B’TSelem: “Soldiers hold 21 members of Palestinian family, 7 of them minors, in storeroom, and attack and beat some of them; six spend night in hospital, one remains in custody”

B’Tselem Report: On Sunday, 12 December 2021, at around 1:00 A.M., soldiers knocked on the door of the apartment in which Mahmoud (57) and Nidaa (55) Salhab live with their four children in the neighborhood of Khirbet Qalqas in Hebron. When Mahmoud opened the door, about 20 soldiers came in and demanded to know the whereabouts of his son Anas (24), a student at Hebron University. They then locked Anas in his room on the ground floor of the building and led Mahmoud and three of his children to an adjacent storeroom.

Soldiers surrounding the building led other family members who live in the compound to the storeroom, until they were holding 21 of them, including seven minors, in the room along with 10 soldiers guarding them. From the storeroom, the family could hear Anas shouting as the soldiers beat him in the adjacent room. When his brother Ibrahim (16) tried to protest what was happening, the soldiers attacked and beat him, too. In the ensuing argument, soldiers dragged Anas’ cousin, Osama Salhab (24), along the storeroom floor, causing his head to bang into an empty aquarium, which shattered and injured him. The soldiers called a military ambulance that took him to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba.

The Salhab family's residential compound in Khirbet Qalqas. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhsash, 12 Dec. 2021

At around 2:30 A.M., the soldiers left, taking Anas with them, handcuffed and blindfolded. They drove him around for several hours until they arrived at the Etzion Detention Center at around 8:30 A.M. At the center, he was held inside a military jeep until noon. Throughout the entire time, Anas was not given food, water or access to a toilet.

He was then taken into a conversation with an ISA officer, who warned him not to participate in Hamas activities marking the movement’s anniversary. The talk lasted less than an hour, after which he was released and sent home with other students who had been called in for a similar warning.

After the soldiers left, five family members were taken to the ‘Alia Governmental Hospital in Hebron. Three of them were diagnosed with bruises, and two were in shock. At around 5:00 A.M., they were discharged. Osama Salhab was discharged the following day, and then arrested and charged with assaulting soldiers that night.

In the dead of night, dozens of soldiers entered a compound in Hebron that is home to about 30 people. They woke the occupants, held most of them in a storeroom, and attacked some of them.

The result: six members of the family were taken to hospital and two detained – one of them to date. This is incident is not exceptional; it is part of the intolerable routine that the Israeli apartheid regime imposes on Palestinians in the West Bank.

B’Tselem field researchers Manal al-Ja’bari and Musa Abu Hashhash collected the following testimonies from members of the Salhab family, who described their nightmarish experience:

In a testimony he gave on the day of the incident, one of the brothers living in the compound, Ahmad Salhab (52), a father of four, recounted:

Ahmad Salhab, Photo by Musa Abu Hashhsash, B'Tselem

On 12 December 2021, at around 1:00 A.M., I was woken by noises and shouting coming from my brother Mahmoud’s house. I quickly went outside and my son Osama followed me. We found soldiers there and they led us to a storeroom on the ground floor of Mahmoud’s house. My brother Muhammad and his son Nur a-Din (23) were already there with more than 10 soldiers, including an officer. Some of the soldiers were attacking Muhammad’s son Ibrahim.

Meanwhile, the soldiers brought in my niece Mariam (20), who is Mahmoud’s daughter, and my nephew Salah a-Din (19), who is Muhammad’s son. They also brought in my son Amjad (27). We got into an argument with the soldiers, who pushed us and ordered us to sit still on the floor while they continued attacking Ibrahim. The argument turned into a scuffle and then some soldiers jumped my son Osama, punched him, beat him with their rifle butts and kicked him.

Muhammad and I tried to wrestle Osama from their hands. They pushed us. Some of them attacked Muhammad, and other soldiers continued beating Osama. They dragged him to the corner of the storeroom, where an aquarium crashed down on his head. I saw Osama lying on the floor, motionless. I saw he was severely injured and even thought he might be dead. The soldiers dragged him outside, and I followed them. Meanwhile, two Palestinian ambulances arrived, and the paramedics put Osama in one of them and gave him first aid. Before the ambulance left, the officer ordered them to transfer Osama to a military ambulance. I heard one of the soldiers say he was going to be taken to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. Osama’s head was bleeding and his face was covered in blood. After he was taken away, the soldiers led Anas to a jeep that was parked nearby and drove off with him.

My back and left arm were hurting from the soldiers’ beating, but I didn’t need treatment. My brother Muhammad, my nephew Ibrahim and my son Amjad were taken in the two ambulances to the ‘Alia Governmental Hospital in Hebron. A relative also drove my nieces Mariam and Asmaa (17), Muhammad’s daughters, to the hospital because they were in shock. Everyone got back from the hospital at around 6:00 A.M. Muhammad, Amjad and Ibrahim had bruises on various parts of their bodies.

In the morning, I went to the police station at Kiryat Arba after my relative, who visited Osama at Soroka Medical Center, said he had been transferred there. When I got there, an interrogator took a statement from me about what happened and only then let me see my son. Osama was sitting on a chair and couldn’t move. His head was bandaged and his face was wounded. The police officers told me they were transferring him to the detention center at Etzion.

In a testimony he gave on the day of the incident, Ibrahim Salhab (16), Mahmoud and Nidaa’s son and Anas’s brother, said:

Ibrahim Salhab in the hospital. Photo courtesy of the family

I was woken by loud banging on our door. I got up quickly and went towards the door. I saw my father open it. Several soldiers came in and asked my father about my older brother Anas. When they saw me, they led me to a storeroom on the ground floor of our house. A few minutes later, they brought my uncle Muhammad and his sons in, and later they also brought my uncle Ahmad and his sons in, as well as other members of the family.

The officer ordered me to sit on the floor. I didn’t do immediately as he said and asked the officer what I was supposed to sit on. Then he and about 10 other soldiers attacked me. They punched me, beat me with their rifle butts, kicked me and then knocked me down. I kept shouting and asking them to stop hitting me. I asked what I’d done to them.

They just told me to shut up and kept beating me. My uncle Muhmmad tried to free me from their hands, and they pushed him and made him sit on the floor. After they stopped beating my uncle and me, the officer and the soldiers moved on to my cousin Osama and attacked him. They knocked him down and dragged him to a corner of the storeroom, and then an aquarium that was standing on a small table fell on him. Osama started bleeding. His head and face were covered in blood and he stopped moving.

Everyone in the storeroom started shouting, and a scuffle broke out between my uncles and the soldiers. The soldiers dragged Osama out, and my uncle Ahmad went out after them. All the other soldiers followed him outside. Ahmad came back and told us they’d taken Osama to Soroka Medical Center in an Israeli ambulance. I was exhausted and my whole body was hurting from the beating. I saw my uncle Muhammad sitting on the floor. He couldn’t get up. Then I found out the soldiers had arrested my brother Anas.

Two Palestinian ambulances took me, my cousin Amjad and my uncle Muhammad to the ‘Alia Governmental Hospital in Hebron. In the ER I also met my two cousins, Mariam and Asmaa, who were in shock. I was examined and x-rayed, and they found bruises all over my body. I went home and straight to bed.

My brother Osama was treated at Soroka Medical Center and then transferred to the Kiryat Arba police station. From there he was transferred to the detention center at Etzion. I don’t know where my brother Anas was taken.

In a testimony she gave on 27 December 2021, Nisrin Salhab (12), Muhammad and Intisar’s daughter, recalled:

Nisrin Salhab. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bari, B’Tselem, 27 Dec. 2021

That night, I was watching a Turkish show on TV. My mother and my sister Asmaa were asleep. Suddenly, I saw flashlights shining through our windows. I went over to a window and saw a lot of soldiers around the house. I quickly woke my mother and Asmaa.

My mother came out of the room and was surprised to find five soldiers holding my brothers Nur a-Din (23) and Salah a-Din (19). The soldiers led us to my uncle Mahmoud’s storeroom. Some of my uncles and their children were there. Everyone was sitting on the floor, and the soldiers were pointing their weapons at them. They ordered us to sit on the floor, too, and we all sat down. I sat next to my cousin Mariam, who was crying.

I saw the soldiers drag my cousin Anas to another room. I heard his voice and the voices of the soldiers, and it sounded like they were beating him. I was terrified because the soldiers were being barbaric. My cousin Ibrahim got into an argument with the soldiers and they immediately started beating him.

A commotion broke out and I saw my cousin Osama yelling at the soldiers in Hebrew. I didn’t understand what he was saying. One of the soldiers banged his head into Osama’s forehead and then they got into a fight. At least 10 soldiers stepped in and attacked Osama. They beat him with their rifle butts and dragged him along the floor. His head hit an old aquarium, and it crashed down onto him. Osama’s head and face were covered in blood.

I was screaming and crying, and shaking with fear. My father and uncles tried to defend Osama, and then the soldiers attacked them and beat them, too. Mariam, Asmaa and I screamed and cried. The soldiers took us and the rest of the women and children out of the storeroom and led us to my uncle Muhammad’s house on the second floor. We could hear the shouting from there and realized the soldiers were still beating my father and my uncles.

Five soldiers guarded the doorway to the apartment and wouldn’t let us leave. Asmaa was crying so hard, she could barely breathe. Mariam also kept crying, and I was crying and trembling with fear. We stayed like that until the soldiers left. From the balcony, we watched them lead Anas away in handcuffs and take Osama away in an Israeli ambulance.

After the soldiers left, we went down to the storeroom and saw my father lying on the floor, shouting in pain. There was blood on the floor and on the wall. Asmaa and I sat down on the floor next to my father and cried.

Two Palestinian ambulances arrived and the crew took my father and my cousins, Ibrahim and Amjad, to hospital. A relative also drove Asmaa and Mariam there in his car. Asmaa was having trouble breathing, and Mariam was screaming and couldn’t stop crying.

 Evacuation of Muhammad Salhab. Photo courtesy of the family

In a testimony he gave on 20 January 2022, Anas Salhab (24), Muhammad and Nidaa’s son, related: 

The soldiers put me in the room next to the storeroom and kept demanding I give them my phone. I told them I didn’t have one. They pushed me and hit me with their hands and rifle butts. I heard my family shouting in the storeroom, but I didn’t know what was going on there.

After about an hour, they led me to a jeep outside. On the way, I saw my cousin Osama lying in the yard in front of the house and heard my uncles shouting that he needed medical treatment. I saw ambulances parked on the street.

The soldiers put me in the jeep and blindfolded me. The jeep drove to the settlement of Beit Hagai. On the way, I asked for a painkiller for my headache but they didn’t give me anything, not even food or drink. Then the jeep drove somewhere else, returned to Beit Hagai and finally drove to Etzion.

We got there around 8:30 or 9:00 A.M. They left me in the jeep until midday without any water or food, and I couldn’t go the bathroom. Then I was interrogated by the regional ISA coordinator, Taysir. He didn’t accuse me of anything but only warned me that I shouldn’t take part in Hamas activities.

I told him the soldiers had invaded our home and attacked my family and me. He said it was a troop of inexperienced soldiers who don’t know how to behave with people. I was released less than an hour later. I waited outside Etzion until they let other students I’d seen inside go, and we traveled to Hebron together. There, each of us went home.

I had bruises on my shoulder and back and I was in pain for several days.

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