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Israeli forces assault, detain 2 children on their way home from school

May 24, 2017 12:42 P.M. (Updated: May 24, 2017 11:01 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- At least two Palestinian children were beaten and detained by Israeli forces on Wednesday morning inside the Aida refugee camp, located in the northern part of Bethlehem city in the southern occupied West Bank.

Witnesses told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided the camp in military jeeps at around 9:30 a.m. while students from the camp’s United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school were returning home from their final exams.

The soldiers then got out of their jeeps near the camp’s cemetery and assaulted two students, whose identities remained unknown. After beating the two, the soldiers threw them into the jeep and took them into a military base located adjacent to the camp.

“After arresting the two kids, the soldiers lined up a group of students against the wall and began pointing their guns in the kids’ faces,” one witness, who recorded the incident on video, told Ma’an.

The soldiers then began yelling at the students, accusing them of covering up for someone who allegedly threw a homemade pipe bomb at the military base around 8:30 a.m.

The witness insisted, however, that there was no way the students could have been involved in the incident or know who threw the bomb, since they were in school taking their final exams.

Shortly after interrogating the students in the street, soldiers raided Aida’s Lajee Center, a community organization for refugee youth that stands at the entrance to the camp, and confiscated the center’s computers and security camera footage, which the witness highlighted happens nearly every time any rocks or explosive devices area thrown at the military base, given the center’s location on the main road of the camp, just across from the base.

The witness highlighted that the soldiers prevented the center’s employees from entering the building while the soldiers were inside.

As the soldiers were inside the center, local activists and children from the camp stood outside the center, holding Palestinian flags and chanting slogans, calling for “the occupation soldiers to get out.”

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports.

Israeli raids in Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps are a daily occurrence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

As Israeli forces have maintained an almost daily presence in the camp in recent months, locals in Aida have reported escalated military procedures over the past several months, creating what some residents have called a perpetual “atmosphere of fear.”

In February, Israeli forces raided the camp in broad daylight and violently detained a boy in the street as he was walking home from school.
A video shared on social media shows Israeli soldiers aggressively throwing the boy into the back of a military vehicle.

One day prior, soldiers had raided the Lajee center where they seized computers and security camera footage, after Israeli police said that “a suspicious object” was thrown at Rachel's Tomb, which is located next to the Lajee Center on the other side of Israel’s separation barrier.

In a statement following a violent detention raid in the camp, Lajee called the raid “part of the routine disturbance and abuse caused by Israeli soldiers,” in the camp, asserting that “military operations in the camp have caused irreversible damage to residents, especially children, who are being denied their basic right of protection against abuse and harm.”

“The unsafe living conditions in the camp due to constant presence of Israeli military forces deeply affects the health development of children and jeopardizes the future of the community,” the statement added.

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