On 9th July this summer, over a hundred people saw at Sheffield’s Broomhall Centre a performance by 20 Palestinian teenagers, from Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.
The previous day, Sheffield’s Deputy Mayor had welcomed the group, the Lajee Dance Troupe, at the Town Hall. On Wednesday, October 5th, three of the 14-year- old dancers, Mustafa Bdair, Mutaz Barakah and Omar Radi were arrested by masked Israeli soldiers.
Attacks by the Israeli army on the Lajee centre have escalated since Celtic football fans raised over £170,000 divided between Medical Aid for Palestine and the Lajee Centre in Aida Camp.
These night raids by Israeli soldiers fit into a pattern of reprisals that have followed international gestures of solidarity with the Centre under an Israeli military occupation that the UK and other governments consider to be illegal.
Israeli soldiers attacked the Lajee Centre with teargas and rubber bullets on 19 Sept while the children were inside. The following night they forced open the gate of the centre, threw teargas grenades inside and closed the gate, trapping the children inside, forcing them to inhale toxic teargas.
Mutaz, Mustafa and Omar have been released on bail but will be tried by an Israeli military court where defendants are routinely found guilty.
In total, 440 children under 18 are currently held in military detention almost two-and- half times the number imprisoned a year ago. According to the Defense for Children International–Palestine (DCIP), no other country in the world systematically prosecutes hundreds of children in military courts each year.
Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign are urging Sheffield MPs to call on the Foreign Office to condemn the Israeli government’s campaign of intimidation against the Lajee Centre and to press for the dropping of the charges against the teenagers.