Jerusalem24 – Hundreds of Palestinian children are arrested every year by Israeli forces in occupied East Jerusalem and taken away from their family in the middle of the night without any warning, causing both mental and physical harm to the child as well as their family.
Israel officially applies Israeli law to occupied East Jerusalem which it annexed in 1980 in a move not recognized internationally. Palestinian Jerusalemite children are therefore theoretically protected by the Israeli youth law which forbids night arrests. “But the youth law has an exception for security offenses,” Jessica Montell, Director General of HaMoked–Center for the Defense of the Individual, explained to Jerualem24, “and here exceptions become the rule.”
According to the Palestine Center for Prisoners’ Studies, Israeli forces arrested 570 Palestinian minors (including 29 under the age of 12) in the first half of 2023 – the overwhelming majority of which, 435, hail from occupied East Jerusalem.
One of the these Palestinian Jerusalemite children is Qassem Mohammed Abbasi, a child from Silwan who was arrested and assaulted by Israeli forces who stormed his home at 4 AM.
“They came at 4 in the morning while I was sleeping, they said I made a Molotov cocktail,” 15-year-old Qassem told Wadi Hilweh Information Center following his release on 14 June.
Qassem wasn’t the only child in his family to be traumatized that night. His older brother recounts: “They stormed our home like barbarians, destroyed our mattresses, searched the women. My 12-year-old sister was frightened from the scene. She still is. We are not safe in this country.”Qassem was assaulted and physically beaten by the soldier who detained him and suffered a number of injuries and extensive bruising as a result.
Speaking to Wadi Hilweh Information Center, Qassem said: “He started hitting me with the bouma [brass knuckles] on my head and he kept beating me all the way to Al-Maskobiyeh [an Israeli interrogation center].”
During his interrogation, Qassem sustained an eye injury when the interrogating officer “kept punching me in the eye”.A Wadi Hilweh Information Center employee, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Jerusalem24 that arresting children is “a daily phenomenon” in Jerusalem.
According to the employee, the Israeli police often present false accusations and “evidence” as a way to force the suspects to confess under pressure – a practice it implements both with adults and children. Under these conditions, access to legal advice is critical, says the employee, although Palestinian detainees including children are often denied this.
In May, Israeli forces arrested an eight-year-old child, according to the employee. “Israeli police do not provide any kind of protection to [Palestinian] children whatsoever. There is not a single law that protects them.”
Qassem was released without charges, but ordered to spend a week in home arrest and pay 10,000 shekels’ bail – a significant sum for a Palestinian family living in occupied East Jerusalem.