Testimony: Border policemen beat Muhammad Hamamrah and Maher Mahmoud, Tzur Hadassah, 11 January 2009

Update: On 16 November 2010 the MPIU informed B'Tselem that a decision was made not to launch a criminal investigation on the matter due to lack of public interest.

Muhammad Hamamrah, carpenter

Muhammad Hamamrah

For the past year, I've been working at a carpentry shop in Tzur Hadassah. I made requests for a work permit in Israel, but they were all denied on security grounds. Maher Muhammad works with me. He is also from Husan and his requests for a work permit in Israel were denied as well, on the same grounds.

Lots of people from Husan who submitted requests for work permits had their requests rejected for security reasons. Nobody gets an explanation of the precise reason for the rejection. Lots of workers from Husan work in Israel without permits, and they don't have any choice but to go to work a long way by foot so as to avoid checkpoints.

The owner of the carpentry shop, Avi, submitted a few requests for a permit for me. He submitted the last one about two months ago. They were all rejected. I have no choice but to work without a permit.

Maher and I leave the house every Saturday at 8:00 P.M. and walk in the dark to Tzur Hadassah, a distance of about four kilometers. We quietly enter the carpentry shop and go to sleep. We don't go outside, so that nobody will see us. We work the whole week, sleeping there, and on Thursday afternoon we go home along the same route that we came.

On Saturday, 10 January, Maher and I arrived at the shop as usual and went to sleep. The next morning, around 8:00 A.M., we started work. Avi arrived and asked us to go outside and unload wood from his car. We stopped doing what we were doing and went into the street and began to bring in the wood.

About ten minutes later, a green Toyota patrol car pulled up and two border policemen got out. The one who got out of the passenger side was tall, about thirty years old, and a bit fat. He asked for our ID cards. We gave them to him, and he asked if we had permits. I told him the authorities don't give us work permits. He swore at us. I saw Avi peek out and go inside.  I think he ran out the back door.

The policeman hit me and Maher with his weapon and kicked us. The other policeman, the driver, came over to us. He looked older than the other one, and had white hair. He beat us as well. They beat me all over my body, especially my head and stomach. I cried out in pain, and they beat me harder. They also beat Maher.

The beating continued and then Maher shouted and fell to the ground. The policemen put us into their car. They told us to put our hands behind our backs and to lower our heads. We did as they said. They sat in the front. The tall policeman sat next to the driver. Every few minutes, he turned around and slapped us. He said, “Keep your head down.” The trip took about twenty minutes.

When the jeep stopped, the two of them got out and took us out. We saw that we were at the Ni'lin checkpoint. They gave our ID cards to the soldiers at the checkpoint and said, “take care of them.” I understood that they wanted the soldiers to beat us or mistreat us.

We stood there. It was a rainy day and colder than in previous days. We stood in the cold from 9:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.

One of the soldiers spoke Arabic. He swore at us and said, “We need to send you to Gaza so that you'll die like the residents there are dying, like dogs.” He called to a female soldier and swore at us next to her, and they laughed. Then he brought a bottle of water, poured it on my head and said to the female soldier, “This is rain that God is pouring on their head.” The two of them laughed. A few hours later, the soldier gave us our ID cards. He told us to go home and not to return to work, otherwise he would send us to Gaza.

We went by taxi to Husan. Since then, we haven't returned to work. We called Avi and he asked us to wait a few days or even a few weeks, until things calmed down. Now we're in the village, waiting for him to call us to come back to work.

Muhammad Yihya Muhammad Hamamrah, 21, single, is a carpenter and a resident of Husan, Bethlehem District. His testimony was given to Suha Zeid at the witness's house on 20 Jan. '09.