Occupied Childhoods: Mass arrest of 27 children shows the increasing impact of occupation on Hebron’s children. CPT – Hebron – On the morning of March 20 soldiers arrested 27 Palestinian children, age seven to 15 in the West Bank city of Hebron. The children were on their way to five schools near the Old City when 22 soldiers moved into a group of students outside the Hebron Public elementary school. The principal of the Hebron Public School was standing in front of the gate to his school at 7:30 AM when soldiers came out of an alley and began taking students. The street was full of children on their way to several nearby schools as well as the Hebron elementary school. Several adults arrived and tried to prevent the arrests but soldiers pulled the children away.
The children, aged 7 to 15, said that the soldiers were violent as they forced them into the jeeps and some of the students were injured. The soldiers drove them to a nearby police station.
Two children were released there. The remaining students were held in the police station for six and a half hours with no access to parents, guardians or teachers. An adult who was detained at the same time reported that they were blindfolded and handcuffed, and many were crying. Teachers came to the police station but were not allowed in. Soldiers told them that they were checking the children against photographs and would release those whose photos they did not have.
At about 2:00 PM soldiers released eight of the youngest children. The remaining students were transported to military stations and interrogated multiple times throughout the day. Most were released late that night. Three children, one age 13 and two age 15, were taken to Ofer military prison. The children were held at Ofer until a court date on March 28, at which their families paid fines of 2000 shekels each.
March 21: Soldiers detain 8 -year-old boy near school
On the morning of March 21 at about 10 AM soldiers detained an eight year old boy who was playing on a scooter. The boy had left the Old City through the Mosque checkpoint, and was passing by the Ibrahimi Boys School on his way to the Qitoun checkpoint when soldiers detained him. Several adults stopped and teachers came out of the Ibrahimi School. The soldiers released the boy after about 15 minutes.
March 15: Soldiers arrest and detain 2 boys, age 9 and 11
Soldiers detained one adult man and two boys, aged 9 and 11 near checkpoint 56. The soldiers handcuffed both boys with plastic zip cuffs, and handcuffed and blindfolded the man. They then held all three inside the closed checkpoint cabin (a metal building approximately 6 ft x 16 ft) for one and a half hours. Several soldiers remained inside the closed space with the children. During this time soldiers outside the cabin denied access to internationals. After one and a half hours the soldiers placed all three detainees in a military jeep and took them to the police station.
March 12. Military training blocks roads & prevents access
Israeli soldiers in Hebron conduct frequent military trainings in public areas. Soldiers train with rifles as children pass through checkpoints to school. Often residents of the Old City are startled by patrols moving through residential streets and market areas, pointing their rifles at passersby.
On March 21 a large military exercise disrupted access for several hours. At about 4PM soldiers closed streets near the Old City, making it extremely difficult for Palestinians to enter or leave the neighborhood. The exercise included the loading of “injured “victims into ambulances. Soldiers aimed their weapons, and ran and drove through the streets for several hours. Families walked through the exercise as they tried to go about their regular business. Many were delayed because checkpoints were closed for portions of the exercise.
During these exercises children are aware that the combat skills being practiced may one day be used against their community.