Israeli army arrests children in Beit Ummar

The Israeli army has been arresting children in the village of Nabi Saleh for the past two months as a means of applying pressure on the village to end its popular unarmed resistance against the occupation.
On Saturday 19 February, Israeli army officials adopted a similar strategy against the southern West Bank village of Beit Ummar. The village has been holding weekly unarmed demonstrations against the occupation and the confiscation of their land by illegal Jewish settlements such as Karmaei Tzur.
Demonstration in Beit Ummar. Photo: PSP
Demonstration in Beit Ummar. Photo: PSP

The weekly demonstration on Saturday attracted supporter from other villages including Nabi Saleh, Susya, Tuwani and Wad Rahel as well as Israeli and international demonstrators. The demonstration remained nonviolent despite the excessive use of tear gas and sound bombs by Israeli soldiers. After one hour, the demonstration was finished with no arrests or injuries.

According to the Palestine Solidarity Project, one of the organizing groups of the demonstrations, a special forces unit of the Israeli army entered the village at 15h00 following the demonstration. Soldiers took over the house of one resident of the village, a common practice throughout the West Bank, and then began an attack.

According to the press release issued by the PSP, “other soldiers, accompanied by special units, invaded a park full of children between the ages of 12 and 15 years. The Israeli Forces attacked and shot rubber bullets and sound bombs at the children so they could not run away, and then proceeded to arrest 13 of them. Several army vehicles came into the area for support, attacking houses and cars to frighten people so they could not come to the children’s defense. The army shot tear gas and sound bombs toward women who attempted to rescue the youth, and then beat a group of women, including Mona Abu Maria. The army arrested 13 children, all of whom are under the age of 18, and took them out of the village. Their families do not yet know where they are being held.”

The method of using children to crush unarmed protest movements has been proven successful in villages like Ni’ilin where the demonstrations against the Separation Wall have been rendered meaningless. Now, the main target of this form of repression is the village of Nabi Saleh.  No Nabi Saleh popular committee leaders has been arrested as of the time of this writing but activists connected to the demonstrations worry that it is only a matter of time.

On Tuesday 22 February, 14 year old Islam Tamimi will begin his trial in an Israeli military court. His testimony, possibly obtained by torture methods such as sleep deprivation, exposure to the elements and beating, could be used to frame the leaders of the popular committee. Israel has perfected a method to destroy legitimate unarmed resistance in the West Bank leaving the possibility of a new armed resistance movement which would spell disaster for both sides.