A Palestinian youth from Bil'in turned in at Ofer prison on 10.09.09

According to Sheikh Suleiman Yasseen Mohammed Burnat, the father of Hamaza Burnat (age 16), his house has been invaded at night five times so far within the past three months, usually around 3am. It was raided twice two months ago, and three times within the last two weeks. At every invasion, the soldiers left a military order at the home stating that Hamaza was wanted. He was wanted for allegedly throwing stones during the weekly demonstrations in Bil'in. The occupation forces had not succeeded in arresting him because he was never home at the time of the raids. However, while searching the home, the soldiers confiscated the ID cards of his father, his mother, and his brother and have not returned them yet.

During the latest raid on 08.09.09, the soldiers appeared disguised with masks and black combat paint in their faces as usual, according to Sheikh Suleiman. They brought with them a long crow-bar to break open the door in case he would not be awake and open it. The soldiers armed with heavy weaponry came from all sides of his house surrounding it completely while some of them entered it very quickly. They literally burst into the rooms giving the family no time to get dressed properly for the presence of strangers. Sheikh Suleiman shouted at them to leave the house and not to shame the women. His family was very frightened.

In the course of the week prior to this raid, the Shabak commander (Shabak is the common name of the Israeli Security Agency in Palestine) had called Sheikh Suleiman six times telling him that Hamaza was wanted, that as long as he did not sleep at home, they would invade the house every night. The commander also said that he knew that Hamaza was coming home during the day, and that he was going to school. So, he told his father that if Hamaza would not come home to sleep, he would send the Special Forces to his school to arrest him there. Sheikh Suleiman's angry response was, why was it so important to arrest Hamaza? If the commander wanted the Sheikh to leave the West Bank, then he will leave.

The Shabak commander demanded that Hamaza turn himself in to Ofer prison on Sunday, 13.09.09 at 10am. Sheikh Suleiman, however, responded that he cannot tell Hamaza to go before discussing the issue with the Palestinian Authority (PA). He would let the commander know of the outcome of the conversation on Thursday, 10.09.09. Sheikh Suleiman also told the commander that if he would not agree with him, he would leave the West Bank. The Shabak commander agreed to wait until Thursday.

The response from the PA was that Hamaza had not done anything serious by throwing stones. They said that not sleeping at home, however, may be dangerous for Hamaza since the Israeli Army may kill him when they spot him anywhere. The Shabak commander had also told his father that Hamaza's offense was not serious, and that he may only be given prison time of some four months, and then be released again. The commander had also assured his father that Hamaza will not have any problems, and that no one would touch him while in prison. However, if Hamaza was not turned in to Ofer, he was liable to be beaten if any soldiers saw him anywhere.

Based on these conversations, the family decided to take Hamaza to Ofer prison on Thursday, 10.09.09.

Sheikh Suleiman confirmed that his son will meet with the Shabak this day Sunday, 13.09.09. As there is no permanent Shabak presence at Ofer prison, they visit the institution every few days to meet with recently arrested people.

Although the Shabak commander was trivializing Hamaza's arrest as not a serious issue, i.e. that the most he would get in prison would be a few months, this is in fact serious. It means that the boy will miss school, which will disrupts his path of education and most likely affect his future.

For now, the occupation forces are keeping the three ID's of Hamaza's father, mother, and brother to verify if they have a clean record, according to Sheikh Suleiman. In fact, it is a means of harassment, to make life difficult for them. They are now unable to leave the village for fear of being arrested if found without any legitimate identification at checkpoints. Such harassment is absurd. Sheikh Suleiman is well-known for always helping the injured during the weekly demonstrations by administering first-aid. Bil'in does not have any Ambulance Car available nor any trained Red Crescent personnel.

The story of Hamaza and his family is only one example of what is happening to a great number of youths in the village of Bil'in. It illustrates the utter terror and intimidation the occupation forces exercise on a regular basis. Within the past three months, 11 children under the age of 20 have been arrested, and most of the prisoners incarcerated since the beginning of the resistance against the apartheid wall five years ago are children.

Members of the Bil'in Popular Committee against the Apartheid Wall are going to court on a regular basis in support of the many prisoners on trial.


Bil'in 16.09.09

Thank you for you continued support,

Iyad Burnat- Head of Popular Commitee in Bilin
co-founder of Friends of Freedom and Justice - Bilin