12-year-old Palestinian Violently Interrogated and Jailed for 16 Days

On May 30, 2021, at around 3:00am, about 10 Israeli soldiers entered the home of the Muqbal family in Beit Ummar, north of Hebron in the Palestinian occupied territories. The occupation forces woke the family up and violently searched the house. Then, they handed the parents a summons for a police interview with their 12-year-old son, Sanad, who was staying that night with his cousins at al-‘Arrub Refugee Camp, and demanded he come in for questioning within several hours. Then the soldiers left the house.

Sanad Muqbal with his father Muhammad at the family grocery store, June 22, 2021

Sanad Muqbal with his father Muhammad at the family grocery store, June 22, 2021 (Photo: Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem)

At around 8:30am, Muhammad Muqbal, his son Sanad and Muhammad’s brother-in-law ‘Abd al-Hafez Abu Sham’ah went to the Etzion police station, where the father and son were interrogated separately. Sanad was interrogated alone, with no adult acting on his behalf by his side, and without even being allowed to consult a lawyer. At one point, he saw his father lying unconscious in the station’s yard. When he tried to approach him, an officer hit him.

From there Sanad was taken to a detention facility, where he was held overnight in a small, dark cell, with a mattress soaked from water dripping from the ceiling, without food or drink, and without being able to shower or change clothes. In the morning, after a sleepless night, he was taken in a military jeep and dropped off at Megiddo Prison several hours later. There, he ate for the first time since his arrest. While he was held at Megiddo, Sanad was beaten by prison guards, who broke his nose.

Over the following days, six court hearings were held in Sanad’s case, in which he participated via Zoom. The court eventually upheld a plea bargain sentencing Sanad to 31 days in prison and a fine of NIS 2,000 (610 USD). However, he was granted administrative release after 16 days.

Upon his release, Sanad was taken to Jalameh Checkpoint and abandoned there, alone, without any officials bothering to notify his parents. He had no choice but to turn to young strangers at the checkpoint, who helped him contact his father who was waiting for him in Ramallah and assist getting him there, from where Mohammad took Sanad back home to Beit Ummar.

According to B’Tselem, “Sanad’s case stands out only because of his young age. Yet, it is not exceptional with regards to Palestinian teens throughout the West Bank – who are subjected to a violent routine imposed by the occupation. Every year, Israel arrests and detains hundreds of Palestinian minors, while routinely and systemically violating their rights: during the arrest, under interrogation, and later in military juvenile court. Although Israel boasts of laws and procedures ostensibly put in place to protect the rights of minors, these are merely a fig leaf legitimizing grave harm to minors.”

B’Tselem’s full report on the arrest, interrogation and incarceration of 12-year-old Sanad Muqbal