Palestine: Israeli raids target children

Friday, March 19, 2010

Three thousand heavily armed Israeli security service forces locked down large parts of the Old City of Jerusalem on March 16 as battalions of police fired rounds of tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at Palestinian protesters in the occupied eastern part of the city.

Protests were aimed at the announcement by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of expanded illegal settlement construction in occupied East Jerusalem and the five-day closure of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and Palestinian institutions within the Old City.

The clashes come on the heels of accelerated attacks by Israeli forces and Jewish settlers inside Silwan in East Jerusalem against the community's youngest and most vulnerable population.

Since January, at least 33 children from the area have been arrested, detained and interrogated by Israeli forces as home demolitions and settler takeovers continue apace.

Muslem Odeh, 10, told IPS he was taken by Israeli forces on March 11 at 3am, after police broke into his family's home in Silwan's Bustan neighbourhood. They pepper-sprayed his father who attempted to protect him.

"They were banging on the door, and demanded I come with them. They told me that I had thrown stones at a settler. But I never threw stones."

Guards inside the interrogation centre took Muslem around the jail and showed him the cells, threatening to hold him in one of them if he did not confess to throwing stones.

Muslem's mother, Hiyam Odeh, said since the interrogation her son "can't sleep at night. When he does, he has intense nightmares. He has had hallucinations of police at the window who threaten to grab him."

Murad Shafaa of the Committee to Defend Bustan Neighborhood said Silwan is on the front line of Israeli settlement expansion policy in occupied East Jerusalem. He told IPS: "The Israeli forces are threatening the families through the children.

"In the cases when the police come in and arrest the children, they will only release them on an expensive bail, and every day, the community continues to fear what will happen to their kids."

Defence for Children International's Palestine office reports that Israel's policy of arresting children is happening at an aggressive rate throughout the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. DCI said there are six Israeli prisons that currently hold about 350 Palestinian children under the age of 17.

[Abridged from Electronic Intifada.]

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