THIS IS EIGHT-year-old Moustafa and his older brother Mohammad, who is ten.
They live in Hebron, in the West Bank, south of Jerusalem. On 6 April this year, ten Israeli soldiers burst into their home and demanded the boys be handed over, accusing them of throwing stones at the military.
Their uncle Abed tried to intervene but was threatened with arrest and shooting. No parent or guardian was allowed to accompany the boys and they were blindfolded and taken away in a military vehicle to a detention centre.
Here, for five hours, they were held, blindfolded the entire time while the soldiers “played with weapons behind them” and interrogated them.
This is what a roundtable event, hosted by Labour MEP Emer Costello, in the European Parliament offices in Dublin, was told yesterday by Rachel O’Hanlon of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.
Each year approximately 700 children aged between 12 and 17 are arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli military, police personnel and security agents – an average of two children per day. A recent UNICEF report found cases of young boys being “painfully hand-tied”, verbal abuse, physical violence and strip searches.
O’Hanlan said these actions are “grave violations of human rights and international law” and though UNICEF has noted the Israeli authorities are taking steps towards addressing some of their recommendations, the organisation said “reports of violations are ongoing”.
The roundtable heard that eight-year-old Moustafa is now too frightened to go to school and returns home whenever he sees soldiers in the area. O’Hanlon said he is also suffering from “other personal problems” and his family are scared that the soldiers will come to the house again.
Prionsas De Rossa, who chaired the event yesterday, said it was “appalling to think that children as young as my own grandchildren are being abused by soldiers”.
Costello, who has just returned from a visit to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and was refused permission by Israeli authorities to enter Gaza, expressed concern about the thousands of adults and children being held in administrative detention.
As a result of the recent peace talks, the Israeli authorities have released a number of Palestinian prisoners, causing uproar among the families of their victims.
All images provided by Rachel O’Hanlon of EAPPI.