Israeli soldiers have brutally beaten a Palestinian boy at a checkpoint north-east of Bethlehem, resulting in cuts and bruises across his body, the official Palestinian news agency Wafa has reported.
Ma'rouf Ahmad Al-Atrash, 15, is a resident of Beit Jala in Bethlehem. The boy was on his way home yesterday following his release from Damon Prison in the coastal Israeli city of Haifa after serving an eight-month prison sentence for allegedly throwing stones. Although he is just 15 years old, he was held alongside Israeli criminals guilty of crimes such as murder, robbery and drug trafficking.
The Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint stopped his family's vehicle and interrogated him on why he was arrested before forcibly holding him, and beating him with their rifles. He told Quds News Network that the soldiers also pointed their weapons at his mother and another relative.
"After my mother yelled at the occupation soldiers," the boy added, "they released me at 11:00 pm."
The director of the Association of Detainees and Ex-Detainees in Bethlehem, Mohammad Hamida, confirmed that Israel regularly arrests and detains Palestinian minors and that the child was assaulted for hours for no apparent reason.
Al-Atrash described the violations of child prisoners at Damon Prison. He told Quds News Network that, "They suffer from harsh conditions. The Israelis deprive them of food and blankets, and the repression unit beats them."
According to Defence for Children International (DCI), "Since 2000, at least 8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested and prosecuted in an Israeli military detention system. [This means that] somewhere between 500 and 700 Palestinian children are arrested and prosecuted each year."
DCI stressed that Israel's policy and practice of detaining children is in violation of international law, in particular the 1991 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which demands that "children should only be deprived of their liberty as a measure of last resort."