Israeli forces burn Palestinian child detainee with cigarettes

Jan 19, 2024
Israeli forces detain a Palestinian child in the Palestinian village of Kfar Qaddum in the occupied West Bank on August 23, 2019. (Photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP)

Ramallah, January 19, 2024—Israeli forces burned a 17-year-old Palestinian prisoner with cigarettes after severely beating him.

Mohammad*, 17, was recently released from Israeli custody after serving about 12 months of an 18-month sentence, according to documentation collected by Defense for Children International - Palestine. Early in the morning on November 7, 2022, Israeli forces detained Mohammad and his 14-year-old brother from their home, beating them, their younger sister, and their mother during the arrest. Israeli forces sentenced Mohammad, who was accused of throwing stones and preparing explosives, to 18 months, and during his detention in the period following October 7, he was severely beaten by Israeli forces, who burned him with cigarettes.

"On October 7, 2023, Israeli prison guards closed the children’s section at Megiddo prison in northern Israel, and on the second day, they forcibly took away our belongings, closed the children’s rooms for three consecutive days without allowing us to shower,” Mohammad told DCIP. “Afterward, they only opened the rooms for a brief period for bathing and reduced the food portions."

“On October 30, 2023, an Israeli civilian prisoner working on electrical repairs in the section entered. He hung an Israeli flag inside the section around 1 p.m.,” Mohammad said, describing the same event 17-year-old Yousef described to DCIP. "We immediately went to the courtyard, took down the flag, and burned it along with a few other detainees. During this, guards were present at the prison door. Many soldiers from unknown security units, some armed and others with sticks, along with three police dogs wearing muzzles, stormed the section."

"They pushed us to a corner and unleashed the dogs on us, causing injuries to all of us due to the dogs' claws,” explained Mohammad. “They continued beating us for about two and a half hours while we screamed in pain. During this, they tied our hands behind our backs with plastic ties. Afterward, the soldiers burned our hands and parts of my shoulders and arms with cigarettes, causing intense pain. We were then taken to a room outside the section, where they continued beating us. After that, we were placed in solitary confinement, and due to the beatings, I occasionally lost consciousness."

"At that point, the soldiers continued their brutality by burning us with cigarettes on our hands, necks, and shoulders, and spraying us with gas that caused spasms when inhaled," Mohammad explained.

"After being returned to the cells, which were overcrowded and lacked proper bedding, we slept on the floor for eight days. The food provided was insufficient, and we did not have the opportunity to shower during that period."

On November 25, 2023, Mohammad was released as part of the truce agreement between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups. "Upon release, 12 of us were insulted and mistreated while being handcuffed. Later, an Israeli intelligence officer threatened me with death if I engaged in any activities against Israel,” said Mohammad. 

While Israeli forces escalated their violence against Palestinian children in Israeli prisons following October 7, ill-treatment, torture, and denial of basic rights are endemic to the Israeli military detention system. Mohammad describes violence at the hands of Israeli forces from the moment of his arrest.

"After storming our house, searching it aggressively, and breaking furniture, Israeli soldiers arrested me,” Mohammad told DCIP. “I was physically abused, my hands were tied with plastic ties, and a cloth was used to cover my eyes. I was then taken in a military vehicle with a police dog sitting on my stomach to a detention center in Huwara, in the occupied West Bank.”

“At that moment, I noticed that they had also arrested my little brother,” Mohammad said. “I saw him restrained from below the neck, but they did not allow me to speak with him.”

"I was taken to a caravan, my blindfold was removed, but my hands remained tied behind my back. I sat on a chair from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Throughout this time, I was interrogated by an Israeli intelligence officer. I was never informed of my rights," Mohammad told DCIP. 

“During the interrogation, the Israeli interrogator threatened me with physical assault and the arrest of my mother if I did not confess to the charges against me,” Mohammad said. “He also intimidated me by stating that he would not release my little brother, and he frightened me with the prospect of being beaten."

Mohammad’s brother was released about one week after Israeli forces arrested them, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Israeli forces sentenced Mohammad to 18 months and he was fined 6,000 shekels ($1,580). Mohammad served about 12 months before he was released on November 25, 2023.

Palestinian children in the occupied West Bank, like adults, confront arrest, prosecution, and imprisonment within an Israeli military detention framework that systematically denies them fundamental rights.

Since 1967, Israel has implemented dual legal systems in the occupied West Bank. While Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank fall under the purview of the Israeli civilian and criminal legal system, Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law.

In East Jerusalem, Palestinian children grapple with the imposition of Israeli civilian criminal law, with a noteworthy absence of Israeli children encountering the military court system.

Israel stands alone globally as the sole nation that systematically prosecutes children in military courts bereft of essential fair trial rights and protections. Around 500 to 700 Palestinian children face prosecution annually in Israeli military courts.

The transfer of Palestinian detainees, children included, to prisons, interrogation, and detention facilities inside Israel, even for brief periods, stands as an illicit breach, violating Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention and constituting a war crime under Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Israel's contentious practice of unlawfully relocating Palestinian prisoners from occupied territories has faced legal challenges twice in the Israeli Supreme Court. In both instances, the court upheld the primacy of Israeli legislation in cases of conflict, prioritizing it over international law provisions.

*Mohammad is a pseudonym. The child’s name is known to DCIP but not disclosed in order to protect his privacy.

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