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Video: Israeli Soldiers Drag Shoeless 8-Year-Old Palestinian Boy Through Hebron Streets

Israeli soldiers dragged a shoeless child through the streets of occupied Hebron in the West Bank in search of other children who allegedly threw stones and a Molotov cocktail at a nearby Jewish settler colony.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem published a YouTube video showing Israel Defense Force troops surrounding 8-year-old Sufian Abu Hitah before force-marching the terrified boy through the streets of the illegally occupied city with only socks on his feet. As soldiers point their service rifles at the child, courageous residents attempt to come to his aid. A group of women follow the troops as they take the boy on a house to house search. Eventually some women manage to momentarily wrest the child away from the soldiers, who quickly move to grab him again.

The troops accused children of throwing stones and a Molotov cocktail at Kiryat Arba, a Jews-only settler colony on the outskirts of Hebron. Like the occupation, the settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this. According to B’Tselem, Amani Abu Hitah, Sufian’s mother, forbade the boy to leave his grandparents’ home to retrieve a lost toy because she had heard there were soldiers patrolling the neighborhood. Sufian defied her and slipped out of the house before he was detained.

Amani recalled how she “saw more than 15 soldiers surrounding Sufian. Two of them were holding him by both arms and dragging him towards the gate of Kiryat Arba.” She said:

“I went up to one of the soldiers and asked him to give me back my son. He refused and said: ‘If you want to get him back, convince him to tell us the names of the children who were throwing stones.’ I tried to explain that we don’t live in the neighborhood and were just visiting my parents. I told the soldier that Sufian doesn’t know the names of the neighborhood kids. He ignored me, and the soldiers kept on dragging Sufian by the arms. Sufian was shaking with fear. I saw him talk to the soldiers and tell them that he doesn’t know anything, but it didn’t help.”

An IDF spokesperson denied Israeli troops forced the boy to point them to the settlement assailants. “Following initial review of the incident, it was concluded that a Molotov cocktail was thrown towards the community of Kiryat Arba,” IDF told Ma’an News Agency. “Forces who were called to the scene caught a suspect. Due to the fact the suspect was a minor, he was taken to his parent’s home. It was noted in the initial review that the forces did not ask the minor to direct them to any other suspects.”

Palestinian children as young as 7 years old have been arrested in the occupied territories, with an increasing number of minors prosecuted by juvenile military courts there. According to a 2016 Human Rights Watch report, 422 Palestinian children were in the Israeli prison system at the end of 2015, with six children held without charge or trial in what Israel calls administrative detention. Children report ill treatment and torture in efforts to obtain coerced confessions. Scores of children have been imprisoned in solitary confinement for as long as 45 days, a widely recognized form of torture. According to the report:

Throwing stones — the charge against the vast majority of Palestinian children detained in Israeli military detention — can carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison, depending on the age of the child, plus fines. Many children maintain their innocence, but plead guilty in order to avoid prolonged detention before trial. Most receive plea deals of less than 12 months, and are ordered to pay fines averaging US$400. If families are unable to pay this amount, the child is detained longer.

Some children are lucky to only be detained. According to the United Nations, “30 Palestinian children (25 boys and 5 girls) were killed and at least 1,735 injured (1,687 boys and 48 girls), predominantly in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem” in 2015. Often these minors commit far more serious assaults on Israelis, including sometimes fatal stabbing attacks. Sometimes stone-throwers are shot dead on the spot.

Ma’an News Agency reports clashes erupted in the al-Jalazun refugee camp near Ramallah on Friday after Israeli forces fatally shot 17-year-old Palestinian teen Muhammad Mahmoud Ibrahim al-Hattab and critically wounded three other teens after the group allegedly threw firebombs at the nearby Beit El Jewish settler colony.

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