A 5-year-old Palestinian boy was detained by Israeli soldiers after throwing a stone at Jewish motorists, according to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, which has written a letter to Israeli authorities voicing concern over the incident.
"Detaining a child below the age of criminal responsibility, especially one so young, has no legal justification,” the group wrote in a statement posted to its website.
B'Tselem released several videos shot by field researchers who documented the incident. According to the group, 5-year-old Wadi' Maswadeh was detained on the afternoon of July 9 for throwing stones in the West Bank city of Hebron. Video fragments show soldiers putting the crying child and an accompanying adult into a military vehicle, apparently to take them to the boy's home.
According to B'Tselem, the soldiers waited for the boy's father, Karam Maswadeh, to return and then handcuffed and blindfolded him and took both to an army base. When an Israeli officer appeared, Maswadeh's blindfold was removed and Wadi' and his father were handed over to Palestinian policemen. They were taken to a police station for questioning.
Karam Maswadeh recounted the incident to B'Tselem:
"When I got home, I saw several soldiers standing at the entrance to my house. An officer came up to me and ordered me to get my son, Wadi'a. Before I got home, the soldiers had tried to persuade my wife to hand Wadi'a over, but she had refused to do it until I came back. The officer told me that he was going to arrest Wadi'a and hand him over to the Palestinian Coordination. I asked him: "Why arrest a five-year-old boy?" A soldier standing next to the officer showed me a stone and claimed that my son had thrown it, and that it had hit the car of a settler who was driving north, near 'Abed checkpoint. I tried to persuade the officer not to take Wadi' to the DCO, but he said that if I didn't bring him, I'd be arrested. […] I went inside the house and got Wadi', who was hiding there. He was crying."
The BBC reports that the Israeli Army denied in a statement that the boy was arrested and said he had endangered passers-by.
"IDF [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers intervened on the spot and accompanied the minor to his parents. From there he was passed on to the care of the Palestinian Security Forces, all the while accompanied by his parents. The child was not arrested and no charges were filed," the IDF said, according to the BBC.
A spokesman for the Israeli military reiterated to The New York Times that the boy had not been arrested. The army launched an investigation into the incident, but cleared the soldiers who initially handled the case of any wrongdoing.
In her letter to authorities, B'Tselem director Jessica Montell noted that while the child indisputably had thrown the rocks, it was troubling that none of the soldiers deemed the arrest of such a young child problematic: "Not the fact that they scared a 5-year-old boy out of his wits, nor threatening him and his parents to 'hand him over' to the Palestinian Police, nor threatening to arrest the father on no legal grounds, nor handcuffing and blindfolding the father in front of his son."
Relations between Palestinians and a small group of Jewish settlers who live in the heart of Hebron are tense, and the Israeli army maintains a large presence in the city to protect the enclave.
Watch footage of the incident below: