Israel has summoned a four-year-old Palestinian boy from the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya for interrogation.
Muhammad Rabi’ Elayyan was summoned by dozens of Israeli police officers from his home in Issawiya – a Palestinian neighbourhood squashed between Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and the Separation Wall – and taken to a police station on Salah Eddin Street, not far from the Old City’s Damascus Gate.
Following the summons, Elayyan had to be taken to the station by his father, Rabi’, this morning. Wadi Hilweh Information Centre – a Jerusalem-based NGO – posted a video showing Muhammad crying as he is carried into the police station. Scores of Palestinians from Issawiya can also be seen surrounding the father and son, telling the young boy not to be scared.
The Israeli police claim that Muhammad was throwing stones at police vehicles, prompting them to send him the summons. However, the boy’s father Rabi’ has disputed these accusations, saying that his son was playing in the street with other children who ran towards Israeli troops stationed in their neighbourhood.
Rabi’ told Palestinian news agency Ma’an: “This morning I said to my child Muhammad ‘I will take you to a swimming trip’. I could not explain what happened. We were surprised when the soldiers were stationed in front of the police station on Salah Eddin Street.”
When the pair arrived at the police station, an Israeli officer eventually refused to allow Muhammad into the facility for interrogation, instead only taking his father in for questioning. The officer reportedly told Rabi’ that if he did not stop his son from throwing stones, they would take Muhammad away from him.
Israel is a signatory to the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child [UNCRC], which states that “children should be arrested, detained or imprisoned only as a last resort and for the shortest time possible”.
The same convention also states that “governments must set a minimum age for children to be tried in a criminal court”; Israel’s military law considers children as young as 12 culpable for their actions, but does not permit the arrest of minors under this age. Their summons of Muhammad is therefore illegal under both international and Israeli military law.
Issawiya has been the target of a severe crackdown since mid-June, when Israeli forces began carrying out daily raids and systematic harassment of the neighbourhood’s inhabitants, ostensibly in response to stone-throwing by local youths.
During another raid on 27 June, Israeli forces shot 20-year-old Mohammad Samir Obeid in the chest with live ammunition. Some 20 other Palestinians were wounded after being shot and hit with tear gas bombs. Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem has since argued Israeli forces killed Obeid “without justification”.
Weeks later, Israeli forces entered Issawiya once again, destroying a monument built in memory of Obeid. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bragged about the demolition on social media, writing in a tweet: “At my request and in coordination with the mayor of Jerusalem, Moshe Leon, and the security and enforcement authorities, the monument in memory of a terrorist in Issawiya was removed. We will not allow it!”
The summoning of four-year-old Mohammad has therefore been seen as part of Israel’s ongoing harassment of Issawiya Palestinians, which B’Tselem slammed as “an inseparable part of Israel’s policy in East Jerusalem pursued with the objective of securing a demographic majority for Jews in the city. This goal is pursued in part by devoting resources and efforts to making life in the city unbearable for Palestinians, so that they will leave, ostensibly of their own will”.