That’s a ceiling, the ceiling of the third floor of the Abu Arab family’s home in the Balata refugee camp, just outside the West Bank city of Nablus. At 1:30 in the morning of June 18, Israeli soldiers blew open the doors to the house. They went from room to room, overturning and smashing furniture, until they came to the third floor, the construction of which had been just completed a few months earlier. Ra’ed Abu Arab had gotten married, built himself an apartment atop the home in which he had been raised—the only place to build in Balata is up— and moved in with his new bride. When he opened the door for the soldiers, his cousin Khaled told me, they punched him in the face and dragged him down the stairs. “Tell the kids to cover their ears,” one of the soldiers said. A moment later the family heard an explosion. Only later did they learn that whatever device the soldiers had detonated had blown out all four walls of a corner room, leaving a crater in the tile floor, concrete debris on the neighbors’ window ledges, holes in the concrete ceiling, holes in the screens of the neighbors’ windows, a hole in the new flatscreen TV mounted on the wall one room over. The soldiers arrested Ra’ed and his cousin Mohammad. The rest of the family—20 people, most of them children—were confined in one small room on the first floor for more than four hours while the soldiers continued ransacking their home.
All of this comes as part of Operation Brother’s Keeper, the aptly named (as in Cain’s “am I my…,” as in fratricide, disavowal and deceit) campaign undertaken by the Israeli military following the disappearance of three Israeli teens while hitchhiking in the West Bank on June 12. In the weeks since, troops have raided more than 1000 Palestinian homes, businesses, charities, universities, and media organizations in their “search” for the missing youth. More than 500 Palestinians have been arrested in raids similar to the one on the Abu Arab house. None have been charged with a crime. Five men and one teenaged boy have been shot to death by Israeli soldiers and two elderly Palestinians died of heart attacks while their homes were being raided. The arrests continue, but over the last week the campaign has begun to wind down. By the time I arrived in Balata, the Abu Arab family had cleaned up, stacking everything worth saving in the kitchen, moving the ruined furniture and carpets to the second floor, knocking out what little broken concrete still separated the room from the open air so that where the exterior walls once provided shelter and some illusory degree of security there was now a precipitous drop to the narrow alleys of the camp fifteen meters below. The Abu Arabs do not know and have not been told on what grounds their home was destroyed, what charges, if any, Ra’d and Mohammad will face, or when they will see them again.
Here's the view from the living room: