Police debunk Palestinian reports they summoned a boy, 4, for throwing rocks

After story of East Jerusalem boy’s summoning goes viral, drawing reactions from Arab MKs and PA officials, authorities show they ordered father, not son, to come for questioning

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Four-year old Issawiyeh resident Muhammad Rabi Elayyan, who Palestinians say was summoned by Israeli police on suspicion that he threw rocks at officers (Twitter screenshot)
Four-year old Issawiyeh resident Muhammad Rabi Elayyan, who Palestinians say was summoned by Israeli police on suspicion that he threw rocks at officers (Twitter screenshot)

Police on Tuesday sought to dispel Palestinian media reports claiming they had summoned a 4-year-old boy for questioning on suspicion he had hurled stones at officers, making clear that they had only called in the boy’s father.

A photo of the East Jerusalem child, Muhammad Ali’an, holding a police summons was posted on social media on Monday evening, quickly going viral and drawing widespread condemnation from Arab Israeli lawmakers and Palestinian Authority officials.

However, police released a statement shortly thereafter dismissing the story and attaching a picture of the summons, which showed that it had indeed been addressed to the boy’s father, Rabee’a Ali’an.

“Unfortunately, this is part of a grave and dangerous phenomenon in the area, whereby small children are used to throw stones at security forces, part of which is carried out under the cover of adults and family members who stand nearby when the incidents take place,” police said.

“Contrary to the claims, because the minor is not at the age of criminal liability, the police officers who arrived at the scene gave a summons to his father only, to arrive at the police station in order to warn him and make him aware of his responsibility for his child’s behavior and actions,” police added.

Witnesses at the scene in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya told Arabic media that when a police officer delivered the summons, he told the father to report to the station with his son as well.

Despite the police’s Monday night insistence that it wasn’t interested in speaking with the boy — whom they asserted was 5, not 4 — the elder Ali’an brought his son with him to the local station. On the walk over, they were joined by dozens of activists and members of the media who filmed the march and shouted words of encouragement to the boy, even giving him bags of candy to hold.

An officer at the station met the group of Issawiya residents at the entrance and told them that he didn’t need the son, but rather just the father — so as to explain to him that “it doesn’t make sense for a 4- or 5-year-old boy to be throwing stones.”

Palestinians are arrested during clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem’s neighborhood of Issawiya, June 28, 2019, a day after a Palestinian was shot and killed by police during a protest in the same neighborhood. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

After the questioning, the elder Ali’an told Palestinian media that the officers inside had told him to take better care of his son and that he’s too young to be getting into altercations with the army.

“I told them he doesn’t even know what the army is,” he said.

Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi was one of the more vocal critics of the summons, accusing Israeli security forces of violating international law with respect to children’s rights.

Despite being confronted with the copy of the summons proving that the young child had not been the one called in to the station, Tibi did not capitulate, instead insisting that police would not have acted the same way had the boy been a Haredi or settler stone-thrower.

The incident comes amid a period of extreme tension in Issawiya, where police have been carrying out a widespread operation to crack down on crime over the past two months. Residents claim that frequent arrests and raids have made day-to-day life unbearable and several posts on social media have gone viral in Palestinian circles appearing to show police employing excessive force in detaining the locals.

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