While searching a Palestinian woman's house in the northern West Bank village of Silat Ad-Daher, soldiers stole property but returned it when the woman complained to their officer. The woman, Ibtisam Rahal, claims that the soldiers also "swiped" an additional amount of money from her son's room. In light of the event, human rights group B'Tselem appealed to the chief military prosecutor to initiate a criminal investigation.
One morning towards the end of October, an IDF force entered Rahal's house in Silat Ad-Daher, following standard protocol by gathering her family members in one room and conducting a search of the premises. "The soldiers grabbed my son Iyad and I yelled at them to let him go," Rahal said to Ynet. "When they yelled back that I should keep quiet, I noticed that some of the soldiers had entered my bedroom. I asked them to let met go in as well to take out my money and gold jewelry."
According to Rahal, the soldiers told her they were searching for weapons and not money or jewelry. She asked them three times for permission to enter the room, but they refused each time. "From the living room I saw one of the soldiers leave my bedroom holding a bag I keep my money in. My daughter and sister-in-law also saw the soldier with my bag."
At this point, Rahal began screaming and demanding her money. "The soldiers replied that they weren't thieves and one of them even tried to gag me," she said.
Officer returns propertyWhen Rahal asked to speak with the officer in charge, one of the soldiers removed his mask and inquired as to her problem. "I told him what I had seen and he left the house for the jeep and came back with the bag containing the entire sum, around 3,000 Jordanian Dinars (over $4,500 US) and a gold necklace."
Rahal was pleased to see the amount returned, but, as she tells it, she did not see the soldiers enter the room belonging to her married son Iyad who also resides in the house. She told Ynet that the soldiers "swiped" 2,500 Dinars (about $3,500 US) from his room and took her son to be questioned. According to Rahal, it was only luck that the soldiers missed his wife's gold jewelry, hidden in another bag.
Legal AppealAfter collecting testimony from family members, human rights organization B'Tselem appealed to chief military prosecutor Colonel Liron Libman, requesting an official criminal investigation of the involved soldiers.
According to Palestinians, stories of soldiers stealing property while conducting house-sweeps in the territories often reach media outlets and human rights organizations, but that Rahal is lucky in that stolen property is rarely returned to its rightful owners.
A military source responded that "we are not dealing with a specific investigation vis-à-vis an individual soldier. We are taking this even seriously, but that does not mean that (Rahal's version) is correct." The Army Spokesperson's Unit said that the findings of the criminal investigation would be passed on to the Military Prosecutor upon its termination. Furthermore, they added, "in the event that it becomes clear (Rahal is telling the truth), then we have on our hands a grave incident that will be dealt with appropriately."
Efrat Weiss contributed to this report