In 2007, Israeli soldiers arrested 13-year-old Majid Jaradat for throwing stones during a demonstration in Sair village, near Hebron. Majed spoke about the violence of his arrest and detention in a video produced by Israeli rights organization B’tselem.But this was no isolated case. Many more such incidents are reported in a new publication from the Israeli veterans’ organization Breaking The Silence with shocking admissions from Israeli soldiers about the maltreatment of Palestinian children under Israeli occupation. The disturbing violations of children’s rights by soldiers took place in the occupied Palestinian territories between 2005-2011.
My previous post Choose a kid at random, “aim at his body”: Israeli soldiers confess their violence, addressed the abuse of Palestinian children as human shields, the use of handcuffs for torture, and the lethal use of rubber bullets. This second post summarizes more examples of the abuse of children by Israeli forces from the Breaking The Silence report, many of which — including admissions of indiscriminate shooting and wilful shooting to kill children who pose no danger — amount to war crimes.
Abuse during arrest and detention
Beating a crying child with a Motorola
After a stone-throwing incident, soldiers were ordered to stop a 15-year-old child. “His name was Daoud. We stopped our vehicle, ran out, he was in total shock. We took him to Gross Post, to the Jewish side, and he began to cry, scream, he was just streaming sweat and tears. We had nothing to do with him, suddenly you end up with a crying kid. A second ago he was throwing roof tiles at the army post, and you’re dying to beat him to a pulp, and you’re alerted out there in that heat. You want to kill him but he’s crying. We didn’t know what to do, so we put him under watch.
Once someone who was with him went wild, did something to him and left. At some point when I was with him I tried to calm him down because he was tied, blindfolded, and crying, tears and sweat streaming out all over. I began to shake him, then the deputy company commander tried. He grabbed him and began to shake him: ‘Shut up, shut up, enough, cut it out!’ Then we took him to the police station at Givat Ha’avot and he continued to cry because the policemen didn’t take him in for interrogation. He was so annoying, this was insane. In all that mess, while he was crawling on the floor, the communications man took out his Motorola, his two-way radio and boom! – banged him on the head” (Hebron 2010).
Soldiers throwing stones at captive children
A soldier saw the abuse of detainees “so many times.” She remembers one of the first times she came to the commander’s office and “saw some five detainees, incredibly scary, and a few soldiers…” It was scary, because the detainees were children, around 14-15 years old. “Combatants came at those kids, threw stones at them, swore at them. And the kids sat as helpless as a human being can be, their hands shackled in those tight plastic bands that don’t let them move, blindfolded, total helplessness” (Nablus 2005-2006).
A child was arrested: “While we took him out of the jeep I remember hearing him shitting his pants… I also remember some other time when someone pissed in his pants. I just became so indifferent to it, I couldn’t care less. He shat in his pants, I heard him do it, I witnessed his embarrassment. I also smelled it. But I didn’t care” (Hebron 2010).
A soldier confessed he detained adolescents, “You shackle them, blindfold them, put them at the army post’s sentry booth and then take them back.. Once we arrested someone and while driving, in the APC [Armored Personnel Carrier], someone played ‘kazabubu shlaflaf’ with him. When I say, ‘kazabubu,’ you have to say your name, and when I say, ‘shlaflaf,’ you must say your family name. So he began to play the game with him without explaining the rules. He said: ‘Kazabubu,’ and hit him on the head. Not too tough, but it was simply humiliating. Less painful than humiliating. He would hit him and some would yell the answer at him, what he was supposed to say: ‘Say your name!’ and the like: ‘What’s your name!?’ Shouts like that. Such a game can take about seven minutes…” (Nablus 2009).
“Okay to shoot to kill. Regardless of their age”
We were instructed to take down anyone visibly armed in a riot or anyone with a Molotov cocktail even if it hasn’t been thrown yet. We should fire in his direction. If someone heats things up you can shoot either very close to him or to his legs or something like that. There is no one who tells you who is heating things up. All those fanatics see all the Palestinians there as heating things up.
Once we were with six guys inside an armored jeep in a real serious riot. The guy next to me fired at the ground to make the crowd run away, and then he goes: “Oops!” I look and see a kid bleeding on the ground and the crowd indeed was gone. He shot from inside the vehicle. He also said to us, like: “Don’t tell.” When Molotov cocktails are thrown at us we have the okay to shoot to kill. Regardless of their age (Nablus 2005-2006).
An ambush for kids
Once in a while one of our vehicles would be hit by Molotov cocktails on Mount Eval, in Nablus. After a few such incidents we laid an ambush. If a kid was about to throw a Molotov cocktail, you’re allowed to shoot him. “Shoot to kill?”, asks the interviewer. “Absolutely, that’s procedure, replies the soldier. “The moment you even see the lighter spark.” He explains that the soldiers try to provoke the kids by driving a jeep up and down.
The jeep goes by and suddenly they see a group of kids coming, “I think they were holding some bag.” A soldier aims his M-24 [marksmen’s rifle] at one of the kids. He asks the officer if it’s okay to release the safety catch. The officer tells him it’s fine. “[S]uddenly – boom! – the marksman’s rifle let off a shot. We see the kids scatter in all directions, running like hell, and we have no idea what happened because we know he was aiming and we don’t know whether the kid was hit or not.”
Interviewer: You said they were holding a bag. Did they aim at the one holding the bag?
Soldier: That’s a spot that Molotov cocktails are often thrown from.
Interviewer: But a Molotov cocktail is a bottle, not a bag.
Soldier: But you always have to assume that that’s what’s in the bag. You get it?
Interviewer: What ages were these kids?
Soldier: Little – 13, 14, 15.
Molotov cocktails were regularly thrown from Jilazoun refugee camp in the direction of Beit El settlement. None of them ever really reach Beit El. “It was always kids throwing, and for a while we would lay ambushes there, and once in a while a Molotov cocktail would be hurled at one of our forces, and they’d be chased. One of my friends was sitting at Beit El in a sort-of marksman’s post, and a kid came out and threw a Molotov cocktail, and he shot him. The moment they light up the bottle, they’re free game.
Interviewer: Did the kid mean to throw it at the force?
Soldier: No, he was the furthest away, he wasn’t endangering my friend who shot him with his marksman’s rifle.
Interviewer: And he killed him?
Interviewer: How old was the kid?
Soldier: Young, 16 years old. (Ramallah 2008)
“ We had lots of X’s [Note: Marked on the side of a soldier’s rifle, indicating the number of people he’s killed] at that time. The battalion loved it. There was an ambush around there where a kid coming up with a Molotov cocktail had his leg blown off. They laid ambush exactly at that spot. Kids came, the soldiers were there, the kids lit a bottle, and they were shot in the leg (Ramallah 2008).
No shame to capture violations on camera
A soldier tells about two other soldiers who there were excited by their first action in Hebron in which a Palestinian boy was detained for throwing stones. The boy denied he had done so. The two excitted soldiers “had their pictures taken with him.” In response to the question if the boy objected, the soldier said, “No, he was blindfolded, he didn’t know” (Hebron 2007-2008).
During a training, a driver showed me pictures of two kids they had caught, shackled, and kicked. “He showed me the video he took on his cell phone. Sitting shackled, and some soldier walks by and – pow – kicks them in the back or something (Jalame, Jenin 2008).
There was this saying: “We have a detainee.” [The soldier talks about child detainees]. Soldiers wanted to have their picture taken. Usually they were not allowed to do so, but sometimes they did. It was done, but it wasn’t actually permitted. As though it didn’t happen, but everyone did it. People would video tape themselves, they made clips. “Say ‘Advanced Company’ is the bomb, come on, say it!” Finally, some action (Gaza Strip 2008).