TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — A video has emerged showing an Israeli soldier lining up school-aged Palestinian children and photographing them in a nighttime raid on their home. The video shines a light on the military’s tactics in the occupied West Bank, which activists say violate Palestinian rights.
The video was released Wednesday by the Israeli rights group B’tselem and shows soldiers in a Palestinian home after dark. The Palestinian adults are seen gathering up the children from the home — some of them appearing to have been roused from sleep — and ushering them onto a balcony. A girl is seen crying, and a woman comforts her by saying “it’s just routine.”
The soldier raises his phone to take a picture of the children — many of them grade-schoolers and younger — and implores them to “say cheese.”
The incident, which according to B’tselem and the military took place in the West Bank city of Hebron in September, was filmed by a B’tselem activist. She is heard challenging the soldier: “they are kids. You like when soldiers come and take pictures of your kids?”
The video comes after a recent report by former Israeli soldiers and the Washington Post described an effort by Israeli soldiers to gather photos of Palestinians in the West Bank for use in surveillance technology that could assist the military to identify lawbreakers. Critics say the initiative is an intimidation tactic and violates privacy rights of Palestinians.
“It seems that for the military, all Palestinians, including school-age children, are potential offenders. At any time, it is permissible to wake them up at night, enter their homes and subject them to a lineup,” B’tselem wrote in a statement.
The military said the soldiers arrived to the house in Hebron after Palestinians were seen throwing stones from it at a nearby settlement. The soldiers entered the home to identify the stone throwers, according to the military.
“While the soldiers were in the suspects’ home, minors were photographed by the officer at the scene in order to identify the stone throwers. The officers’ actions at the scene diverted from standard protocol,” the military said, adding that a soldier was “reprimanded for his wrongful actions.”
The military’s statement did not explain why the minors needed to be photographed in order to be identified nor which action diverted from protocol. The military declined to answer further questions, including about the surveillance technology mentioned in the Washington Post.
A post on the Israeli military’s website from June, which refers to the surveillance technology in passing, says it was working to increase soldiers’ use of technology in the West Bank to help apprehend Palestinian outlaws.
“We have advanced technology, smart cameras with sophisticated analytics, sensors, that can alert in real time about a suspicious activity and the movement of a suspect,” battalion commander Uriel Malka is quoted as saying. “The goal was that all combatants and commanders in the field will know how to operate these systems in the best way.