving and man-handling elementary school children, which I included at the beginning of the post.
The IDF released a statement to justify their behavior: “Due to recent stone-throwing incidents toward the security forces and citizens in the city, the IDF arrested Palestinian youth who pelted stones. Seven have been taken for a police interrogation.”
B’Tselem added the following update:
On the day of the incident B’Tselem wrote to the Legal Advisor in Judea and Samaria, the Legal Advisor of the Israel Police and to the spokesperson for the Judea and Samaria Division regarding this issue. The officials confirmed that, further to a stone-throwing incident earlier that morning, the military apprehended 27 minors, including at least 14 under the age of 12. Later, the military released 20 of the minors to the custody of the Palestinian Authority. The other seven minors were questioned by the police. B’Tselem stressed the following: minors should not be questioned without their parents’ knowledge and the presence of an adult representative on their behalf; the police is duty-bound to inform parents immediately upon the detention of their children; it is unlawful to detain or transport minors under the age of 12.
Meanwhile, a salafist group in Gaza has taken responsibility for launching two rockets into southern Israel, an act President Obama did not hesitate to immediately condemn. But if you’re waiting for Obama to denounce Israeli soldiers arresting 8-year-olds, don’t hold your breath.