Video of Israeli troops detaining Palestinian boys sparks widespread condemnation
Israeli forces have detained Palestinian children, who went foraging for wild vegetables in the occupied West Bank, triggering widespread condemnation.
The incident was filmed by Nasr Nawajaa, a field researcher with Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, in the Masafer Yatta area of the southern al-Khalil (Hebron) hills on Wednesday.
The video, which was circulated widely on social media, shows dozens of Israeli soldiers in combat gear grabbing five terrified boys, ages 7 to 11, and pushing them towards military vehicles.
Several Palestinian bystanders can be seen attempting to intervene, but to no avail.
At one point, an older Palestinian boy tries to rescue one of the minors, but he is grabbed by another Israeli soldier and dragged along with the group.
“The children were screaming and crying, pleading with the soldiers to call their parents and wait until their family arrived before taking them away,” Nawajaa told the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal.
“The soldiers were treating the children like some hardened criminals, as if they had committed some huge crime,” he said, adding that the Israeli forces were “extremely aggressive” and “took the children by force.”
The children were taken to the nearby Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, where they were held inside the military vehicles and interrogated for several hours, before being released to their families.
“These are just harmless children, what kind of threat could they possibly pose to justify this treatment?” Nawajaa said.
The five children, who are all cousins, were picking akoub, a wild artichoke-like vegetable that is currently in season.
Video footage of the moments preceding the boys’ arrest shows two masked Israeli settlers scaring them away and taking the buckets and plants they left behind.
Video footage of the moments preceding the arrest of the 5 children yesterday: The children gathered Akkoub (a type of wild Artichoke) near the settlement Havat Maon, 2 masked settlers approached them, scared them away and took the buckets and plants they left behind. pic.twitter.com/y0zvtt7AFk
The father of two of the boys said his sons were “terrified,” adding, “They couldn’t sleep all night.”
Jaber Hmeidat also said he spent Thursday trying to reassure his children and to explain that what happened was part of life for Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation.
“I worked so hard to raise their spirits,” he added.
Hmeidat stressed that the incident had made him angry, saying, “I would not have let them take the children, it would have been over my dead body.”
“It shows first and foremost the absolute disregard Israeli authorities have for the well-being of Palestinians,” B'Tselem spokesperson Amit Gilutz said. "Palestinians are constantly being dehumanized.”
The Israeli police claimed in a statement that the military had detained the Palestinian minors for allegedly breaking into private property and stealing parrots and other objects.