Since Nov. 2009, B’Tselem has received testimonies from dozens of Palestinian minors alleging that they were subjected to threats and violence, sometimes amounting to torture, under interrogation at the Gush Etzion police station. They claimed that the violence was used in order to force them into confessing to alleged offenses, mostly stone-throwing. Given the severity of these claims, the DIP and the Israel Police must examine the issue systemically, and not make do with the investigations opened into several particular cases following B’Tselem’s complaints. If the claims are substantiated, they must take immediate action to stop the illegal conduct and take legal and administrative measures against those responsible.
Beating & abuse
On 22 July 2013, the Israeli military's Legal Advisor in Judea and Samaria responded to B'Tselem's letter regarding the grave incident in which soldiers detained a five-year-old boy in Hebron for two hours, after he threw a stone. In his letter, the legal advisor addressed the general issue of soldiers having to deal with a complex reality in which children under the age of criminal responsibility throw stones. Regarding the detention of Wadi' Maswadeh, the advisor justified the soldiers' conduct. B'Tselem sent a reply, emphasizing that the soldiers had acted in a fundamentally unacceptable way throughout the incident, and that acknowledging the complexity of the reality in which they operate cannot justify blatantly unlawful violation of children's rights and harm to their welfare.
B'Tselem responded to the report of Israel's State Comptroller, which states that Israelis living in 83 settlements in the West Bank do not pay leasing fees for land they received from the state and that the authorities do not enforce the law on illegal construction, fearing opposition by settlers. B'Tselem said the comptroller's report added another layer to the understanding that Israel's entire law enforcement system in the West Bank is enslaved to the settlement project, and that the failings detailed are a direct result of the policy of successive Israeli governments, that have avoided for decades enforcing the law on Israeli citizens who harm Palestinians and their property.
B'Tselem spokesperson Sarit Michaeli published an article in the Hebrew daily, Ma'ariv. The article responds to claims by Ma'ariv columnist Ben Dror Yamini that the detention of a 5 year-old Palestinian boy in Hebron was an exceptional incident.
On 21 June 2013, during the weekly demonstration at Kafr Qadum to protest the closing of the road that links the village to the city of Nablus, Israeli soldiers attacked a reporter and a photojournalist of the Palestinian television. The men were then detained and held in custody for two days. Part of the assault was caught on video, and the soldiers are seen beating reporter Ahmad ‘Othman as he tries to protect himself. In response to airing this footage, the IDF Spokesperson claimed that the journalists had attacked the soldiers, yet did not have any documentation to substantiate its claim. B’Tselem applied to the MAG Corps demanding an investigation of the incident.
In the middle of the night of 14 May 2013, Israeli policemen surrounded the home of Khader Sharif of Beit Ula, and ordered him to come out. Sharif, who had undergone surgery for a leg broken in a work accident, had not yet fully recovered and was using crutches. Sharif reported that as the policemen forced him into a vehicle, his injured leg collided with a step and suffered a new fracture. Nevertheless, the policemen hauled him from one police station to another, all the while treating him violently and disparagingly and refusing him medical attention. Sharif was finally released around noon, once questioning showed he could not have committed the alleged theft. He was let out at Tarqumya checkpoint, having received no medical treatment in breach of police directives.
According to B’Tselem’s inquiry, on 15 May 2013, two Palestinians trying to enter Israel through a breach in the Separation Barrier were attacked by dogs, allegedly on soldiers’ orders. B’Tselem applied to the MAG Corps demanding an investigation of the attack and the allegation that the soldiers had used excessive force in arresting the men. B’Tselem also wrote to the Legal Adviser in Judea and Samaria demanding that the use of attack dogs against unarmed civilians be prohibited. No response has been received to date.
B’Tselem has written to the Legal Adviser in Judea and Samaria demanding that he prohibit the use of attack dogs against Palestinian civilians. The letter follows a recent incident in which two Palestinians trying to enter Israel for work were attacked. B’Tselem Director Jessica Montell wrote that “setting dogs on civilians under such circumstances is inherently wrong and immoral. This use of dogs is dangerous in that they cannot be kept fully under control. It intimidates the population at large and has already caused severe harm to civilians.”
On Sunday, 26 May 2013, the military came to the home of the ‘Awads in Budrus to arrest ‘Abd a-Rahim ‘Awad. A younger son, Samir, had been killed by Israeli soldiers in January. In the course of the arrest, soldiers used force against ‘Abd a-Rahim and his family. The military stated that the family had violently resisted the arrest and that the soldiers’ response was “minimal”. To justify the soldiers’ behavior, the military released an edited video clip showing a small part of the incident. B’Tselem’s research indicates that, contrary to the military’s version, the soldiers acted violently from the very start, even before the family had a chance to resist. When ‘Abd a-Rahim’s family tried to protect him, the soldiers responded with violence and also heavily damaged the house.
The Military Police Investigations Unit (MPIU) will investigate a serious incident in which soldiers and Border Policemen beat a Palestinian youth while arresting him. The incident was captured by a security camera of the Ofra settlement, but the camera operators diverted the camera from the violent scene, apparently so as to avoid documenting it, and the video footage of the arrest was not transferred to the detainee’s defense attorney for nearly a month, during which time the youngster was held in detention. The MPIU only notified B’Tselem today that an investigation is to be opened, after the organization wrote urgently yesterday to demand investigation into the violent arrest and into suspicions of disruption of proceedings and failure to report a crime by the persons involved in the filming or persons who knew of it.
On 9 September 2012 B’Tselem contacted the Dept. for the Investigation of Police (DIP) demanding an investigation of Border Police officers who allegedly assaulted Sa’id Qiblawi, 14. According to testimonies B’Tselem collected, Qiblawi was arrested near his home by Border Police who were being stoned. A policeman dragged Qiblawi along the ground and put him into a jeep, where he was beaten. On 2 May 2013 the DIP informed B’Tselem that upon conclusion of the investigation, the case was closed for lack of evidence. B’Tselem applied to the DIP on behalf of the complainant’s family, requesting the investigative material in order to explore the option of appealing the closing of the case.
On 3 April 2013 soldiers standing near the guard tower at the ‘Anabta/Einav checkpoint shot and killed two Palestinians. Press reports indicate that the soldiers had advance warning of the Palestinians’ approach to the checkpoint and were waiting for them outside the military guard tower. B’Tselem’s inquiry indicates that soldiers may have acted in contravention of open-fire regulations.
On 24 April 2013, as has been a frequent occurrence of late, settlers from Giv’at Gal came onto the privately owned land of the Zaro family, of Hebron. The landowners called the police to report the trespassing. Israeli soldiers came to the scene and, rather than sending the settlers away, arrested the Palestinians. Part of the incident was filmed by a volunteer in B’Tselem’s camera project. The detainees were released the following day by a military judge after this footage was presented in court and it was proven that the there was no justification for the arrest, which involved violence towards one of the Zaros.
In March the Jerusalem Magistrate Court handed down a sentence for a Border policeman convicted of attacking a Palestinian child, Yunes Abu Ermeileh, in Hebron in 2009. The Department for the Investigation of Police (PID) opened its inquiry into the incident following a complaint filed by B’Tselem. Indictments of police on charges of violence against Palestinians are extremely rare. Of the more than 280 complaints lodged by B’Tselem of alleged police violence since the start of the second Intifada, we are aware of only 12 indictments.
Over the past three years, B’Tselem has documented 18 incidents in which demonstrators and photographers reported the use of pepper-spray in contravention of official police orders, with police pepper-spraying unarmed, non-violent civilians. Five of these incidents were captured on video. In the latest incident, a B’Tselem’s camera project volunteer was filming a demonstration in the village of a-Nabi Saleh when he was pepper-sprayed in the face by a Border policeman.
In January 2013, B'Tselem documented two extremely worrying cases of Israeli military dogs assaulting Palestinian civilians, one in the city of Jenin and the other in the village of Tamun. In both cases, dogs attacked civilians in or near their homes. The dogs were in the company of military forces that entered residential areas. In one case, an 88-year-old woman from Jenin was assaulted inside her home and had to undergo several operations for her injuries. B'Tselem reported these cases to OC Judea and Samaria Division and demanded that the use of dogs in residential areas of the West Bank be prohibited.
In Nov. 2012, students from Tuqu’ demonstrated against Operation Pillar of Defense and threw stones at vehicles on the nearby road. An Israeli military force then arrived on the scene, and without any justification, one of the soldiers fired live ammunition at the students, hitting one in the abdomen. B’Tselem has learned from testimonies it gathered that, three weeks later, soldiers came to the school. They assaulted the principal and two teachers, warning them that if the boys threw stones again, they would be held accountable. B’Tselem wrote to OC Judea and Samaria Division demanding that he investigate the allegations and ensure that such incidents do not recur.
On 13 February 2013, an Israeli mounted policeman was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm to Fadi Darab’i, resident of Dura, Hebron District. The policeman was indicted in 2008 following a complaint filed by B’Tselem on Darab’i’s behalf. The complaint stated that policemen had assaulted Darab’i in April 2008, seriously injuring one of his testicles.
B’Tselem wrote to OC Central Command Major General Nitzan Alon requesting that he issue an immediate notice to Israeli security forces in Hebron, reminding them that B’Tselem employers and volunteers as well as any other photographers must be permitted to document events in the city. B’Tselem’s letter was written in light of an incident in which Israeli soldiers attacked Reuters’ photographers in Hebron, and "accused” them of working for B’Tselem.
According to testimonies collected by B’Tselem, plainclothes police detained Amir Darwish, at midday on Friday, 12 October 2012, two days before his tenth birthday. The policemen took Amir to a police station, using force against the boy and his mother, who tried to prevent the arrest. Amir was questioned in his mother’s presence for allegedly throwing stones, and was released following the investigation. The minimum age of criminal responsibility in Israel is 12. The arrest or even temporary detention of a minor under the age of 12 is absolutely prohibited.