On Wednesday 5 February at approximately 2:00 am, Israeli military forces raided the residence of Fares Hassan Sawalma in al-Fara’a refugee camp, south of Tubas. The forces searched the house and interrogated some of the family members then set off explosives in the first floor of the house. The Israeli soldiers claimed to have found weaponry and explosives inside the house and consequently arrested Fares’ son, Moujahed.
‘Izz al-Din Fares Sawalma – al-Fara’a refugee camp
On Wednesday 5 February, ‘Izz, 21, along with his two brothers Moujahed, 20, and Ahmad, 13, were sleeping on the first floor of the house. ‘Izz heard heavy knocking on the door and someone shouting in Hebrew to open up. He woke his brothers up and opened the door. There, ‘Izz saw a number of Israeli soldiers in uniform and fully armed. The soldiers pushed passed ‘Izz, and then asked for his and Moujahed’s names.
There were approximately 30 soldiers in the house. The soldiers asked ‘Izz to call to his aunt and cousin, who live in an adjacent room, to come into the living room. ‘Izz, his two brothers, his cousin and aunt were first held in the living room. A few moments later they were transferred by the soldiers into one of the bedrooms where they weren’t allowed to speak to one another. Four soldiers remained in the room with them and the rest continued searching the house. ‘Izz and his family couldn’t see what was happening but they could hear the sound of things being broken and damaged. ‘Izz also heard the sound of drilling but couldn’t identify the exact location. The search lasted for approximately two hours.
The officer then came into the bedroom and escorted ‘Izz to the backyard, where he interrogated him. According to ‘Izz, he introduced himself as Captain Mike, the officer in charge of the Tubas area and al-Fara’a refugee camp. He questioned ‘Izz, in Arabic, about his brother, aunt and cousin. Afterwards, ‘Izz was brought back to the bedroom and then the officer took Moujahed for questioning.
Approximately three hours into the raid, several soldiers tied the four men’s hands to their backs with plastic restraining bands and blindfolded them. They were then taken about 30 metres away from the house. The soldiers forced them to sit on the ground in the cold. ‘Izz recalls that because his blindfold wasn’t tight enough he was able to see the soldiers extending wires into the house. ‘Izz realized that they were intending to set off explosives inside the house. He immediately yelled at the soldiers and told them that his parents and siblings were still on the second floor. The soldiers ordered ‘Izz to remain silent.
At approximately 5:00 am, two explosions were heard along with soldiers’ laughter. ‘Izz heard his father scream at the soldiers, asking them to allow him to evacuate his children from the second floor. The soldiers refused and instead pointed their guns at him.
Upon hearing the sound of explosions, residents from the camp began arriving at the scene. Meanwhile, the Israeli soldiers retreated south. When they entered the house, ‘Izz and his family were shocked to see the amount of damage caused to the first floor due to the explosions. Parts of the house were still on fire and the internal walls were severely damaged. The family’s belongings were damaged and burnt as and the first floor is no longer habitable.
The Israeli forces claimed that they had found weapons, a gun and explosives in the house. According to ‘Izz, this was a false claim and they had in fact found an old weapon that they accused Moujahed of owning and consequently arrested him. At the time of the raid, Moujahed was not wanted by the Israeli forces and had not been arrested previously. ‘Izz asserts that there was no legitimate reason for the soldiers to set off explosives in the house. After the raid, 800 shekels (approximately 228 USD) was missing from the house. During the raid, ‘Izz, his brothers and cousin were beaten on their feet from time to time and felt terrified. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9335/2014)
Al-Haq condemns the excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians and calls upon the Israeli government to ensure that arbitrary and abusive use of force is punishable as a criminal offence. The conduct of the raid by the Israeli Occupying Forces raises serious concerns as to the safety and security of Palestinian civilians. Israel’s failure to protect the Palestinian civilian population during these operations is a further indication of its flagrant disregard of its legal obligations as the Occupying Power. According to international humanitarian law, protected persons are entitled in all circumstances to be humanely treated and shall be protected against all acts of violence or threats. Furthermore, under international human rights law, all persons deprived of their liberty must be treated with humanity and respect for their dignity. Al-Haq further expresses its concern regarding how the raid was conducted and the resulting damage to property.