Palestinian teen: I was used as a human shield in Gaza

Ahmad Abu Raida, now 17, was separated from his family by Israeli soldiers on July 23 as he and his family were trying to flee to safety. During Abu Raida’s five-day captivity, an Israeli soldier, who insisted he be called “captain,” repeatedly asked the boy about alleged Hamas tunnels and rocket launching sites in his neighborhood.

“I told him I did not know,” Abu Raida, who was 16 years old at the time of the incident, said. “‘I’m young. I’m 17 years old. How am I supposed to know these things?’ I said to him, but he became angry and started punching and kicking me.”

“I heard a soldier on one of the tanks ordering women, children and old people to stand on one side, and those between 20 and 40 years old to stand on the other side of the street,” Abu Raida said in the affidavit.

After seeing that men in the 20-40 group were taken to an empty field and made to strip down to their underwear, the 17-year-old “took two steps back to see what was going on.”

When he did, Abu Raida said an Israeli soldier took him to the open field, about 100 meters from the group of men, tied his hands with a plastic chord, and forced him to kneel down. According to Abu Raida, the soldier then proceeded to punch him in the stomach and face while saying repeatedly, “You’re not human, you’re a dog.”

“When the blindfold was removed, I found myself inside the house surrounded by more than 20 soldiers,” Abu Raida told DCI-Palestine. Someone “in military uniform” then approached him and shouted in broken Arabic: “I need to settle the score with Hamas. Are you Hamas?”

Abu Raida described a similar experience that occurred the following day. After being forced to enter two more houses “to search for tunnels” and finding none, he was again scolded by one of the soldiers and placed in a room by himself. “While I was in the room, I found a notebook and a pen inside a bag… so I decided to write my will and leave it for my family,” Abu Raida said in the affidavit.

“I spent Friday, 25 July with Israel occupation soldiers who were locking me in this room. I do not know whether I am going to live or they would kill me. I do not know anything about what would happen next to me. I am writing this letter hoping someone would find it and inform my family about it. In case I die or get arrested, please send my greetings to my family. Ahmad Jamal Abu Raida.”

“I told them I did not know anything about the tunnels, so they would slap me across the face or on my neck, or punch me or kick me whenever they wanted,” Abu Raida said.

After a night of repeated questioning and physical abuse – including being forced “to sit and stand up again more than 60 times” – Abu Raida was asked the following morning if he would “work for them as a spy.” After he refused, a soldier “pointed to the police dogs they had with them and said, ‘You see that dog, it’s better than you.’”

According to the affidavit, at around 1 p.m. on July 27, the fifth day of Abu Raida’s captivity, the soldiers allowed him to put his clothes back on and released him.