22 June '08: Soldier assaults B'Tselem worker filming settler violence, takes the cassette

Published: 
22 Jun 2008

On Friday, 20 June 2008, around 6:20 P.M., Nasser a-Nawaj'ah, coordinator of B'Tselem's Camera distribution project in the Southern Hebron Hills, filmed three settlers abusing Palestinian shepherds, shouting at them and pushing them and trying to scatter their flock. The incident took place southwest of the Susiya settlement. A-Nawaj'ah also filmed soldiers in two army jeeps nearby who did not protect the shepherds from their assailants.

Photo: Nasser a-Nawaj’ah (right), Camera distribution project coordinator for the Southern Hebron Hills, and ‘Imad Rashid, a participant in the project. Photo: Sarit Michaeli, B'Tselem, 11 June ’08.
Photo: Nasser a-Nawaj'ah (right), Camera distribution project coordinator for the Southern Hebron Hills, and ‘Imad Rashid, a participant in the project. Photo: Sarit Michaeli, B'Tselem, 11 June '08.

A few minutes after a-Nawaj'ah began to film the incident, the soldiers declared the area a closed military area and moved him away. He continued to film the incident from a distance. One of the soldiers followed him, cursed him and B'Tselem, and threatened that he would come to his house later. The soldier continued even after a-Nawaj'ah explained that he was permitted by law to film.

When a-Nawaj'ah tried to leave in his car, the two jeeps blocked his way. Three soldiers got out and came towards him, an officer among them. A-Nawaj'ah filmed the soldiers approaching and when they reached his car, one soldier grabbed the camera from his hands and passed it to another soldier. A third soldier removed the cassette from the camera. One of the soldiers then punched a-Nawaj'ah on the side of the head and several minutes later, the three drove off. A-Nawaj'ah searched the area and found the empty camera lying on the road behind his car,

B'Tselem immediately reported the assault to the Judea Brigade and to the Civil Administration's humanitarian hotline. At first, security forces denied the incident had taken place, but later admitted that soldiers from the Poria reserve battalion had been involved in an encounter with a B'Tselem fieldworker. Following B'Tselem's demand that the incident be investigated immediately, the Military Police opened an investigation.

B'Tselem demands that the three soldiers involved be punished and that the cassette, which shows soldiers taking no action while the Palestinian shepherds were being abused, be returned.  The organization added that it would not stand idly by while security forces treat its personnel violently and take its property, adding that the law explicitly permits video documentation of human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.