Thirteen-year-old Mohammed Saadi was kidnapped, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with a gun to his head by five men in his hometown of Umm al-Fahem.
It was May 20 and Saadi was among thousands who gathered for a funeral procession held for Mohammed Kiwan, a 17-year-old boy who was shot by Israeli police a week earlier.
At the time, tensions escalated in occupied East Jerusalem over Israel’s planned forced expulsion of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and Israel’s military assault on Gaza, leading thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel to protest on a near-daily basis across towns and cities in Israel.
The five men had been near the march for Kiwan in Umm al-Fahem, a town in central Israel that is predominantly inhabited by Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.
They covered their faces with masks and scarves and were dressed like any Palestinian in Israel participating in a sit-in.
Except they were armed and belonged to a part of the Israeli police’s Musta’ribeen unit – an undercover unit made up of Israelis disguised as Palestinians. Its agents usually attend Palestinian protests with the intention of arresting demonstrators.
In the past, they have even killed Palestinians.
Agents with Israeli police’s Musta’ribeen unit usually attend Palestinian protests with the intent of conducting arrests [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]When the march ended, at around 8pm, Saadi and his 15-year-old brother headed home. They approached a roundabout packed with police and army soldiers.
“Out of nowhere, five men stormed out from a silver car nearby and surrounded us. I couldn’t see any of their faces,” Saadi told Al Jazeera, days after he was released.
“They assaulted me and were shoving me around and forced me into that same car. Thankfully, my brother managed to run away, so they only got me.”
Inside the car, Saadi was blindfolded and was threatened with death. He did not know where he was going, and did not know what he had done wrong.
“They threatened to kill me and constantly used foul language. They insulted my mother, my sister and my whole family,” he said.
“I asked them to stop, but with every attempt to respond I was met with a beating.”
“They hit my whole body – my head,