JERUSALEM — Israeli forces have been holding a Palestinian American teenager in a military lockup for nearly a week after bursting into his family home and arresting him in an overnight raid for allegedly hurling rocks at Israeli motorists in the West Bank, his father said Thursday.
The case highlights Israel’s system of military detention for Palestinian minors, which has been frequently criticized, most recently by the United Nations, which said in March that an in-depth study showed that it systematically and gravely violated their rights.
The Palestinian American boy’s father, Abdelwahab Khalek, said his 14-year-old son Mohammad was taken into custody last Friday morning by eight soldiers with assault rifles. They shackled and blindfolded his son as his five siblings watched, the father said.
The military said Mohammad had hurled rocks at Israeli vehicles that were speeding down a nearby highway and at military jeeps on several occasions. The military said there has been an increase in rock-throwing attacks on drivers, including an incident in early April in which rocks thrown at a civilian car next to a Jewish settlement injured seven people, including an infant who was critically wounded.
The military confirmed the arrest and said the teen’s detention had been extended until Sunday.
Khalek, a car dealer who splits his time between the West Bank and New Orleans, hasn’t been allowed to visit his son in jail. But he has spoken to the teen at three court hearings, most recently when Mohammad was officially charged Thursday.
Mohammad’s attorney, Randa Wahbe, said he told her in court that he was interrogated for hours and, at one stage, was pushed so hard that his dental braces broke. According to her account, he said interrogators told him that if he quickly confessed to throwing rocks, he would be released. A military spokesman said no complaints of abuse were filed.
U.S. consular officials declined comment.
“Unfortunately, this case is symptomatic of the Israeli military’s abusive treatment of Palestinian children in detention,” said Bill Van Esveld of the New York-based group Human Rights Watch.
The rights group Defense for Children International says 236 minors were in Israeli military detention in February, 39 of them ages 12 to 15. The group said its numbers come from Israel’s prison authority.