A report published last week by Israeli human rights groups condemned the Israeli military’s illegal invasions of Palestinian homes, suggesting the practice is in violation of international law.
Based on two years of research carried out by Yesh Din, Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) and Breaking the Silence, the study reveals extensive documentation and testimonies of soldiers and evicted families.
“The nights pass without my being able to close my eyes, and I couldn’t stay here at home. For a long time, I couldn’t sleep at home, and I would sleep at my parents’. They [the soldiers] came and broke down our door. I still haven’t been able to process it to this day,” the report quotes a woman from Beit Ummar saying.
Attacks, assaults and acts of vandalism are frequently carried out on Palestinian towns and villages in the Israeli-occupied West Bank both by illegal settlers and soldiers.
According to the report entitled “A Life Exposed: Military invasions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank”, hundreds of Palestinian teenagers are arrested by the Israeli military every year in nightly raids, violating the military’s own regulations with regards to issuing summons for interrogation prior to detention.
“What comes to my mind,” Dr Jumana Milhem, a psychologist who works with Physicians for Human Rights Israel, said, “is that the process involves the dehumanisation of a whole society. [Its] point is to break their human spirit.”
There are several risk factors for the PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] that we see in high percentages in Palestinian society in general. Here we are not talking about a single trauma but a facet of the continuous trauma of occupation. The feeling of being imprisoned in your own country. This feeling of being constantly exposed.
Palestinian Luay Abu ‘Aram from Yatta told Yesh Din: “It was really scary that they came into the house in the middle of the night with weapons, faces covered, dogs in the yard and everyone walking around in the yard.”
“Thoughts go through your brain. It had a terrible impact on the girls, and for what? Why do they do a search like that on the whole family and the neighbors? If there’s information – they should just go for the information.”
For some, like Fadel Tamimi, the 59-year-old imam at a mosque in Nebi Salih on the West Bank, the raids have become familiar over the past 20 years. He says he has lost count of the number of times soldiers have entered his home, suggesting it could be more than 20 – most recently in 2019, just before the coronavirus pandemic.
The report highlights how Palestinian civilians need protection from Israel’s frequent and deadly military offensives and incursions.
It also highlighted the affect of such raid on occupation soldiers, two described their experience of raiding Palestinian homes as representing a turning point for them, not least in how they saw themselves as “nice” or “good” soldiers and individuals.
“We were shown an aerial image with each house numbered. We were told to choose four homes at random to enter and ‘flip’, which means turn over everything for anything suspicious. I thought it was strange I was getting the choice,” Ariel Bernstein, 29, who served in an elite infantry unit, the Sayeret Nahal, explained.
The Israeli army denies accusations that home raids are carried out at random and says they are a matter of security.