Featured By Kifah Zboun, Bethlehem

When news about violent deaths at the hands of the occupying army become a normal daily event, when the crimes committed by the Israeli army — the invasions, roadblocks, and other military violations become so commonplace that most news agencies just choose to ignore them, rather than report each one…

It is at times like these that stories like this one get forgotten…left out of the headlines…just one of dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the fear and terror of living under a decades-old occupation.  This story is about a young woman in Bethlehem, who saw and witnessed events which frightened her into shocked silence, a silence which continues to this day.  The young woman sits, staring into space, unable to even recognize the members of her own family.

On December 1, 2004, the mother of Raeda al-Shareef, 21, had no idea that while she was taking care of her sick husband in a Jerusalem hospital, at that same moment her daughter was screaming, appealing for help while facing military attack dogs held by Israeli soldiers who had just broken into their family’s home in Deheishe refugee camp in Bethlehem.

She still doesn’t know what she would have done if she was there, if she could have helped in any way on that horrific day.

Since the incident occurred on December 1, 21-year-old Raeda has been unable to talk and unable to remember anyone from her family. 

The tears of the mother while looking at her daughter, who doesn’t even realize we are around her, tell us a story from Palestine, one of hundreds of stories which reveal the brutality of the Israeli army.

Adi, Raeda’s younger brother, told us the details of that horrific night, when a local Palestinian, used by the soldiers as a human shield, banged on their door after midnight, telling them that the army wanted them to leave their home. 

As soon as young Adi opened the door, soldiers started interrogating him, asking him about his cousin, who was arrested later that night in another refugee camp, east of Bethlehem.

Soldiers severely punched and clubbed Adi, then ordered him to get out of the house.

Sahar, the sister of Raeda, said that she and her other sisters were terrified, watching the army and praying for the soldiers to leave their home and let their brother come back inside.

When their little brother returned, he told his sisters that the soldiers wanted them to come outside, to which Raeda responded, “don’t worry, we will step out.”

“As Raeda started to walk towards the door, she suddenly panicked, because a fierce military dog started coming at her, snarling and growling.  She screamed one time, the word “mama”, and after that she didn’t say anything else,” her sister Sahar said.

Raeda, in spite of her fear and shocked silence, managed to walk outside with her sisters, while the army barged into their home, and the nearby home of their uncle, firing concussion grenades and detonating explosives inside their now-empty homes.

Adi, Raeda’s younger brother, said that they waited for two hours until the army finished their attack without finding whatever they came looking for, but his sister Raeda did not say anything in that time.  Since then, she has been unable to speak.

Her family, and with the aide of several psychologists, have been trying to urge her over the last six months to remember, to talk, and to release her fear, but no progress has been made.

Her father, with tears flooding his cheeks, said that he tried to take her out, and drive her around the town.  He tried to ask her about what she likes, what she remembers, about travel, the kinds of food she likes, her home, people, and about himself, but she didn’t even seem to recognize him and did not answer or talk about anything.


The father, with his poor income, appealed to several institutions and hospitals to help him.

“One of the hospitals thought that she is crazy – they even tried to treat her with electric shocks, but I rejected that option.  We are trying to help her, we will continue our efforts…”, the father said, sobbing, with his head in his hands.

“She was like a sweet bird, now she lost more than 30kg.  What am I supposed to do, I want to help her in anyway I can,” he added.

He tries to talk to her, sit with her, but she never replies - she doesn’t even move or blink.  She doesn’t eat unless they feed her, she can’t feel heat or cold, she doesn’t use the toilet alone. “I sometimes feel that her brain is gradually stopping”, he added. 


Dr. Tawfiq Salman, a neurologist from Bethlehem, said that the daughter is suffering from “dissociative fugue”, which makes the brain unable to concentrate or remember anything.

“We did all sorts of tests on her; her condition is very difficult,” Dr. Salman said. “Such cases occur as a result of violence and psychological shock. She needs treatment and intervention for a long period of time.”

He parents are worried. She is a young woman, who might not return to her previous state, and they are determined to prosecute the soldiers, holding them directly responsible for her current condition.

Nasser al-Rayyes, member of the Legal Counseling Committee in Geneva, the advisor of al-Haq institution, described this incident as a “war crime.”  He stated: “The soldiers should be prosecuted in accordance to the Hague Convention in 1907, the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949, and the Geneva Protocol in 1977.”  

“Using military dogs in this way is a direct violation of human rights conventions, and is disrespectful of human rights.  In fact, it is a sort of terrorism,” al-Rayyes added.

Al-Rayyes stated that the Fourth Geneva Convention and the International Court of Justice give victims the right to prosecute the persons and parties involved in such acts.

Therefore, the family is entitled to prosecute the soldiers in any court of justice in countries that signed the Geneva Protocol; al-Rayyes does not believe that Israel will admit to the crime, since it refuses to do so, which happens in most of the crimes conducted by the army against Palestinian civilians. He believes that this case should be filed in courts of other countries that are signatories to the Geneva Convention. 

Legal References:

ARTICLE 147 of the Geneva Convention;

“Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the present Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or willfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly”

ARTICLE 146 of the Geneva Convention;

The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention defined in the following Article.

Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts. It may also, if it prefers, and in accordance with the provisions of its own legislation, hand such persons over for trial to another High Contracting Party concerned, provided such High Contracting Party has made out a ‘ prima facie ‘ case.

Each High Contracting Party shall take measures necessary for the suppression of all acts contrary to the provisions of the present Convention other than the grave breaches defined in the following Article.

In all circumstances, the accused persons shall benefit by safeguards of proper trial and defense, which shall not be less favorable than those provided by Article 105 and those following of the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of August 12, 1949.

Medical Terminology:

Dissociative fugue,   [DSM-IV], a dissociative disorder characterized by an episode of sudden, unexpected travel away from home or business, with amnesia for the past and partial to total confusion about identity or assumption of a new identity; the disorder is usually related to emotional conflicts due to some traumatic, stressful, or overwhelming event, remits spontaneously, and rarely recurs.

Dorlands Medical Dictionary

Diagnostic criteria for Dissociative Fugue

A. The predominant disturbance is sudden, unexpected travel away from home or one’s customary place of work, with inability to recall one’s past.

B. Confusion about personal identity or assumption of a new identity (partial or complete).

C. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of Dissociative Identity Disorder and is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drug, abuse) or a general medical condition (e.g., temporal lobe epilepsy).

D. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

BehaveNet Clinical Dictionary