Update

Hares village arrests:

Ali and the other four boys who were arrested following the car crash remain in prison.

In the last week, three more boys in the village of Hares have been arrested in night raids and sent to Megiddo prison. They are due in court next week. The soldiers who took the boys told their families that they were given their names by the other five boys, who remain in al-Jalame interrogation centre.

The three boys from the same family who were taken at random three weeks ago have been released from Megiddo prison. We haven’t been able to make contact with their mother, so we haven’t yet interviewed them. Their case seems to be about something different from the car crash, and one of the villagers thinks the arrests were intended to scare the local boys after some stones were thrown at an army jeep which passed the school.

These are women I met at a protest, who were carrying with them photos of their sons who are in jail

These are women I met at a protest, who were carrying with them photos of their sons who are in jail

We have contacted Betselem, the Israeli human rights group, and asked them to investigate the campaign of intimidation against the village since the car crash last month.

Sebastiya: Some good news for this village as the sewage pipe has been turned off, although we’ll have to wait to see whether this lasts. It may also take a while before the produce from the land is fit for human consumption again. Either way, it would be good to think that the protests played a part in this small victory.

Burrin: Two days before I left the army raided the village, apparently in response to the non-violent resistance that has been happening there recently. Murad and some of his friends had set up a community centre and protest tents, and had organised actions including one  a couple of weeks ago in which protesters planted trees and released pro-Palestinian balloons near the settlement. Some of my colleagues from IWPS  went to the village and said it had been completely devastated. Apparently large numbers of soldiers came at night and smashed up the community centre and raided people’s houses, damaging personal property.

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Terror

On Friday evening, we went to interview a family in the nearby village of Hares where three boys, two brothers and a cousin aged between 13 and 17, were taken away by the army the previous day. The whole family were there when we arrived.

They told us that the army came in through the front door, which was open, and took the boys away blindfolded and without their shoes, in the middle of the day. The soldiers didn’t ask for the boys by name and from what we were told, it seems as if they were selected at random from among the boys who were in the house at the time.

House in Kifl Hares

House in Kifl Hares

When we saw them, no-one had been in touch with their parents to tell them where they were being held. Fatima, an English teacher and mother of two of the boys, was desperate.  She told us, ‘We just want to know where they are, what happened to them, were they hit….. we can’t cook, can’t eat….we are afraid. I can’t sleep. We sit and wait.’ The boys’ grandmother had been crying all day.

Their uncle, who was there at the time they were taken and who was hit by the soldiers, told us that all the children were very afraid and were clinging to him from fear. All the children slept in their parents’ room overnight. ”You must tell the world what is happening here.’ He said. ‘This is terror.’

The next day I sit with Jo, another IWPS volunteer, and call everyone we can think of to try and find out where the boys might be. The army tell us to try the police, the police tell us to try the army. It doesn’t help that this is the sabbath and the start of the passover holiday, so many NGOs who would normally be able to help can’t be contacted.

It’s several days before we find out that the boys have been taken to Megiddo prison inside Israel. This is the prison where 30 year old Palestinian Arafat Jaradat died recently under mysterious circumstances, making international headlines.