AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): A week in the life of Maher–a fourteen-year-old Palestinian resident of Hebron

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CPTnet
16 April 2015
AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): A week in the life of Maher–a fourteen-year-old Palestinian resident of Hebron

[Note: The following has been adapted for CPTnet. The original is available on CPT Palestine’s website.]

It’s Saturday 4 April and a group of Israeli soldiers storm fourteen-year-old Maher’s house, claiming that Maher has been seen stone-throwing—the Israeli military’s go-to rationale for harassing Palestinian children and their families. * When Mahmoud, Maher’s father, protests, soldiers take both him and Maher into custody.  The police release them later that evening.

At approximately 6:45 on 6 April soldiers once again raid Maher’s home.  They do not take Maher into custody, but later that evening, Maher is out walking and is once again detained by a group of fully armed soldiers. Although another boy, known to Maher, turns himself in for stone throwing, the soldiers continue to threaten Maher with arrest, saying that they will again take him to the police station. As CPTers attempt to document Maher’s detention, soldiers make a game out of requiring the CPTers to recite their ID and passport numbers. Just as the soldiers are about toMaher into the military base next to the settlement of Beit Romano, Maher’s father arrives, and must plead for his release once again.See this video for CPT’s documentation of the incident.

The following day, Israeli soldiers again raid the home of Maher’s family—this time, however, there are forty-eight of them.  Before the incident, the soldiers parade the streets of Hebron’s Old City in a loop, ID-checking and entering homes along the way, before finally returning to Maher’s home again. See more photos here.

Forty-eight soldiers’ heavy military boots pound on the stairs, through Maher’s home, up onto the roof.  Maher’s neighbors permit CPTers to enter their roof, where we witness this crowd of soldiers laughing, joking and taking a series of group photos. Maher sits on a ledge on a higher section of the roof, watching the spectacle. While his mother and younger sisters also watch, Maher’s father once again has to defend his family from further military assault.

The soldiers explain to Maher’s father that their reasoning for choosing his family home as the opportune spot for a group photo is once again because of Maher’s alleged stone throwing. They cite as “evidence” that he was seen on the roof.  Maher’s father explains that the reason why Maher has been on the roof is to tend to the chickens that live in a coop there. After spending more time, seemingly doing little more than just relaxing in the sun atop Maher’s home, this group of soldiers begin to pick up items, including glass bottles and large rocks, and hurl them from the roof onto a lower section of the home.

On 13 April, CPT visited Maher’s family. His father, Mahmoud, informed CPT that this week Israeli soldiers—at times as many as sixteen—have been entering his family home every day, every three hours. He explained that sometimes only his wife at home.  He also informed CPT that last year soldiers destroyed many of his family’s possessions during such a house raid.

The location of Maher’s home highlights one of the disturbing reasons for the targeting of this family. Maher’s home is next to the Israeli settlement of Beit Hadassah, which is adjacent to, and on top of, a Palestinian residential and commercial area.

Heightened military repression against families located close to the growing illegal settlements within West Bank characterises Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, homes and lives.  The allegations of stone-throwing provide a smoke screen for targeted harassment and intimidation as a bid to expel families such as Maher’s from their home, thereby ‘sterilising’ areas surrounding illegal Israeli settlements from Palestinians.

One thing is for sure; who has the power in a given moment is never a simple thing. The image of Maher standing above the forty eight soldiers as they laugh, joke and photograph each other on his family home is a powerful image of sumud—steadfastness through remaining on the land.

*CPT does not dispute that stone-throwing occurs in Hebron, yet we assert that Israeli forces’ response to this, including the deployment of teargas, stun grenades, etc., is often disproportionate.  Furthermore, allegations of stone-throwing, with no solid evidence—rather, claims of a child having been seen throwing stones, or having dusty hands—are frequent justifications for child detention and arrest.

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