Army says kid dragged through Hebron had firebombed Kiryat Arba

B’Tselem releases clip of shoeless 8-year-old filmed being led through West Bank city by soldiers; IDF says he was suspected of tossing Molotov cocktail — and was taken home

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

A video surfaced on Thursday of a shoeless Palestinian 8-year-old being dragged through the streets of Hebron by Israeli soldiers earlier in the week, but with two notably different explanations.

The left-wing B’Tselem human rights organization, which released the video, said the soldiers demanded that the Palestinian boy, Sufian Abu Hitah, identify children who threw rocks at the adjacent Kiryat Arba settlement, leading him through the West Bank city to pick them out on Tuesday.

The Israel Defense Forces denied B’Tselem’s description of events and said Abu Hitah was the one suspected of throwing a Molotov cocktail, not rocks, at the settlement. According to the army, he was detained by the soldiers and led home.

“Forces who were called to the scene caught a suspect. Due to the fact the suspect was a minor, he was taken to his parents’ home,” the army said, in a statement.

“It was noted in the initial review that the forces did not ask the minor to direct them to any other suspects,” the IDF added.

A Palestinian boy being led through the streets of Hebron, whom the army says is suspected of throwing a firebomb at a Jewish settlement, on March 21, 2017. (Screen capture: B'Tselem)
A Palestinian boy being led through the streets of Hebron, whom the army says is suspected of throwing a firebomb at a Jewish settlement, on March 21, 2017. (Screen capture: B’Tselem)

But in the video, the soldiers can be heard telling a passerby, whom they ask for translation help, that Abu Hitah told them that there was another boy who threw rocks.

When the passerby begins speaking to Abu Hitah, the boy starts to cry and tells him that he was just walking down the street when the soldiers detained him.

It was not immediately clear why the soldiers did not arrest the child if he was suspected of throwing a firebomb.

An army spokesperson said the soldiers did not want to question the Palestinian boy without his parents present; however, according to both the video and testimony from his mother Amani Abu Hitah to B’Tselem, once he was returned to her an hour after the incident began, the soldiers left the scene, without further questioning.

According to Abu Hitah’s mother, she and her son were visiting her parents. The 8-year-old took off his shoes when he came into the house and at some point during the visit snuck out to look for a toy he dropped.

It was then that he was picked up.

In the video, a group of at least six soldiers can be seen leading Abu Hitah through the streets in his black socks.

At one point, the child is taken to a rooftop by one of the soldiers. The two look out onto the street and then walk back down from the building.

The soldiers lead Abu Hitah to Hebron’s Jabal Juhar Street, where a group of women yell at the 15 or so servicemen and pull the boy away from them.

The West Bank city, the only one in the West Bank with a mixed Israeli-Palestinian population, is a flashpoint of violence and conflict.

In August, a Border Police officer was suspended from duty after he was caught on film picking up and putting a Palestinian girl’s bicycle into some bushes in Hebron.

That video too was filmed and released by members of the B’Tselem organization.

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