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March 24, 2017 – On 19 March 2017, around midday, eight-year-old Sufian Abu Hitah was wandering barefoot outside his house in Hebron looking for a toy he had lost, when a group of at least 15 soldiers seized him. Two soldiers grabbed the boy by the arms and dragged him to the al-Harika neighborhood, where they demanded that he point out children who had allegedly thrown stones and a Molotov cocktail at the Kiryat Arba settlement earlier on.
That day, Sufian’s mother, Amani Abu Hitah, was visiting her parents’ home in the neighborhood with her two youngest sons. She asked Sufian to pick his six-year-old brother Muhammad up from school and bring him to the grandparents’ house. Sufian and Muhammad arrived at about 1:30 P.M. After Sufian took off his shoes, he realized that he had lost a toy he had bought on the way. His mother, who had heard that soldiers were patrolling the neighborhood, forbade him to go outside but he sneaked out to look for the toy.
A few minutes later, children from the neighborhood came to the house and told Amani that soldiers had seized her son and were leading him toward the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba.
May D’ana, 25, married with two children, is a B’Tselem volunteer who lives in the neighborhood and captured the incident on video. In testimony taken on 21 March 2017 by B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri, May stated:
On Sunday, 19 March 2017, while I was making lunch, my brother-in-law, who lives in the apartment below mine, telephoned me and told me that soldiers had seized a little boy. He asked me to film what was happening. I took my camera and quickly went to a window that overlooks the street. I saw some soldiers, about 12, two of whom were holding a little boy who must have been no older than eight. They ran with him to the gate of Kiryat Arba. I heard one of the soldiers asking the boy in Arabic to give him the names of children who had thrown stones and a Molotov cocktail at the settlement. The boy was crying and very scared. He tried to convince the soldiers that he didn’t know anything. I noticed that he didn’t have any shoes on, only socks.
In a testimony she gave to B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 21 March 2017, Amani Abu Hitah described what happened when she went out to the street:
I saw more than fifteen soldiers surrounding Sufian. Two of them were holding him by both arms and dragging him towards the gate of Kiryat Arba. A few neighbors had already gathered in the street and were trying to rescue Sufian from the soldiers.
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. First they took him in the direction of Kiryat Arba and then towards the street that leads to the Jabal Juhar area.
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. The soldiers dragged him along and made him enter Muhammad a-Nahnush’s house with them. When they came out, about five minutes later, Sufian was crying. They didn’t arrest anyone in that house. I don’t know whether they beat Sufian while they were in there, or what happened inside. I was really scared and worried about Sufian. I started crying and ran after the soldiers as they moved from house to house, to try and get them to let him go. I saw them take him into Ashraf Abu Ghazaleh’s house. They came out a few minutes later.
The soldiers then dragged Sufian onto Jabal Juhar Street, where a woman tried to pull him from their hands. Meanwhile, more women gathered around the soldiers. Eventually, more than an hour after the incident began, they managed to extricate Sufian and return him to his mother.
Two residents of the neighborhood, one of them B’Tselem volunteer May D’ana, captured the incident on video.
B’TSELEM – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories – was established in February 1989 by a group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists, and Knesset members. It endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel. www.btselem.org