Tarayya, Lebanon, Asharq Al-Awsat– Mohammed Khalil Salim, a shepherd in the outskirts of his village Tarayya, in the Bekaa Valley, never would have imagined that his goats would one day lead him to Israel. Yet, this is exactly what happened, when he was ambushed by Israeli soldiers and kidnapped.
The 15 year-old, still visibly shaken by the experience told Asharq al Awsat, “I was shepherding my goats in the outskirts of Tarayya and got caught in a trap set by an Israeli commando unit on a reconnaissance mission in the Bekaa Valley. When my goats froze, I thought they’d seen thieves so I walked towards them. Immediately, they captured me, after threatening me with weapons. They detained me and put a black bag over my head, from 9 am until 10pm that day. They took me to a small tent nearby. At 10pm, a helicopter with no doors landed and I was taken to Israel.”
During the two hour trip, Mohammed asked where he was being taken to. “To ours”, a soldier in broken Arabic told him. “When the helicopter landed, I was driven by car and taken into a room. Then, they removed the black bag from over my head. I found myself in an interrogation room with two new soldiers. One of them told me: The state of Israel welcomes you. He asked me if I wanted to drink anything but I declined.”
Mohammed started to shake from fear. He was asked about the location of Lebanese Army outposts in the Bekaa, as well as Hezbollah bases. “I said I didn’t know the outposts of anyone as I was only a shepherd. I was then shackled and taken to prison. It was very late at night. I started screaming and pleading to be rescued but they put the bag over my head again and took me to another prison.”
“They asked me about the number of shepherds in my village. I said there are Lebanese and Syrian shepherds. Then, they moved me to a room with a bed. They left me alone. I started to scream loudly. They took me to another room and gave me food but I couldn’t eat. They tried to attach a drip to my arm but I refused. They then injected me with something and I could no longer walk. One soldier said: We’re going to take you home.”
Once again, Mohammed’s face was covered with a black bag and he was driven in a car for half an hour. He then found himself by the beach and thinks it must have been in the UN base in Al Naquoura. He was handed over to the UN who later handed over the 15 year-old to the Lebanese Army.
“They didn’t threaten me or warn me not to speak to the media. They didn’t even ask me if I had any relatives in any political party.”