Amir, ten years old, abducted by Israeli soldiers from his bed

Nora Barrows-Friedman writing from Hebron, occupied West Bank, Live from Palestine,

March 8 2010

Amir and his mother just hours before he was abducted by Israeli soldiers. (Nora Barrows-Friedman)
Amir al-Mohtaseb smiled tenderly when I asked him to tell me his favorite color. Sitting in his family’s living room last Thursday afternoon, 4 March, in the Old City of Hebron, the ten-year-old boy with freckles and long eyelashes softly replied, “green.” He then went on to describe in painful detail his arrest and detention — and the jailing of his 12-year-old brother Hasan by Israeli occupation soldiers on Sunday, 28 February.

Hours after our interview, at 2am, Israeli soldiers would break into the house, snatch Amir from his bed, threaten his parents with death by gunfire if they tried to protect him, and take him downstairs under the stairwell. They would beat him so badly that he would bleed internally into his abdomen, necessitating overnight hospitalization. In complete shock and distress, Amir would not open his mouth to speak for another day and a half.

In our interview that afternoon before the brutal assault, Amir said that on the 28th, he was playing in the street near the Ibrahimi Mosque, on his way with Hasan to see their aunt.

“Two of the soldiers stopped us and handcuffed us,” Amir said. “They brought us to two separate jeeps. They took me to the settlement and put me in a corner. I still had handcuffs on. They put a dog next to me. I said that I wanted to go home. They said no, and told me I would stay here forever. They refused to let me use the bathroom. They wouldn’t let me call my mother. They blindfolded me and I stayed there like that until my father was able to come and get me late at night.”

Amir’s detention inside the settlement lasted nearly ten hours. “The only thing that I thought about was how afraid I was, especially with the dog beside me. I wanted to run away and go back to my house,” he said.

Amir and Hasan’s mother, Mukarrem, told me that Amir immediately displayed signs of trauma when he returned home. “He was trying to tell me a joke, and trying to laugh. But it was not normal laughter. He was happy and terrified at the same time,” she said. “He wet himself at some point during the detention. He was extremely afraid.”

Amir revealed that he hadn’t been able to sleep in the nights following his detention, worried sick about his brother in jail and extremely afraid that the soldiers would come back (which, eventually, they did). Today, approximately 350 children are languishing inside Israeli prisons and detention camps, enduring interrogation, torture and indefinite sentences, sometimes without charge. The number fluctuates constantly, but thousands of Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 16 have moved through the Israeli military judicial system over the past decade since the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada. Israel designates 18 as the age of adulthood for its own citizens, but through a military order, and against international law, Israel mandates 16 as the age of adulthood for Palestinians. Additionally, Israel has special military orders (#1644 and #132) to be able to arrest and judge Palestinian children — termed “juvenile delinquents” — as young as 12 years old.

“This way, they have a ‘legal’ cover for what they are doing, even though this is against international laws,” said Abed Jamal, a researcher at Defence for Children International-Palestine Section’s (DCI-PS) Hebron office. “However, in Amir’s case, they broke even their own laws by arresting and detaining him as a ten-year-old boy. These laws are obviously changeable according to Israel’s whim. We have yet to see a prosecution for crimes such as these.”

I asked Amir and Hasan’s father, Fadel, to describe how one is able to parent effectively under this kind of constant siege.

“It’s not safe for the children to go outside because we’ve faced constant attacks by the settlers and the soldiers,” he explained. “This by itself is unimaginable for us. And now, we have one son in jail and another traumatized … they’re so young.”

On Sunday, 7 March, exactly a week after Hasan’s arrest and Amir’s detention, the family and members of the local media made an early-morning journey to Ofer prison where Hasan had been held since his initial arrest. After a lengthy process in which the Israeli military judge admitted that the boy was too young to stay in prison, Hasan was released on the condition that he would come back to the court to finish the trial at a later date. This trial followed the initial hearing last Wednesday at Ofer, where Maan News Agency reported that the judge insisted that Fadel pay the court 2,000 shekels ($530) for Hasan’s bail. According to Maan, Fadel then publicly asked the court, “What law allows a child to be tried in court and then asks his father to pay a fine? I will not pay the fine, and you have to release my child … This is the law of Israel’s occupation.”

Consumed by their sons’ situations, Mukarrem and Fadel say they are trying to do the best for their family under attack. “What can we do?” asked Fadel. “We lock the doors. We lock the windows. We have nothing with which to protect our family and our neighbors from the soldiers or the settlers. If a Palestinian kidnapped and beat and jailed an Israeli child, the whole world would be up in arms about it. It would be all over the media. But the Israelis, they come into our communities with jeeps and tanks and bulldozers, they take our children and throw them into prison, and no one cares.”

DCI-PS’s Jamal reiterates the point that international laws made to protect children under military occupation have been ignored by Israel since the occupation began in 1967. “Most of the time, we try to do our best to use the law, the Geneva Conventions, the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child as weapons against this brutality,” said Jamal. “All of these laws exist, but Israel uses their own military laws as excuses to defy international law. As Palestinians, we have to work together to create solidarity against this brutality. Through our work, we try to tell the international community what’s going on with Palestinian children to create a wide berth of support against this situation. We believe that the only way this will stop is through the support of the international community.”

Amir slowly began speaking again 36 hours after the beating by Israeli soldiers. Zahira Meshaal, a Bethlehem-based social worker specializing in the effects of trauma in children, said that Amir’s “elective mutism,” a symptom of extreme psychological shock caused by his beating and detention, is a common response, but that it is a good sign that he began talking again. “This is a reaction of fear on many levels. Amir’s house and his family are his only source of security,” said Meshaal. “This was taken away from him the moment the soldiers invaded his home. It’s easy to attend to the immediate trauma, but the long-term effects will undoubtedly be difficult to address. He’ll need a lot of mental health services from now on.”

Meshaal comments on the nature of this attack in the context of the unraveling situation inside Hebron. “We are talking about a place that is on the front lines of trauma,” she said. “This is an ongoing and growing injury to the entire community. Parents have to be a center of security for their children, but that’s being taken away from them. Especially in Hebron, the Israeli settlers and soldiers know this, and use this tactic to force people to leave the area. It’s a war of psychology. This is a deliberate act to make the children afraid and force people to leave so that their children can feel safer.”

At the end of our interview last Thursday, Amir sent a message to American children. “We are kids, just like you. We have the right to play, to move freely. I want to tell the world that there are so many kids inside the Israeli jails. We just want to have freedom of movement, the freedom to play.” Amir said that he wants to be a heart surgeon when he grows up. His mother and father told me that they hope Amir’s own heart — and theirs — heals from last week’s repetitive and cumulative trauma at the hands of the interminable Israeli occupation.

Source

This is everyday life for those in the West Bank. This not how children should be treated.

Related

The systematic and institutionalised ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities

There are also two other very good reports on the Prison system run by Israel. One for Adults and one for Children HERE as well . Be sure to read them and then maybe you will understand just how horrible things really are for Palestinians. International Laws are defiantly broken and often.

No democratic country, with the exception of the US with their prison system like Guantanamo  for Prisoners of war, does this to people.

A Palestinian student has been handcuffed, blindfolded and forcibly expelled to the Gaza

How would you feel if these things were done to your children? Children should not live in constant fear.

Terrorizing children. You don’t want to know what I am thinking, really you don’t.

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Published in: on March 9, 2010 at 8:49 am  Comments Off on Amir, ten years old, abducted by Israeli soldiers from his bed  
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White Phosphorus Victims in Gaza

Gaza phosphorus casualties relive Israel’s three-week war
Special Report: By Tim Butcher in Gaza City argues why the true story about Israel’s use of phosphorus shells may never emerge.

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Sabbah Abu Halima, 45, suffered burns in the shelling of the village of Atatra on the northern edge of Gaza. She saw her husband and baby daughter killed. Photo: REUTERS

January 23 2009

John Stuart Mill described war as an ugly thing and it does not come much uglier than the digital photograph Mahmoud Abu Halima has on his mobile phone. It was taken this week and shows the body of his 15-month-old sister, Shahed, burned by white phosphorus, bloated through decomposition and without any feet or legs.

Mr Halima explained what happened to the lower limbs.

“There were about 12 bodies from the village that had to be left out in the open when the Israeli soldiers came. By the time we got back she had been partially eaten by wild dogs,” he said.

After Israel ended its ban on foreign journalists in Gaza it was a week of piecing together such stories, trying to clarify exactly what happened during the three-week military assault by Israel’s armed forces.

The Israeli government has accused people like the Halima family of being coached by Hamas to spout fiction.

Investigation of the Halima family began in the burns unit at Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza. During its military operations Israel had denied using white phosphorus shells improperly, meaning it was not used against civilians or in civilian areas. But the case of Sabbah Abu Halima, 45, suggested otherwise.

She had been brought into the hospital with what appeared to be mild burns to her right forearm, left lower leg and feet. Without experience of white phosphorus, the staff, led by the unit’s director, Nafiz Abu Shabaan, wiped the wounds, bound them and sent her on her way. “But two days later she came back, complaining of pain and when we opened the bandages we found her wounds still smoking and much, much bigger. Her arm was down to the bone and tendons, that is all that is left,” he said.

Sitting on her hospital bed and wincing with pain when her bandages pinched, Mrs Halima gave an initial account of what happened. She described how her family had gathered to eat in a first-storey room at the family home in the village of Atatra. It lies on the northern edge of Gaza and while it was never likely to be a target during the air assault phase of Israel’s operation Cast Lead, its proximity to the fence with Israel meant it was in the front line for the ground offensive.

“The first shells landed outside and we all stood up and went into the hall and a bedroom because we thought it was safe. That was when a shell came through the roof and exploded. My husband, Saadallah, was holding some of the children but his head was cut off. There was fire and smoke everywhere and the baby Shahed fell to the ground. I heard her cry ‘mama, mama, mama’, and then she stopped,” Mrs Halima said. The house should be a 20-minute drive from Shifa but the conflict has turned roads into slow obstacle courses with cars having to slalom round craters, heaps of rubble and bloated carcasses of livestock. The Halima house lies just off a main road in Atatra up a muddy alley leading to fields of hothouses.

Outside the house lay evidence of the shelling Mrs Halima described. Two white phosphorus shell cases, originally painted light green but burnt by detonations with the metal bent back like tulip petals, were on the ground.

One still had the four tell-tale angle-irons inside to indicate a 155mm white phosphorus shell and was packed with unburned chemical. A poke with a stick to expose the chemical to oxygen was enough to set it burning again, sending out white smoke.

Mr Halima, 20, was next door in the house of his uncle, Hikmat, 42, when the barrage struck and he remembered the smell of the smoke as he rushed up the open stairwell at his home.

“It was a bad smell, a smell that made you choke,” he said. “I came upstairs but there was smoke everywhere. I ran to get water from the bathroom but when I put the water on them the water did not stop the fire.”

White phosphorus fires are resistant to water.

As well as his infant sister and father, Mr Halima lost two brothers – Zaid, 10, and Hamza, eight – in the blast and subsequent fire.

Mr Halima explained how the killing did not end there. As the wounded, including his mother, were dragged down the stairwell, his cousin, Mohammed, 16, the son of Hikmat, ran to the fields to fetch a tractor and trailer to take the injured to safety. According to witnesses, Mohammed was shot dead by Israeli soldiers.

The Atatra case is one of many in Gaza for which human rights activists have demanded an investigation. Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, has suggested that there is at least one case with “the appearance of war crimes”. But Israel does not have a good record of co-operating with those investigating atrocities in Gaza. In 2006 after Israeli artillery killed 18 members of the Athamneh family in Gaza, Israel cleared itself of wrongdoing in an internal inquiry and blocked Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Nobel peace prize laureate, from reaching Gaza to investigate the incident for the UN.

This time round, after denying any improper use of white phosphorus, Israel has launched an internal inquiry. In some ways full-scale investigations of alleged atrocities by the Israeli army are academic.

With the two sides in the conflict so far apart, Israeli hard-liners will not shift from their faith in the probity of its armed forces, nor will Palestinians budge from the view that their people were innocent victims. But unless they are dealt with, the cycle of enmity that has fueled this conflict for decades will continue and the loss of life – 13 Israelis and over 1,300 Palestinians – will have been for nothing.

When Israel launched its attack its stated aim was to reduce Hamas rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. At one level the mission has been successful: the militants’ rockets have all but stopped. But before the Israeli government unfurls a Mission Accomplished banner there remains one important point of business: the smuggling tunnels are open again.

Much of the tunneling under the Egyptian border is surprisingly visible, taking place out in the open in the south Gazan town of Rafah clearly within sight of nearby Egyptian watchtowers. The area was pitted with craters from Israeli air strikes but during a visit I saw several of the tunnels open or being repaired.

Further north in the town of Beit Hanoun was the house of Angham al Masri, a 10-year-old girl who was killed in an Israeli air strike after it began its ceasefire in the early hours last Sunday. Her father, Rafat, 44, explained how his daughter thought the ceasefire made it safe to venture out of the house for the first time in days to check on the family farm that had been evacuated during the fighting. “She had only gone a few hundred metres when the missile struck,” he said. “I ran to her and picked her up but she died in an hour.” Israel said it attacked a rocket firing position.

Amid claim and counter-claim about Israel’s war aims and achievements, Mr Masri then indicated how operation Cast Lead has done nothing but harden Palestinian resolve against Israel.

“Israel said this was a war on Hamas but when they kill people like my daughter it becomes clear it is a war on the Palestinian people,” he said. “Until they change this war will never end.”

Source

Israeli’s have committed many crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity, they have also broken International Laws.

Those responsible, should be prosecuted. They should be charged with all crimes they have committed past and present.

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Published in: on January 25, 2009 at 5:42 am  Comments Off on White Phosphorus Victims in Gaza  
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