In the dead of night

Israel’s military raids into Palestinian homes

Almost every night, between midnight and 5am, the Israeli army breaks into Palestinian homes across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Armed to the teeth and often masked, the soldiers arrive in groups of 10 to 100-plus and force their way into homes, sometimes blowing the door open.

All family members - children to elderly people - are awoken and held at gunpoint as soldiers destroy their home and search, interrogate, beat and photograph them, among other things.


Palestinians have been killed or injured during these military operations.

Israeli night raids leave Palestinian families - particularly children - traumatised.

Al Jazeera spoke to four Palestinians about their experiences with the home invasions and military detention.

On April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, here are their stories:

Arrested six times by Israeli forces


Mohammad Abu Marya

Mohammad Abu Marya is a 27-year-old Palestinian living with his family in the village of Beit Ummar, on the northern outskirts of Hebron in the southern occupied West Bank.

The Israeli army has raided their home “15 to 20 times”, he told Al Jazeera. His entire family was assaulted and injured during those raids.

Mohammad has been arrested six times and spent five years in Israeli prisons.

His first arrest was in 2010, when he was a child of 14.

“They wake us up either with their feet, their hands, or with their rifles”

Israeli night raids are mainly to arrest Palestinians, but they’re also conducted for other reasons.

Testimony and documentation by Palestinians, local and international rights groups, and even former soldiers [PDF], show that the army uses the raids to instill fear and psychological pressure on the occupied population to achieve “deterrence”.

Soldiers will raid homes in the dead of night merely to “identify” households - photographing family members and their home to use for “gathering intel” and “mapping”, or use the homes as a shooting or observation post during military incursions.

A raid can last 15 minutes to four hours, and often involves physical and mental violence, as well as destruction of Palestinian property and belongings.

“The female soldiers told my mother to take off her pants and my sister to lift her shirt.”

10 raids daily


Israeli soldiers do not need a warrant to enter Palestinian homes.

Under military orders, a soldier “may enter, at any time, any place…” and search it, or any person there, if “there may be reason to suspect…any purpose harmful to public safety, the security of … [Israeli] forces, the maintenance of public order, or for purposes of uprising, revolt or riots.”

Since its 1967 occupation, the Israeli army has conducted more than 170,000 “search or arrest” incursions into Palestinian towns in the occupied West Bank, most of which involved night raids into homes.

Between 2017 and March 2023, Israeli forces carried out 23,138 “search or arrest” raids in the occupied West Bank, an average of 10 raids daily.

Arbitrary arrest and imprisonment are key components of Israel’s occupation.

Using military orders that severely violate and criminalise basic freedoms, Israel has arrested more than 800,000 Palestinians since 1967.

Between 2016 and 2022, the Israeli army arrested a total of 44,805 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, 17 percent were children.

“It was all screaming and banging”


Asmaa Mansour

Asmaa Mansour is a 38-year-old mother of four living in Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank.

She and her husband run a stationery store in Jenin city.

At 2am on April 9, 2021, dozens of Israeli soldiers raided their home and abducted her 17-year-old son Mohammad.

Mohammad was held in “administrative detention” - without being charged or allowed to stand trial - for a year and two months.

He was released on June 6, 2022.

“I didn’t know or hear anything about my son for the first four months.”

Thousands of children arrested


Israel is the only state in the world to have a juvenile military court system.

Between 500 to 700 Palestinian children are tried in Israel’s military courts each year.

Since 2000, the Israeli military has detained, interrogated, prosecuted, and imprisoned at least 13,000 Palestinian children, according to Defense for Children International - Palestine.

In 2016, there were 343 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons.

Meanwhile, Israel detains hundreds of Palestinians each year under “administrative detention”.

This allows them to hold Palestinians indefinitely on “secret evidence”. The prisoners don’t know of the charges against them and are not allowed to defend themselves in court.

In 2022, Israel imprisoned 820 Palestinians under “administrative detention”.

Decades of raids


Laila and Tareq Issawi

Laila and Tareq Issawi, 75 and 80 years old, live in the Palestinian town of al-Issawiya in occupied East Jerusalem.

Six of their seven children, including one daughter, have been detained in Israeli prisons at one point in time.

Their son, Samer, is a Palestinian prisoner who broke the record for the longest Palestinian hunger strike in 2013 when he refused food for 266 days before Israeli authorities released him.

In 1994, Israeli soldiers shot dead their 16-year-old son Fadi while he was participating in a protest against the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre in Hebron.

“This is occupation, we can’t protect our children from them”

The Issawi family has long been persecuted by the Israeli occupation.

Tareq Issawi spoke about the history of Israeli raids on Palestinian homes over the years.

“They would get everyone out: the old, the young, the sick, they don’t care.”

The raids have only gotten worse, says Tareq.

“Not only are they occupiers, but they come and ruin our homes.”

What happens post-arrest


For a Palestinian detainee, the hardest part comes after the raid.

Those arrested are bought into interrogation, which can last up to 75 days.

There they routinely undergo physical and psychological torture, including beatings, shackling and sleep deprivation.

Since 1967, more than 70 Palestinians have died as a result of torture in Israeli interrogation.

Mohammad Abu Marya recalls one night’s torture during his 50-day interrogation.

“I spent 22 days on a chair, with my hands and legs tied”

After interrogation, some are released while others are charged with offences under vaguely worded Israeli military orders.

For example, Israeli Military Order 101 issued two months after the occupation of the West Bank in August 1967, says Palestinians can face 10 years in prison for participating in a gathering of 10 people or more without Israeli army approval, on issues “that could be construed as political”.

The same 10-year sentence applies to those who “hold, wave, display or affix flags or political symbols”, among other violations.

People charged under such orders are put on trial in a military court system run by soldiers – from judges to guards – which have a conviction rate higher than 99 percent.

There are thousands of Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, in Israeli jails.

In 2017, there were 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 400 children and 64 women.

Raids on Palestinian homes, and the arbitrary arrests and detention, are a major component of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Their impact on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of Palestinians cannot be overstated.

“The way they came into our house was terrorising.”

The sense of safety that one is meant to feel inside their own home is a privilege most Palestinians do not enjoy.

“The situation we live in is very hard – it’s not normal”

In 2016, Mohammad Abu Marya studied psychology in college and was a social worker for several years to help Palestinians who have similar trauma.

“How am I supposed to make her feel safe when I myself don’t feel safe?”

For Laila Issawi, the repeated vandalism of her home by Israeli soldiers is nothing compared to the killing of her son.

“How will we restore our dignity? By making these sacrifices.”