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Tel Rumeida: A Palestinian Boy and His Dog

At approximately 2.30 pm two human rights workers (HRW) were sitting at the crossroad near the illegal, according to international law, Israeli settlement of Tel Rumeida, inside the Palestinian neighbourhood of Tel Rumeida, Hebron. A Palestinian boy, Samir Abu Rmeleh, approximate age 17, arrived carrying a little puppy and took a seat next to the human rights workers (HRWs) and several other Palestinian children.

After a few minutes he continued walking down the hill, pulling his dog in an obviously harmful way. Two soldiers standing nearby immediately started shouting at him in Hebrew, probably asking him to stop mistreating his dog. Samir ignored the soldiers and tried to provoke them by pulling the dogs leash and lifting the dog into the air. One of the two soldiers took the dog away from the Palestinian boy and brought him into his outpost. The boy immediately started discussing the situation with the soldiers, asking them to give him his dog back. The soldiers, who were not able to understand Arabic, ignored Samir’s attempts and refused giving the dog back.

When the two HRWs joined the scene and asked the soldiers to inform them about the proceedings, they explained that their only purpose was to protect the dog and to prevent the boy from continuous mistreatment of the dog. The HRWs repeatedly replied that they agree with the aim of protecting animals, but that this situation isn’t any of the soldiers business. Meanwhile Samir made several attempts to get his dog back by trying to negotiate with the soldiers, as well as by calling his dog or luring him with chicken pieces. Eventually the soldiers interrupted Samir’s attempts by ordering him to stand on the other site of the street, enforcing their orders by grabbing the boy’s shirt.

Detained part 1

After some minutes a group of off-duty female soldiers arrived and showed a huge interest in the dog’s well being. The female soldiers informed the HRWs about their intention to take the dog with them. Since this was neither in the best interest of the HRWs, nor of the Palestinian boy, the HRWs suggested that they take the dog to their house. One of the HRWs informed Samir about their suggesting and he agreed to do so. The soldiers were discussing the HRWs suggestion as well, but finally decided not to give them the dog, since, how they said, they can’t be sure, that they won’t give him the dog back. Several times the female soldiers tried to carry the dog to the nearby settlement, but stopped proceeding after continuous interventions of the HRW.

Because of the long duration of the incident the proceedings started to draw more attention. So a couple of Palestinian children, three more soldiers, the TIPH and three more HRW joined the scene. The soldiers called the police, proposing to charge Samir of animal abuse. During the next hour another two Palestinian boys, Ahmad Rmeleh and Abed Fakhoury joined the discussions with the soldiers, trying to help their friend. After several attempts of negotiating with the soldiers as well as with Samir, one of the boys was handcuffed. The soldiers refused to justify their behaviour. For everyone’s enjoyment he was able to get rid of his plastic handcuffs twice.

The police arrived at 3.30 pm and entered into negotiations with Samir’s mother, several other Palestinians and the HRW, unfortunately without any success. Ahmad and Abed were handcuffed again for “interrupting the soldiers work” and were forced to sit on the ground behind the soldiers outpost.

At about 4.15 Samir was taken into the police car. Several soldiers, policemen and HRW surrounded the car while one soldier stepped into the car. The soldier was obviously trying to cover up his abuse of Samir while he hit Samir in the face. Meanwhile the soldiers tried to prevent the HRWs outside from watching the proceedings by pushing and shoving two of them. After another two minutes Ahmad and Abed were taken to another military outpost inside the illegal settlement of Tel Rumeida.

At approximately 4:20 in the afternoon, the soldiers took Samir to a police vehicle that had just arrived. They dragged the boy to the police car that was surrounded by approximately 5 soldiers and one border police. A female HRW was filming during this time and the soldiers attempted to block her view of the boy. During this time they turned the Palestinian to face the police vehicle, pulled his hands behind his back and bound them with a plastic wrist tie. They forcibly pulled the wrist tie exceptionally tight and the boy’s face showed his obvious pain and discomfort at the wrist ties being so tight. He was then pushed into the back of the police van with a soldier trying to get in behind him. The soldier was half in the police vehicle and appeared to be talking with the boy when he was seen by the HRW hitting the boy in the face. The HRW continued to attempt to film the soldier hitting the boy however there were at least another five soldiers and border police around her. In doing this, both soldiers and a policeman forcibly pushed her and grabbed her, trying to drag her away from the area. Following this, the police vehicle drove away.

Detained part 2

The soldiers turned their attention on the two remaining Palestinian teenagers who had been detained, placed wrist ties on both of them and started to pull them towards the soldiers base by the illegal settlement of Tel Rumeida. The soldiers would not give any reason or justification for why they needed to do this despite repeated attempts by the HRWs to find out. Eventually they were informed that they would be held at the base until the police would come to bring them to the police station.

Detained part 3

The HRWs maintained their presence in the area and at approximately 4:50 in the afternoon, the same police vehicle that had taken away the teenage boy returned. The police stopped by the female HRW and asked what she had seen. When she expressed concern over the soldier hitting the Palestinian, they recommended that she came down to the station to give a statement. They repeated that it was necessary to go to the police station to complete the investigation and that if she had seen the soldier hit the boy it was necessary for a formal complaint to be made. The police advised they would go to the army barracks for a moment and on their way back collect the HRW to take her to make a statement. The HRW complied and when stepped into the van, there was one of the soldiers present from when the incident took place already in there.

Once at the police station, she was made to wait with three soldiers; two male and one female, and the Palestinian who had been detained. She found the wrist ties still on the boy and him in obvious pain with his hands swelling from restricted blood flow as a consequence. She requested his hands be released, and despite protests from the soldiers, the police complied and the ties were undone. The boys wrists were examined by the HRW and there were severe marks on his wrist where they had been tied.

After a further ten minutes the police informed her that in reality she was actually being arrested by the police for obstructing the police and army work. She was really surprised at this, as there had been no suggestion that this would happen and the police had reassured her that she was being taken to the station to give a statement regarding the soldiers behavior. The police had openly lied to her regarding their intentions and had essentially tricked her into coming to the station with the intention of detaining her. The police eventually rephrased what they said and admitted that she hadn’t been arrested however she had been detained. She was advised that she would have to wait for the investigator to speak with her after speaking with the other soldiers and the boy. During this time the Palestinian boy was silent and waited patiently for his turn with the investigator. When his opportunity did arise, the investigator questioned him aggressively and there were many places where he shouted at the boy.

After nearly three hours of waiting the police finally allowed the HRW to offer her version of events. She relayed what happened to the investigator and explained how there were a number of soldiers between her and the police vehicle and that the claims that she had been obstructing the police were false accusations. She was advised by the investigator that she needed to write, in English, that she wouldn’t intefere with police or army work and that if she did then she would be deported. The HRW refused to do this as she hadnّt done anything wrong and essentially, as the police had already falsely accused her of interfering on this occasion, it was more than possible that they would repeat this and get her deported without just cause. The police threatened her with being arrested and when the HRW refused to state in writing that she would no longer intefere with the army or otherwise be deported the police advised her that she was being arrested. Eventually after a period of time the HRW was taken to the exit gate of the police station and released without charge. The HRW understood that the Palestinian boy was still in the station and was not able to find out what would then happen to him.

This initial incident lasted for about two hours. The HRW was detained for a total of four hours at the police station before being released. About ten Israeli soldiers and two policemen engaged in this case, repeatedly using physical violence against Palestinians and an international HRW and eventually arresting and detaining three Palestinians because they were mistreating a little dog. It’s doubtful that if a settler lifted a Palestinian into the air that this would draw the same attention as this case of a Palestinian boy and his dog.

After the dog spent a few hours with the soldiers he was finally given to another Palestinian boy.

It is not known the eventual fate of the Palestinian boys.