Teenage Palestinian violinist recounts horror of abuse in Israeli detention

 Athal al-Azzeh returned home after a 12-day detention which he said ‘felt like 12 years’ 

Athal al-Azzeh, 14, says Israeli forces tortured him and denied him basic rights in ‘scary’ 12-day imprisonment

When Athal al-Azzeh, a young Palestinian violin player and student council enthusiast, was arrested by Israeli soldiers two weeks ago, he feared that his life as he knew it was over.

“I was really scared, I didn’t know what was going to happen to me,” the 14-year-old told Middle East Eye. “All I could think about was my family and friends, and if they were sad and scared like I was,” Azzeh said, recounting the moment Israeli soldiers ambushed him as he was walking near a military base in his hometown of Bethlehem in the southern occupied West Bank.

Azzeh was detained on 15 April while heading to his grandmother’s house in the Beit Jibrin refugee camp on Bethlehem’s main road. An Israeli military jeep pulled up beside him as he was walking, and four armed soldiers jumped out and grabbed him.

“One of the soldiers grabbed me around my neck, and was choking me so hard I felt faint, and started to lose consciousness,” Azzeh recounted. “Then they took me into the military base and threw me on the ground. Once they released my neck I could breathe again, and realised where I was.”

“After I woke up, they started to punch me, in my back, my stomach, my face, everywhere. They were yelling at me. I was really scared,” he said. “Then they handcuffed me and took me to prison.”

When Azzeh arrived at an interrogation and detention centre inside the Atarot settlement in northern Jerusalem, he said he saw many other Palestinian boys just like him, aged between 15 and 17.

“When I saw the other boys, my mind started running in many different places,” he told MEE.

“I was just thinking about all the things I was going to miss. I thought about my family, and how they don’t know where I am. I thought about my school, my friends, and my music classes. I felt like my dreams were ending.”

‘Torture tactics’

Azzeh was released after 12 days of detention at 4am on Wednesday 27 April, on a 4,000 Israeli shekel bail ($1,200). During his imprisonment, which “felt like 12 years” to him, he was arraigned four times and interrogated by Israeli intelligence and military officials every day.

Israeli authorities accused Azzeh of throwing stones at the military base and burning tires – accusations that Azzeh has adamantly denied.

On the day the teenager was arrested, he was interrogated for hours while he was fasting. He said Israeli officers gave him food and water to break his fast more than two hours after sunset.

Before his interrogations began, the Israeli captain in charge of questioning the young boy allowed him to speak to his lawyer on the phone for only two minutes, Azzeh said.

“They put the lawyer on speakerphone, and he told me that I did not have to cooperate with them, and that I had a right to remain silent,” Azzeh said. “When the lawyer said that, the captain hung up the phone.”

Throughout the 12 days of interrogations, Azzeh was questioned without the presence of a lawyer or a parent.

“In any other democratic country, if a child is arrested, they would have had a lawyer present during any type of questioning,” Athal’s father Ahmed al-Azzeh told MEE.

“The captain let me talk to him for 30 seconds on the phone to just ask him how he was. After this, we knew nothing about what happened to him. He wasn’t allowed to call us or communicate with us. We were only able to know what was happening through the lawyer,” Ahmed said.

Athal (R) settled back into his home and in the loving arms of his father (L) and mother on 27 April 2022

“On the first day they arrested me, they took me into an interrogation room and started yelling at me, demanding that I confess to throwing stones and burning tires,” Athal said. “When I said I didn’t do those things, the interrogator would get mad and start yelling at me more, and hitting me in my stomach, on my back, and on my neck.”

According to the teenager, the interrogators showed him photos of masked young boys rolling tires and throwing stones at the military base in Bethlehem, where he was detained.

“They told me that they knew it was me, and that they had shown the same photos to my parents, and that my parents had admitted that it was me and that I had no choice but to confess,” he said.

Ahmed confirmed that the officers had called his wife in for interrogation and showed her the same pictures her son referred to, and attempted to get her to implicate him.

“She of course refused, and didn’t succumb to their attempts to frame our son,” Ahmed told MEE.

Athal, who was confident his parents would never implicate him in a crime he didn’t commit, continued to refuse the attempts to coerce his confession.

“I felt like they wanted me to give them an answer, and confess. And when I wouldn’t give them what they wanted, they would get angry.”

“These officers used different torture tactics and threats against him, and told him they would arrest me and his mother if he didn’t confess,” Ahmed told MEE. “They used all the tactics in their book against a 14-year-old child in an effort to coerce him into a false confession.”

“I’m very proud of my son that he remained strong despite their intimidation, and refused to give in,” Ahmed said, recognising that it was no small feat for his son to not crack under the pressure of professional interrogators.

Middle East Eye asked the Israeli army to comment on the allegations levelled at them by the Azzeh family, but received no response by the time of publication.

‘Gross attempt to justify child imprisonment’

During his imprisonment, Athal’s case, unbeknownst to him, was propelled onto the international stage by the Palestinian-Dutch supermodel Bella Hadid, who shared an Instagram post calling for his freedom.

The post Hadid shared was initially published by Israeli activist Yahav Erez, and featured a photo of Athal playing the violin. The post demanded the boy’s immediate release, and stated that he was “being held hostage by Apartheid Israel.”

Hadid’s post drew the ire of Israeli officials, particularly Israel’s newest and first-ever “special envoy for combating antisemitism and the delegitimization of Israel”, the Israeli actress Noa Tishby.

In a now-deleted Instagram video, Tishby accused Hadid of “lying and demonizing Israel,” and “flaming antisemitism.” In the video, which is still viewable on Tishby’s Twitter page, she shares seemingly classified security information on Athal’s case, including the photos that were shown to the teenager and his mother during their respective interrogation sessions.

Tishby attempted to deny the claim that he was “kidnapped and being held hostage”, by saying that he was “arraigned twice” and had a release date set for 24 April, which proved to be untrue, as he was only released three days later.

“Athal was arrested for throwing rocks and burning tires, which is something he would have been arrested for in the United States or any other law-abiding country in the world,” Tishby said.

She went on to say “he should focus more on his violin rather than violence against Jews.”

Athal’s classmates and friends demonstrate for his release outside the Ofer prison in Ramallah on 26 April 2022

Athal’s father Ahmed, commenting on Tishby’s video, said he was “infuriated, outraged, and flabbergasted” when he saw it.

He called it a “blatant lie and disgusting attempt to justify the arrest and imprisonment of a child.”

“What the Israeli foreign affairs ministry [representative] did was ridiculous. They tried to justify their arrest of a 14-year-old child, by saying he was throwing stones. To arrest any child is a crime, and using the pretext that they were throwing stones at an occupying army is a terrible excuse,” he said.

“Israel’s arrest of Palestinian children all over the West Bank is criminal. This is occupied territory, there is no justification for their imprisonment of our children.”

Long-lasting trauma
As Athal settled back into his home and the loving arms of his parents on Thursday, he said he was feeling mixed emotions.

“I feel so happy now to be back home. I want to go back to my normal life, to play my violin, to study, and hang out with my friends and family,” he said. “But I still feel sad about what happened, and my mind is now confused between the jail and the free world.”

“When they told me I could go home I was so happy, but I was also thinking about the other boys that were in the jail with me. I feel so bad for them, because some of them might face many months or years in jail,” Athal lamented.

Approximately 500 to 700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12 years old, are detained and prosecuted each year in the Israeli military courts, according to Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCIP).

The NGO says many suffer long-term psychological distress caused by their detentions, with symptoms including bed-wetting, trouble sleeping, and self-restricting movement.

There are currently around 160 minors in Israeli jails, according to data collected by Addameer, an NGO advocating the rights of Palestinian political prisoners.

Athal’s father said he hopes his son won’t be too emotionally or psychologically impacted by his arrest in the long term, but he knows that the family has a difficult road ahead.

“Athal was released on bail, but he is still on trial in this fake justice system,” he said, referring to Israel’s military courts, which hold a 99 percent conviction rate.

“These military courts are a farce. They are designed to oppress our children. It is impossible to get a fair trial when the court itself is part of the occupation system,” he said.

“To the Israeli captains who interrogated Athal and all the Palestinian children: you also have kids inside your homes. Imagine that one day they were in Athal’s situation. What would you do?” Ahmed asked.

“You think you are protecting or saving your country, but arresting and torturing our children, making more checkpoints, and making our lives miserable, is not how you will free your country,” he continued.

“You oppress us every day, and in the end, you ask why the Palestinian kids throw stones?”

(Source / 30.04.2022)

Israeli forces shoot, kill 27-year-old Palestinian in Azzun town

Photo of the 27-year-old Palestinian young man Yehia Ali Adwan who was killed by Israeli occupation forces in the town of Azzun on Saturday at dawn

Occupied Palestine (QNN) – A Palestinian man was shot and killed on Saturday at dawn by Israeli occupation forces in the town of Azzun, east of the city of Qalqilya in the occupied West Bank.

Local sources reported that the Israeli forces targeted the man with a live bullet to the heart, indicating that he was announced dead shortly after being hospitalized.

An ex-detainee, the man was later identified by the Palestinian Ministry of Health as 27-year-old Yehia Ali Adwan.
The sources added that the incident took place during fierce confrontations between Palestinian youths and the Israeli forces that broke into the town.

Since the beginning of March 2022, at least 21 Palestinian citizens have been killed by Israeli occupation forces and hundreds of others sustained various injuries, children, women, and elderlies.

(Source / 30.04.2022)

Israeli Navy Attacks Palestinian Fishing Boats In Southern Gaza

Israeli navy ships fired many live rounds at Palestinian fishing boats near the Rafah shore in the southern part of the besieged Gaza Strip on Saturday dawn.

Eyewitnesses said the navy chased the Palestinian fishing boats and fired many live rounds at them in addition to attacking them with water cannons.

The attack did not lead to casualties but forced the fishermen back to the shore without being able to fish to provide for their families.

On Friday, the Israeli army and the navy attacked Palestinian farmers and fishing boats near Gaza City and Khan Younis in the southern part of the coastal region.

The army frequently attacks farmersshepherds, workers, and fishermen across the eastern parts of the coastal region and in Palestinian territorial waters, leading to dozens of casualties, including fatalities, in addition to preventing the Palestinians from tending to their lands and from fishing to provide for their families.

In March of last year, the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza said Israeli mines were responsible for an explosion that led to the death of three fishermen.

(Source / 30.04.2022)

Soldiers Abduct Two Palestinians From Bethlehem

On Friday night after midnight, Israeli soldiers abducted two Palestinians from Bethlehem while returning from occupied Jerusalem after praying in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Media sources in Bethlehem said the soldiers abducted former political prisoner Hassan Ibrahim Hassan, 37, from the Saff Street in the center of Bethlehem, and Hussein Suleiman Abu Jalgheef, 25, from Hindaza Mountain, southeast of Bethlehem.

The sources said the two Palestinians were among many others from the Bethlehem governorate returning to their homes after praying in Al-Aqsa.

The soldiers also stopped and interrogated many Palestinians, especially young men and teenagers.

(Source / 30.04.2022)

Soldiers Close Salfit’s Northern Road With Sand Hills

Israeli soldiers closed with sandhills and big rocks late Friday night, the main northern road leading to Salfit city in the central West Bank

Media sources said many army jeeps were deployed in the area before the soldiers started blocking traffic and forcing the Palestinians to leave.

They added that the army used a military bulldozer to install the sandhills to close the main road before the soldiers invaded many surrounding villages and towns in Salfit, especially Deir Istiya and Iskaka.

The Israeli bulldozers destroyed two main water pipelines in the area, and the workers of the local town council were only able to fix the damage after the army left.

Many Palestinians protested the closure of the main road and hurled stones at the soldiers who fired many live rounds, gas bombs, and concussion grenades.

(Source / 30.04.2022)

Israeli Soldiers Kill A Young Palestinian Man Near Qalqilia

Israeli soldiers killed a young Palestinian man on Saturday dawn after several military vehicles invaded Azzoun town, east of Qalqilia, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank.

Local sources said the invasion led to protests in the town before the soldiers fired dozens of live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs, and concussion grenades.

Medical sources at Darwish Nazzal Hospital in Qalqilia said the young was shot with a live round that went through his heart and exited from his back.

The slain Palestinian has been identified as Yahia Ali Adwan, 27, from Azzoun; he was also a former political prisoner and has a brother who is imprisoned by Israel at the Negev Detention Camp.

The Israeli army first abducted Yahia in 2010 when he was only fifteen years of age and was imprisoned for ten months.

He was abducted again in 2013 and was released in 2016 after being imprisoned for 41 months.

He was also abducted for the third time in 2019 and was imprisoned for sixteen months, then abducted two more times in 2021.

The total number of years he spent in Israeli prisons and detention centers is seven and a half years.

Palestinian medics tried to revive the seriously wounded young man before rushing him to the hospital, where he was officially pronounced dead.

Dozens of armored military vehicles conducted the invasion before the soldiers fired many live rounds at the Palestinians to force them away, leading to protests.

Azzoun is subject to constant Israeli invasions and violations by the Israeli soldiers who repeatedly storm and ransack homes, especially at dawn, and abduct many residents.

Also, at dawn, illegal Israeli colonizers attacked a bus filled with worshipers heading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem, wounding several Palestinians.

Late Friday night, Israeli sources reported that a security guard at the Ariel illegal colony in the occupied West Bank was shot dead by Palestinian fighters who managed to escape unharmed. As a result, the army and internal security initiated a massive search campaign.

(Source / 30.04.2022)

Israeli Colonizers Attack Bus, Injure Many Palestinians, In Jerusalem

On Saturday dawn, illegal Israeli colonizers attacked a bus filled with worshipers heading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem, wounding several Palestinians.

Media sources said the Palestinians came in a bus from Nazareth city before the colonizers attacked the bus while driving near the French Hill in Jerusalem.

The colonizers hurled stones and empty bottles at the bus, shattering many windows and causing damage to the bus, and wounding several Palestinians.

In related news, Israeli soldiers abducted ten young Palestinian men after stopping them at the Qalandia terminal, north of occupied Jerusalem, while they were returning to their homes after praying in Al-Aqsa.

(Source / 30.04.2022)

Israeli Security Guard Killed In A Shooting Attack In Ariel

Israeli sources have reported, late Friday night, that a security guard at the Ariel illegal colony in the occupied West Bank was shot dead by Palestinian fighters who managed to escape unharmed. As a result, the army and internal security initiated a massive search campaign.

The sources said the shooting was conducted with an improvised Carl Gustave submachine gun, adding that the guard is 23 years of age.

Israeli Ynet News said video footage from the scene of the fatal shooting shows two persons stepping out of a car before running up to the guard and shooting him.

One of the shooters returned to the car, made a U-turn, and picked up the other person before speeding away, Ynet added.

Israeli medics said they tried first aid after arriving at the scene, but the guard had no pulse and wasn’t breathing before they pronounced him dead due to his serious wounds.

A few hours after the shooting, the Israeli army closed the iron gate near Qarawat Bani Hasan town, on the main road leading to villages and towns west of Salfit, and prevented the Palestinians from crossing.

The soldiers briefly detained and interrogated dozens of Palestinians and searched many cars.

The Israeli army and Shin Bet (Israel’s Internal Security Agency) initiated a massive search campaign in the entire area, especially north and west of Salfit.

The army said it found a burnt car believed to be used in the fatal shooting.

The soldiers also installed many roadblocks, blocking main roads and isolating entire Palestinian communities.

The army invaded and ransacked many Palestinian homes and shops on Kafr Thuluth, Beit Amin, and Sanniriya, near Qalqilia, during the ongoing search for the shooters and confiscated surveillance recordings and equipment.

(Source / 30.04.2022)

Army Injures Dozens of Palestinians In Kufur Qaddoum

On Friday, Israeli soldiers attacked the weekly procession in Kufur Qaddoum, east of the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia, and injured dozens of Palestinians, including two children.

The Palestinians marched from the center of the town while chanting against the ongoing Israeli occupation, its illegal colonies, and escalating violations, especially in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Israeli soldiers invaded the town and started firing rubber-coated steel bullets, gas bombs, and concussion grenades.

Medical sources said the soldiers shot nine Palestinians, including two children, with rubber-coated steel bullets and caused dozens to suffer the effects of tear gas inhalation.

The Palestinians have been holding weekly processions in Kufur Qaddoum for the last eighteen years, demanding the army to reopen the village’s main road the soldiers blockaded to allow easy access to the illegal colonizers driving to and from Kedumim illegal colony built on stolen Palestinian lands.

(Source / 29.04.2022)

Soldiers Abduct Three Palestinians In Jerusalem

On Friday, Israeli soldiers abducted three Palestinians, including a young woman and a child, in occupied Jerusalem, in the West Bank.

Eyewitnesses said the soldiers stopped a young woman while walking in the Bab al-Amoud area and abducted her before moving her to an interrogation facility.

The young woman was trying to reach the Al-Aqsa Mosque when the soldiers stopped her.

The soldiers also abducted a child while walking near Bab Huta, one of the gates leading to Al-Aqsa.

In addition, the soldiers assaulted and injured a young man near Bab al-Majles, before abducting him.

Earlier Friday, the soldiers injured dozens of Palestinians, including a journalist, and attacked medics in the courtyards of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

(Source / 29.04.2022)