Two-year-old Yahya followed his mother Lama Khater to the front door of their house in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, trying to leave with her as she was arrested by at least 25 Israeli soldiers.
Khater paused, then knelt down to hug and kiss her toddler, before she was forcefully pulled by the soldiers who put her in an Israeli army jeep waiting in the dark outside.
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Yahya began to cry as his mother walked away without him, and was picked up by his older sister Beesan who tried to comfort him, before being passed to his other sister Yaman – all to no avail.
“Around 1:30am on Tuesday, we heard a loud noise just outside our home,” Beesan, 18, told Al Jazeera.
قوات الاحتلال تعتقل والدتي من المنزل قبل قليل.
حسبنا الله ونعم الوكيل. pic.twitter.com/g7GcTJZDNI
— بيسان الفاخوري (@besan_fak2000) July 23, 2018
Translation: Israeli occupation forces have arrested my mother – Beesan al-Fakhouri
Their home was then stormed by a large number of Israeli soldiers, who immediately informed the family of their intention to arrest Lama Khater. Most of the family was rounded up in a single room and only Yaman, 14, was allowed to help her mother pack her bag.
“My mother kissed each one of us goodbye, and advised us to take care of each other,” Beesan said. “She told us she would be back soon.”
Lama Khater, the 42-year-old mother of five, is a writer known for her articles published on the independent Noon Post website on crimes and violations committed by the Israeli occupation.
She was arrested two years ago, barely a month after giving birth to Yahya, and was subjected to long hours of interrogation regarding her writings before she was released on the same day.
Her husband, Hazem al-Fakhouri, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that he was summoned by Israeli forces five days ago for interrogation, who warned him that Khater would be arrested unless he pressured his wife to stop writing.
“I did not expect the occupation to follow through on their threats,” he said. “My children and I were surprised to see the Israelis raiding our house in the middle of the night to arrest Lama without giving a reason.
“She is the very foundation of this household, our family, and we all rely on her,” he added. “We don’t know how we will continue with our lives now.”
Hazem said his wife suffers from anaemia and has to take an assortment of medicines and supplements.
“We are very concerned about Lama; we do not know if the Israelis will permit her to keep her medicines and take them regularly,” he said.
Beesan, who completed high school this year and had enrolled at Birzeit University near Ramallah, two hours north of Hebron, is now considering postponing her studies – where she had planned on majoring in nursing – and staying at home to take care of her siblings.
“I will not be able to stay away from home as long as my mother is not there,” she said. “I’ll have to stay at home and take care of my brothers and sisters. It’s all my responsibility now.”
Khater is not the only female journalist in Hebron to have been detained in recent weeks. Last month, freelance journalist Suzanne Oweiwi, 39, was taken from her home in Hebron after a raid by Israeli forces.
The case of freelance journalist Suzanne
The four Oweiwi children did not expect their mother, Suzanne, to be absent from their lives for this long, since she was arrested from her home on June 5.
Suzanne, a freelance journalist and member of the Hebron municipality, was subjected to intensive interrogation, sleep deprivation, and solitary confinement in an Israeli prison for an entire month.
She was eventually accused of charges related to her work, which mainly deals with documenting Israeli violations against Palestinians, such as settler attacks – which typically occur under the protection of the army – in Hebron.
Hossam al-Oweiwi, Suzanne’s husband, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli courts extended her detention again on July 4 until next month, when a new hearing is scheduled.
On that day, Suzanne, who suffers from kidney pains, was in a state of near-fainting in the courtroom. She told her lawyer Munther Abu Ahmed that she was subjected to considerable pressure and harsh interrogation in Ashkelon prison.
Because of her work as a journalist, Suzanne travelled regularly but has never been away from her family for more than a week. Her detention has been the longest period of time away from her children.
Hossam says he has not been allowed to visit his wife, which requires special permits for first-degree relatives of prisoners. Two of his sons attempted to visit their mother, but upon arrival at the prison, one of them was turned away by the Israeli Prison Service.
“I could not visit my mother yet, and only saw her in court, where she looked exhausted,” Wa’d, Suzanne’s 18-year-old daughter, told Al Jazeera.
“All the responsibility is now on me; I sometimes prepare food for my brothers, but my father brings us takeaway food most of the time,” said Wa’d. “We miss the food my mother prepares for us.”
63 female Palestinian prisoners
Since the beginning of June, Israeli forces have arrested four women from the Hebron governorate, bringing the number of Palestinian female prisoners in Israeli jails to 63, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club said in a statement on Tuesday.
The club added that Israeli forces had arrested Safaa Abu Sneineh, 36-year-old mother of four on June 17, who remains under interrogation at the Ashkelon detention centre.
Dunya Sa’id, 39, who was arrested on July 4, also remains jailed at the Ashkelon detention centre. She is the mother of one child.