Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Israeli forces detain 7-year-old boy during weekly march in Kufr Qaddum

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By Sarah Bedson - January 17, 2017
Section: [Main News] [IN PICTURES] [Life under Occupation] [Features] [Interviews]
Tags: [protests] [Kafr Qaddoum] [child arrests]

Kufr Qaddum, a village situated in the northern West Bank in the Qalqilya governorate with a population of approximately 4,000 people, has been heavily affected by the nearby illegal settlement of Qedumim, which was established in 1977.

As well as the area expropriated by Israeli authorities for the settlement, nearly half of the village lands are in Area C, under Israeli control, and thus almost completely inaccessible to the residents of Kufr Qaddum.

Farmers with olive groves in this area struggle to obtain permits to work their own land and building permission is virtually impossible to come by.

Furthermore, in 2003, during the second intifada, Israeli authorities closed off the main road connecting the village to the city of Nablus in order to accommodate the expansion of the illegal settlement. The road remains closed today and has increased the 1.5km journey to Nablus tenfold.

Meanwhile, a website set up for the Qedumim settlement boasts “convenient and frequent” public transport to nearby cities and commends the “brave individuals” for their “pioneering spirit” in setting up the settlement “at the forefront of a terrorist war forced upon the people of Israel by its Palestinian neighbours.”

In 2011, residents of Kufr Qaddum began a weekly peaceful protest to express both their problem with the blockade of the main road and their opposition to the Israeli occupation.

Each Friday, at around midday, residents convene by a tuck shop before beginning a march towards the settlement and blocked road. More often than not, the residents’ march is curtailed as they are met by Israeli soldiers who use excessive force to quash the peaceful demonstration, including bullets and live ammunition, as well as tear gas, sound bombs and 'skunk water’. Hundreds of demonstrators have been injured in the protests and even those who do not take part are affected by the weekly protests when demonstrators are forced to retreat back towards the residential area.

Alongside the men of the village, many young boys participate in the march, with some incurring injuries or inhaling tear gas.

Recently, houses in the area were raided during the night by Israeli soldiers who threatened young children with arrest if they were to take part in the protests.

On Friday the 23rd of December 2016, the demonstrators were suddenly ambushed during their habitual march when Israeli Special Forces sprang out from under camouflaged mats.

Taken by surprise and not fast enough to get away, seven-year-old Moomen was captured by the soldiers and detained for half an hour.

His father, Murad Shtaiwi, is the coordinator of the non-violent resistance marches and was arrested in 2011 and imprisoned for 9.5 months for his role in the protests.

In an interview with Murad and Moomen, they spoke about the experience:

What happened when the soldiers took you?

Moomen: “In the beginning when they arrested me, they threatened me with a baton and said if I didn’t stay quiet, they would hit me with it. Then they asked me about my name, my age, and the whereabouts of my father. So I said I don’t know where my father is, I am seven and my name is Moomen.”

How did you feel when the soldiers took you?

Moomen: “I was very afraid and stressed. In the beginning, I thought they were ordinary people but when I saw the jeep, I began to realise they were soldiers, not ordinary people.”

Why did they take you?

Moomen: “Because I participated in the demonstration.”

How do you feel since then?

Moomen: “I am happy because I am in my house and not with them.”

Murad, how do you feel about this experience as a father?

Murad: “It is the second horrible experience in front of my eyes. I have five children – two girls and three boys. On the 13th of March, 2016, the Israeli soldiers shot my eleven-year-old son Khaled in the thigh. The bullet exploded and embedded itself in his leg, causing a fracture. I couldn’t do anything for him. And Moomen, when I saw him between the hands of the Special Forces of the Israeli occupation army, really I lost my mind. I couldn’t do anything. I heard my son shouting, asking for help, asking for his Dad to come to rescue him. I felt weak, I lost my mind and an ambulance came for me. It’s very hard for me to see my children in the hands of soldiers.”

How is Moomen doing?

Murad: “Moomen is still suffering. You know, a seven-year-old between huge big-bodied soldiers – he was very afraid. The other evening, I was talking to his mother about the possibility that soldiers may storm our house. I looked at Moomen who seemed to be troubled and I asked him what he was thinking. He said to me with tears in his eyes, “why are you talking about storming houses?” I’m sure that even though he claims to be feeling strong and brave, he is carrying something inside his heart now.”

Do you ask them not to go to the demonstration now?

Murad: “I never ask them not to go to the demonstration because our duty is to let our children know that they are still under occupation. For now, Khaled is still undergoing physiotherapy for his leg and Moomen is suffering so they are not attending the protests.”

Was your family affected by the recent raids?

Murad: “On Wednesday the 4th of January at midnight, nearly 30 soldiers attacked the village and stormed four houses. They threw two sound bombs inside my house. They interrogated children in two of the houses that they entered. They isolated each child – Tariq (13), his brother, Maliq (12) and their relative, Qosai (15) – in separate rooms with two soldiers questioning and threatening them. The soldiers warned, “If I see you at a demonstration I may kill you or arrest you. This time is your warning, but next time I will arrest you and damage whatever is inside the house”. When they finished questioning these children, they went to another two houses and hit two youths hard, one of them had to go to the hospital.

Why do you think the Israeli soldiers are doing this?

Murad: We know that they are trying to send a message to the people of Kufr Qaddum. It is a kind of collective punishment to stop the weekly demonstration and to make parents stop allowing their children to partake in the demonstrations.”

Does it work?

Murad: We believe in peaceful resistance. When we take our children with us to demonstrations, we know we don’t use any kind of weapons so it is peaceful. The children want to come. Many have been shot but they still participate. They understand the situation and believe in the message of the demonstration. When we feel danger, we push the children behind us or force them to go to their houses. We love our children like parents all over the world. We don’t want to put them in a dangerous situation.”

What is the importance of the demonstration for you?

Murad: My generation was born under occupation and suffered a lot from it. I think it is our duty to do whatever we can in order to prevent our children from facing the same destiny. So when we let our children participate in the demonstration, it is just to let them know that we are still under occupation. We hope that we can do something for them. We hope that we can ensure the best future for our children. The message for our children is that if the occupation continues, they must know that they will become the leaders of any kind of protest, which is accepted under international law to fight the occupation. I think it is their duty to fight, to resist on their land. They must believe in their land. They must believe that Israel has occupied their territories and they must believe that the settlers stole their land in order to build their illegal settlement. This is our message for our children. We love our children and want them to have the same rights as children around the world.”

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), between January 2012 and November 2016, 126 Palestinian children were killed and 6804 were injured in direct conflict in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.


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