Eight-year-old Sufian Abu Hitah disobeyed his mother to sneak out from his grandparents’ house to look for a missing toy when he was seized by a group of around 15 soldiers who asked him in Arabic to give the names of children who had thrown stones and a Molotov cocktail at the nearby Kiryat Arba Israeli settlement.
Crying, the boy told the soldiers he didn’t known anything. However, he was then grabbed by both arms and escorted to both the Kiryat Arba gate and into several houses, despite only wearing socks. Several women who witnessed the scene tried to intervene, eventually managing to free the boy more than an hour later.
He remains obviously very distressed throughout the three-minute-long video.
According to Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem the incident, which was filmed by two locals, including one volunteer, occurred on Sunday 19 March.
It has caused outrage among Palestinian and liberal Israeli circles, who have condemned it as representative of the Israel Defence Forces' criminalisation of Arab children.
B’Tselem later interviewed Sufian’s mother Amani Abu Hitah, who went out onto the street when local children told her her son had been seized.
“I went up to one of the soldiers and asked him to give me back my son. He refused… I tried to explain that we don’t live in the neighbourhood and were just visiting my parents. I told the soldier that Sufian doesn’t know the names of the neighbourhood kids. He ignored me,” she said.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Palestinian media that after the incident was reviewed, it was concluded that a Molotov cocktail had been thrown at Kiryat Arba.
“Forces who were called to the scene caught a suspect. Due to the fact the suspect was a minor, he was taken to his parent's home. It was noted in the initial review that the forces did not ask the minor to direct them to any other suspects.”
The spokesperson did not comment on B’Tselem’s claim that Sufian was detained after leaving his grandparents house to look for a toy, or that the video shows that local women had to intervene to extricate the boy from the soldiers’ control.