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Testimony - Leila W.

Name: Leila W.
Age: -
Location: Al 'Arrub refugee camp, West Bank
Date: 6 August 2013
Subject: Night raid and arrest
A mother from the Al 'Arrub refugee camp, near Bethlehem, describes how Israeli soldiers entered her house at 1:00 a.m. and took her 15-year-old son away.
On 6 August 2013, I was still awake when my son Samir, who is 15, came back home at around 1:00 a.m. He had been to the youth club in the camp. It was Ramadan and people stay up late. Minutes after Samir entered the house I heard a commotion outside our front door and looked through the window to see what was going on. I saw Israeli soldiers surrounding the house. My other son went to the door. The soldiers told him to get back inside and shut the door. Minutes later the soldiers opened the door and came in.”
“Four soldiers entered the house and the commander asked my husband for his identity card and told him to call his sons. I then heard the commander ask for Samir. I lost my mind and couldn’t believe it when I realised they had come for my youngest boy, Samir. I stormed into the living room where they were sitting and shouted at the commander. I told him I wanted to give Samir a warm jacket. Samir barely had time to put on his jacket and shoes before they dragged him out of the house. Young men from the camp began throwing stones at the soldiers to stop them taking Samir, but the soldiers rushed with Samir and took him away to the entrance of the camp.”
“All this happened so quickly that I was in shock. I had no time to process or comprehend what was going on. The soldiers didn’t tell us why they wanted to take Samir away or where they were taking him. I thought they would question him and bring him back a day or two later because he is not involved in anything. I couldn’t sleep that night. I was worried that they might beat him or leave him out in the cold.The next morning my husband received a phone call from Etzion police station saying Samir was held there. The person told my husband to appoint a lawyer and to go to the police station. When my husband got to the police station they told him Samir wasn’t there and that he had been transferred to Ofer prison, near Ramallah, nearly 40 kilometers away.”
“Two days later we were informed that Samir was going to appear inOfer military court. I left the house very early in the morning to get to Ofer in time. I was shocked when I saw my son in metal chains, wearing prison clothes. He looked tired and bewildered. His face was pale and he looked scared. I lost my mind. I tried to control myself because I didn’t want to worry him anymore. I whispered to him across the room and told him not to worry because he hadn’t done anything wrong. My heart was burning inside and I felt tightness in my chest. I tried to speak to Samir but the guard didn’t allow me. Later the judge allowed me to get closer and to talk to him. I asked whether he was eating well and tried to assure him everything was going to be all right. The court hearing lasted for about 30 minutes and was adjourned for a week. I think Samir had about seven court hearings and I attended most of them. Two months after his arrest Samir was sentenced to three months in prison, fined 2,000 shekels and given a six month suspended sentence for three years. This was after the lawyer negotiated a plea bargain for him when at the last minute the prosecutor claimed there was secret evidence provided by the Shin Bet, the notorious internal security service, that Samir was seen throwing an empty bottle and a stone at Qalandia checkpoint, near Ramallah, on 15 May 2013. This is ridiculous not only because Samir had never been to Qalandia, but also because he was accused of throwing stones in Al’Arrub refugee camp, about 40 kilometers away, on the same day.”
“It was a harsh sentence for a young boy and I was shocked and sad when I heard it. My husband and I were not given permits to visit Samir in prison. The only time we saw him was in court. It was the longest month in my life. The whole time when Samir was in jail I didn’t sleep well. I would stay up until 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. thinking and worrying about him. I lost my appetite and had no desire to eat. I lost about 10 kilograms in three months. The hardest thing was not to see him in front of me. I missed him badly.”
“We were not informed of the exact day of his release. My husband and I thought he was going to be released on the 6 October and we went and waited outside Ofer prison but Samir never showed up. On 29 October my husband received a phone call from Samir who told him he had been released. I couldn’t believe it when my husband told me. When Samir arrived in a taxi at 8:30 p.m. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him. He had grown taller and looked happy. I hugged him for the longest time and didn’t want to let go of him. I hugged him in disbelief and kept asking myself whether this was for real. It was the happiest day in my life.”
“It was a tough experience for Samir. He now spends a lot of time at home and doesn’t want to hang out with his friends. When soldiers enter the camp he hides in his room and doesn’t leave the house until he is sure the soldiers are gone.”