Blindfolded Palestinian boy surrounded by Israeli soldiers in viral photo charged with throwing stones

Sixteen-year-old Fawzi al-Junaidi remains in prison and will face formal charges in Israeli military court on Wednesday

Tuesday 12 December 2017 16:43
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Footage shows Israeli soldiers arresting Palestinian children

The Palestinian teenager at the centre of a powerful photograph in which he has been blindfolded and surrounded by 22 Israeli soldiers marching him to prison is to face charges over throwing stones, his lawyer has said.

Sixteen-year-old Fawzi al-Junaidi was photographed on 7 December during protests in the West Bank city of Hebron over US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise the contested city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Wearing ripped jeans, the boy is shown being propelled forward by soldiers in full protective gear who have hold of both of his arms.

The picture has been widely shared on social media and caused outrage within Palestinian and liberal Israeli circles, who have condemned it as representative of what they say is the Israel Defence Forces’ (IDF) criminalisation of Arab children.

Israeli forces detain Palestinian Fawzi al-Junaidi following clashes in the West Bank city of Hebron

The child denies taking part in the clashes, although eyewitnesses report he threw stones.

According to his lawyer, Farah Bayadsi, he was running away from tear gas when he was beaten with a rifle, blindfolded, taken to a detention centre and later the notorious Ofer prison in Israel.

The IDF did not immediately respond to The Independent’s request for comment.

Farah remains in prison and will face formal charges in an Israeli military court on Wednesday.

It is not clear whether the arresting forces will be charged with the use of excessive force.

There has been violence across the West Bank and Gaza since the US’s shock move, which upended decades of foreign policy and international law.

Four Palestinians have been killed in clashes and one Israeli soldier has been fatally stabbed in Jerusalem.

While protests in Israel and the Palestinian territories now appear to be dying down, across the wider Muslim world demonstrations have now entered their sixth consecutive day.

Footage of Palestinian children being shouted at, dragged around and detained by Israeli soldiers after throwing stones has also emerged from an occupied area of the West Bank city of Hebron this week.

In the video, released by Israeli human rights watchdog B’Tselem, a small boy can be seen cowering next to a locked doorway as three soldiers surround him.

“Let’s go. Who is this? Take him,” one of them says, dragging the child to his feet by his arm. The boy then limps along between the soldiers – one of whom puts him in a headlock – and is dragged away as he cries “my arm!” A soldier tells him to shut up.

The person filming the footage is prevented from following the boy further by another soldier.

At least three more boys are marched away as a group of a dozen soldiers tell journalists and the B’Tselem representative to stand back, at one point shoving the camera person.

Eighteen youths, most under the age of 18, were arrested in total for throwing stones at soldiers in the 13 October incident.

The boys threw stones at a group of soldiers after Friday prayers in Bab al-Zawiya neighbourhood, in the 20 per cent of Hebron controlled by Israel.

They responded with stun grenades and rubber-coated metal bullets, eyewitness testimony collected by B’Tselem alleges. Dozens of reinforcements arrived to arrest the boys and young men, who were held and questioned in one room in a military base before being released around 10pm that night, the watchdog’s report said.

Their families were not informed and none of those arrested were offered access to their parents or a lawyer during the interrogation.

The Independent has contacted the Israeli West Bank military administration, Cogat, for comment on the allegations.

A 13-year-old who was one of the boys arrested, identified only as MJ, said he had not been involved in the clashes, but arrived on the scene afterwards.

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“We all ran away. The soldiers caught up with us and ordered us to stand with our faces to the wall. One of the soldiers kicked my arm and the back of my legs and hit me on the back with the butt of his rifle. I started to cry,” he said.

“After about 15 minutes, they led us out of the mall and took us to the checkpoint at Bab al-Zawiya where they kicked us again. They tied our hands in front of our bodies and led us to a military base at the old bus station on al-Shuhada Street in the Old City.

“The soldiers took us into a room, put us on chairs, and blindfolded us. They interrogated us for about two hours while we were blindfolded. A soldier asked me whether I throw stones and I denied it. He told me that they had photographs. I told him to show me the photographs, but he wouldn’t and accused me of lying.”

Such unrest is fairly common in the divided city.

“Israel’s military control over millions of people is not merely a theoretical-political issue: the lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories are subjected to a daily routine of violence,” B’Tselem’s Amit Gilutz told The Independent.

“The harassment, abuse, arrests and detention of Palestinians, including minors, by Israeli security forces, as well as instances that do not involve the direct use of physical force, are all different forms of organised, ongoing state violence by Israel.”

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