Each month in the winter of 2013, hundreds of Palestinian children spent time in Israeli custody. The majority of the children were either detained en masse during protests or arrested individually in their homes, as is customary in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. During this period, however, three notable incidents broke with this pattern. In both Hebron and the small villages of ‘Azba al-Ṫabīb and Haris, Israeli forces detained children in groups although they were not engaged in protest at the time of arrest.
On the evening of 27 January, five Israeli army jeeps arrived in ‘Azba al-Ṫabīb, a tiny Palestinian village of a few hundred people located between the larger towns of Qalqiliya and ‘Azūn. According to a post on a village facebook page the following day, the soldiers detained three children aged 12, 13, and 14 and a young man aged 18. The three youngest detainees were taken into custody. The father of the 13 and 18 year old detainees, village mayor Bayan al-Ṫabīb later reported that, after the arrests, he received a disturbing telephone call from a representative of the Israeli military government in the West Bank. According to al-Ṫabīb, the caller stated “your child has paid… all the village will pay” for a recent local protest campaign against Israeli land confiscations.
Before dawn on 17 March, Israeli soldiers visited several small villages near Salfit in the northern West Bank. Going door-to-door, the soldiers detained ten boys between the ages of 15 and 17. Eight of the boys lived in the village of Haris and two in Kfil Haris. The Palestine Section of Defense for Children International theorized that the arrests were a response to a traffic accident outside of the large Israeli settlement of Ariel earlier the same evening. According to rumor, Palestinian boys had been throwing stones at passing vehicles at the time of the accident.
On the morning of 20 March, Israeli forces in Hebron detained 27 Palestinian children, including 14 under the age of 12. According to the advocacy group B’Tselem, the children were en route to school at the time of the incident and were suspected of participating in a “stone throwing incident” earlier in the day. Disturbing video footage posted on YouTube shows a group of very young Palestinian boys, accompanied by adults who appear to be their parents, arguing with Israeli security forces. During the clip, Israeli soldiers drag three young boys offscreen, apparently to waiting vehicles. B’Tselem reported that 20 of the detained children were released soon after the incident, while seven underwent interrogation. A very detailed account of the incident is available in the Christian Peacemakers Teams report, “Occupied Childhoods.”