Al-Khalil protest demands freedom for Palestinian child prisoners

Samidoun is publishing the following report from Human Rights Defenders: 

Photo: Human Rights Defenders

The Al-Khalil activist group, Human Rights Defenders, and the residents of Shuhada street organized a demonstration on 4 February led by kindergartners and other children to protest the imprisonment of 350 child prisoners currently being held in Israeli jails. Some of the children being held in jail are as young as twelve years old.

The demonstration culminated with attacks by the settlers on two journalists, Du’aa Yahya from Ma’an and Zidan al-Sharbat, covering the event for the organizers. At one point, the Israeli Occupation Forces also blocked the children from returning to their homes.

Human Rights Defenders leader Badee Dwaik and activist Arif Jabar organized the rally in one of the most heavily contested and settler-oppressed areas of al-Khalil, Tel Rumeida. In this area, a majority of residents are violent settlers, whose presence is maintained through land theft and the repression of occupation forces. Palestinians in al-Khalil have repeatedly documented the vicious attacks of occupation soldiers and settlers in the area.

Photo: Human Rights Defenders

The kindergarteners rallied for three child prisoners in particular, a young girl named Razan Abu Sal, 13 who was sentenced to one and a half months and a fine of 3000 NIS; Shadi Farrah, sentenced at the age of 12, who has already served two years of his three year sentence; and the well-known teen activist Ahed Tamimi, 17, who was arrested for defending her property and fellow children from attacks by Israeli soldiers. She has become a worldwide symbol of child imprisonment and the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

The children carried signs protesting the occupation, an all encompassing word for the abuses and indignities that are carried out against them by the Israeli Occupation Forces and the settlers that work in conduction with the army. The children chanted that every “child deserves a childhood”. They asked the world community to protect them and for international law to be upheld. They carried banners speaking of their anger at Israel and the Western countries that support Israel’s racist, Apartheid colonialist occupation of Palestinian people. Israel is the only country in the world today that maintains an Apartheid regime.

Photo: Human Rights Defenders

Badee Dwaik, leader of Human Rights Defenders spoke, telling the group that the demonstration marked the start of the group’s annual campaign called “Dismantle the Ghetto,” an effort to publicize and protest the horrors of life under the illegal occupation in the city of Hebron. The campaign is supported by international actions to call for the lift of closures and suppression of the population. It is held on the 24th anniversary of the massacre at the Ibrahimi mosque by Baruch Goldstein, which also marks the beginning of violent extremist settlers’ move into Hebron.

As the demonstration finished, settlers approached the group. Anat Cohen, a settler notorious for slapping, kicking and yelling at activists while being filmed, hit Du’aa Yahya, the journalist covering the event for Ma’an News. Another settler, Ofer Hassan, also known for his violence, attacked Arif Jabar, an activist for Human Rights Defenders.

Meanwhile a large crowd of IOF soldiers moved in on the crowd and closed the barrier to the road leading from the play area where the children held their demonstration, preventing them from returning home. Hassan and Cohen continued to harass the crowd. Hassan even attempted to enter the home of one of the residents, as the resident pleaded, “I am in my own home. Get out of here!” After a period of harassment of both the adults and the children, the protesters were finally allowed to leave the area and return to their homes.