BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli rights group B’Tselem released a report on Wednesday, revealing that Israeli forces had detained a 13-year-old Palestinian from his home in the village of Azzun in the northern occupied West Bank district of Qalqiliya in February, later releasing him more than a kilometer away, calling the act “illegal” and saying that the incident represented the “unchecked powers” of Israeli soldiers.
According to a statement released by the group, 13-year-old Baraa Enayeh was detained by Israeli forces from his home on Feb. 25 after he and his 12-year-old neighbor Ihab Enayeh ran into soldiers on their way home from work transporting produce from a farm to a nearby store. Three soldiers asked the two boys to put up their hands and subsequently “sniffed the boys' palms and clothes,” reportedly to check for gunpowder remnants following a recent shooting in the area, according to B’Tselem.
A few minutes after releasing the boys, Israeli forces came to Baraa’s family home and ordered his father Hani to collect all of his children into the living room. Soldiers said they were searching for Ihab, but questioned Baraa about his whereabouts during the alleged shooting.
The soldiers then took a photo of Baraa before detaining both the boy and his father for an additional two hours outside of their home.
According to B’Tselem, at this time, Israeli forces informed Hani that his son was being detained in order to be transferred to an interrogation center, and that when the interrogation was over, he would be returned to his home.
Despite Hani’s insistence that he accompany his son, as he was just a child, the soldiers refused.
Israeli security forces routinely interrogate children without a parent present, violating international and domestic Israeli laws that provide special protections for detained children.
“I told the officer that my son is a young boy and that he’s frightened. I asked them to let me stay with him until the interrogation was over and take him home. The officer refused and led my 13-year-old son a hundred meters away from our house, where he handcuffed and blindfolded him. Then the soldiers put him in a jeep and headed east,” Hani told a B’Tselem field researcher.
Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers also went to Ihab’s family home, where they ordered his mother, Sanaa Hussein, to bring all of the children into the living room after searching the house. B’Tselem reported that the soldiers interrogated Sanaa about Ihab and insisted that she call her son and tell him to come home so that they could detain him.
“The three soldiers stayed in our house for about an hour. Then they left and told me that soldiers would come later to arrest Ihab,” she told B’Tselem, adding that “the soldiers frightened me very much and I was worried about my son. We were constantly afraid that the soldiers would come back to the house. Ihab stayed that day at his sister's home in the village because he feared he would be arrested, and returned only the next day.”
Baraa, meanwhile, was taken to the illegal Israeli settlement of Maaleh Shomron, located east of Azzun. According to testimony given to B’Tselem, the soldiers removed Baraa’s blindfold and asked him if he recognized the area -- the Jewish-only settlement that Palestinians are forbidden from entering.
“Then they put me back on the jeep and let me off at the junction leading to the settlement, near Route 55 and the old blocked road, east of Azzun. They took the cable ties off my hands and told me to go home,” he said.
He was released almost a kilometer and a half from his home, forcing him to walk all the way back in the dark. “I was afraid that wild boars would come out, or that I would run into settlers who might attack me,” he said.
B’Tselem strongly condemned the incident, saying that the soldiers’ behavior was “illegal” and that there was no reasonable basis for detaining Baraa and his father.
“There can be no justification for such thuggish behavior, which reflects the unchecked power and authority given to soldiers, and the backing they receive. No one will have to answer for the harm to Baraa and his family. This is what life looks under occupation,” the report read.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an in response to the report that Israeli forces had "conducted activities" in the village of Azzun following "repeated rock hurling and fire bomb attacks towards the entrance of the community of Maale Shomron."
Israeli forces had "identified a young male who matched the description of a suspect that fled the area. The suspect was brought in for questioning and was escorted back to the entrance of the village shortly after," the spokesperson said.
Israeli forces have come under increasing condemnation in recent weeks for their treatment of Palestinian minors. Four Palestinian minors have been killed by Israeli forces since the beginning of the year.
, a video was published by B’Tselem showing Israeli forces dragging an eight-year-old Palestinian boy through a neighborhood in Hebron, forcing him to identify children who allegedly threw stones and a Molotov cocktail at a nearby illegal Israeli settlement.