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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Malak Al-Khateeb: An Angel from Palestine Held Captive by the Zionist Entity

by Reham Alhelsi, My Palestine, 9/2/2015
 [Malak was released from jail on Friday 13th of February 2015, Tlaxcala's Note]

Dr. Reham Alhelsi, a Palestinian from Jerusalem, is Program Director at Palestinian Working Women Society for Development (PWWSD) in the West Bank.
Tears fell down her cheeks when the judge read the sentence, she shivered, cuffed and in a cage, surrounded by armed occupation soldiers. Her parents, sitting but a few meters away from her, shocked, unable to touch their daughter, hug her, comfort her, or wipe away her tears. “They treated her as an adult…. She is but a child.” Said Ali Al-Khateeb, in his sixties, his face tired, wrinkled with years under occupation, and great sadness in his tired eyes… “When the judge read the sentence”, Abu Yousif recalls:” I saw Malak wiping away her tears and shivering, I felt that a fire was burning inside my heart”. Her 50 year-old mother Khawla says: “In court, I cried with my daughter who is separated from me by a few meters, we could not touch her or talk to her, I wished I could embrace her, even for a minute, to make her feel warm.”
Malak Al-Khateeb, 14 years old, left her home in Beitin, near Ramallah, on the morning of 31.12.2014. The 8th grader had with her a copybook and a pen, and was heading to school to sit for her English exam, the last exam before the semester vacation. Afterwards, and while walking in the village lands, she was stopped by Israeli occupation forces, before being kidnapped to an interrogation centre. Four court sessions and three weeks later, 14 year-old Malak was charged on 21.01.2015 by Ofer occupation military court and sentenced to 2 months in jail, a 6000 NIS fine and 3 years under probation. Currently, the Zionist entity holds 6500 Palestinian political prisoners captive, including 214 children below the age of 18 years. Among the 214 children, 4 girls between 14 and 16 years old are detained, Malak being the youngest registered detainee till now. According to various statistics, Israeli occupation forces arrest around a 1000 Palestinian child annually, with 500 to 700 children brought in front of Israeli military courts. Alone in 2014, the IOF kidnapped 1800 children, mostly from occupied Jerusalem. The Israeli military law allows the prosecution of Palestinian children from the age of 12 years in military courts. Malak’s sentence was based on the testimony of five Israeli occupation officers in the patrol that arrested her. The indictment document claims that Malak was “in possession of a knife to stab the soldiers in case they come to arrest.”
In the simply-furnished sitting room, a framed family picture hung on the wall near a Key of Return
in the colours of Palestine. The Key had a simple dedication: “From Khaeld Bin Al-Walid School – Aqraba to the child prisoner Malak Al-Khateeb.” Malak’s niece was running across the room and jumping on the couch between her grandparents. She reminded me of Malak’s pictures that were spreading on social media networks. Abu Yousef, with his wrinkles white beard and kuffiyeh, played with his granddaughter, hugging her and asking her how much she loved him… “Sarsour” she would answer… and her aunt, Malak’s older sister would explain: “She means as big as a cockroach… she would usually say as big as a moon and father would ask her: “Not bigger than a moon?” and she would reply: “As big as a cockroach.”… often we would play with her and ask her how much she loved us, “50%” she would answer, not more we would ask, “16%” would be her reply.” We all laughed, but the laughter was coated with sadness, and their eyes betrayed that sadness, a sadness mixed with yearning, a sadness mixed with the knowledge that this momentarily happiness was incomplete, was meaningless… “We know that she is coming back to us… she is imprisoned, not killed God forbid, but there is sadness within us” Malak’s mother said “but at least she is coming back home”.
“She went in the morning to school carrying her copybook and a pen, after school, she went walking in the village lands, she loves walking on the grass, collecting flowers…. We received a call from the Local Council that the Israeli occupation soldiers had Malak…. They had called the Local Council in Beitin through the Palestinian “military liaison” office, and immediately we went to “Benyamin Interrogation Centre” near Ramallah, and there we waited 4 hours for the interrogator. When he was done interrogating with Malak, he came and told us that our daughter throws stones at the soldiers, that she crossed Road 60 and tried to close it, and had a knife. I told him she is but a child, what could she possibly do to an army of soldiers? … Even if she threw stones, what is she going to do to them? How is she going to close Road 60, a main road that connects North West Bank to its South? If this was true, all news agencies would have known… and how is she going to stab a soldier? She is small and the soldier is 170-180 cm. Is she going to throw him on the ground, trample on his neck and stab him? The interrogator looked at me not liking what I said…. I told him a child like this… according to what law? He said she will be referred to court and that she was old enough and aware of what she was doing. When we asked to see her, he refused, saying it was not allowed. My older son asked him to at least let her mother and me see her, and we were allowed 3 minutes. We told her what they were accusing her of, which she denied and stressed: “This is not true, I don’t have a knife.” She said. The interrogator looked at her in a weird way and she immediately said: “I had a knife!” Out of fear, she said “I had a knife”. At the time, it seemed to us that they had frightened her… she looked afraid, maybe they frightened her… but we didn’t see any signs of beating… maybe (they did)… but we didn’t see anything… She was afraid but tried to comfort us, and said: “Don’t worry about me, whatever happens it’s okay… don’t worry.” They referred her to court, and told us they will call to inform us where they will be sending her. That evening, we got a call from the Prisoners’ Club that Malak was sent to Hasharon prison. We felt that she was pressured, if it weren’t for the fact that she was scared, she would not have confessed… She is but a child; if the soldier shouts at her, if the interrogator shouts at her… of course she would be afraid…”

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