Aged eight, wearing a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, and placed in Israeli custody
…The sight of the young, newly released detainee drove us into a paroxysm of laughter. But the laughter quickly morphed into sad embarrassment. The detainee was a boy of 8, in second grade. When we met him this week, on the streets of Hebron, he was on his way to his grandfather’s home. He wore a red sweatshirt emblazoned with an image of Mickey Mouse, and he had a shy smile. His mom had sent him to take something to Grandpa. Eight-year-old Ahmed Abu Rimaileh was not the youngest of the children, schoolbags on their backs, that Israel Defense Forces soldiers took into custody early on Wednesday, last week: His friend, Abdel Rahim, who was arrested with him, is only 7, and in first grade.
Twenty-seven Palestinian children never made it to school on that particular day. IDF troops lay in ambush for them from the early morning hours on the streets of the Hebron neighborhoods that are under the army’s control, and arrested them indiscriminately. Only after they were in custody did the Israeli security forces examine the video footage they had in their possession, to see which of the youngsters had thrown stones at Checkpoint No. 160 earlier that morning, which separates their neighborhood from the settlers’ quarter of the city. It was here, a few weeks ago, that IDF soldiers shot and killed a teenager, Mohammed Suleima, who was holding a pistol-shaped lighter.
Most of the young children were released within a few hours. The older ones were kept in detention for a few days, before being released on bail. One adult, who tried forcefully to prevent the arrest of a colleague’s son, was brought to trial this week.
The fact that 18 of the children were under the age of 12, the age of criminal responsibility according to the 1971 Israeli Youth Law (Adjudication, Punishment and Methods of Treatment ), was apparently of no interest to the IDF, the Israel Police or the Border Police. Nor was the severe report issued just two weeks earlier by the United Nations Children’s Fund, which condemned Israel for arresting some 7,000 Palestinian children in the past decade.
“Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized,” the UNICEF report stated, and added, “In no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts.”
The Youth Law forbids the arrest of children under the age of 12. It also appears that the provision stipulating that older children must not be interrogated without the presence of their parents and their lawyer does not apply to Palestinian children…
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