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Palestinian laborers cross through gap in Separation Barrier near Far'on, in the are of Qalqilya. Photo by Alex Levac, 6 June 2020
From the field

In chilling procedure, soldiers ambush Palestinian laborers, shoot them and break arm of 15-year-old

Since the beginning of May 2020, B’Tselem has documented five incidents in which soldiers lay in wait for Palestinians trying to enter Israel for work through gaps in the Separation Barrier near Far’on, a village south of Tulkarm. In four cases, the soldiers shot the workers and injured five of them. In the other case, the soldiers beat a 15-year-old until his arm broke and he suffered abdominal hemorrhaging. In most of the cases, the soldiers then treated the wounded and an Israeli ambulance took them to the nearby al-Kafriyat checkpoint, where soldiers took photographs of them and of their ID cards. They were then transferred to a Red Crescent ambulance, which took them to hospital in Tulkarm.

Thousands of Palestinian laborers enter Israel every day without permits, as they have no other choice. For many, obtaining a permit requires overcoming a series of insurmountable obstacles that Israel has instated as a matter of policy while also preventing the development of an independent Palestinian economy. Since the coronavirus broke out, Israel has imposed additional restrictions on laborers wishing to enter Israel, such as reducing the number of permits issued and requiring workers who enter to stay in Israel for lengthy periods without going home. The state is well aware of this reality and benefits from the cheap, disempowered workforce.

Shooting Palestinians who try to cross the barrier is not a new practice, nor is it unique to the area of Far’on, as B’Tselem’s documentation shows. In the last three months of 2019 alone, in the same district, soldiers shot at the legs of at least 17 Palestinians trying to enter Israel through gaps in the barrier, and fired a rubber-coated metal bullet at the legs of another.

There is no way to justify beating a minor or shooting at the legs of laborers who are not endangering a soul. The soldiers who did this were lying in wait, knowing full well where Palestinians would try to cross the barrier, awaiting the moment they could injure them. An important point is that this practice is not the choice of a single soldier, but part of a well-oiled policy. That is why no one will be held accountable for this latest series of incidents, either – for opening fire on the ground or for leading the policy that allowed it.

B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi collected testimonies from area residents, some of whom were injured by the shooting.

Palestinian men and teens on way to cross Separation Barrier to enter Israel for work. Photo by Alex Levac, 6 June 2020

Soldiers severely beat 15-year-old, breaking his arm and causing abdominal bleeding, 7 May 2020

On Thursday morning, 7 May 2020, at around 6:30 A.M., two cousins from the village of Far’on – A.Y., 15, and L.F., 18 – planned to cross through an opening in the barbed wire that makes up the section of the Separation Barrier in the area, in order to search for temporary work in Israel. They were standing on the eastern side of the barrier, watching the spot, when a jeep drove up and stopped on the security road, about 15 meters away. Three soldiers got out, shouted at the youths to stop and fired several shots in the air. L.F. managed to run towards the village, but A.Y. fell. The soldiers ran over to him and one started to kick him, while the other hit him with a rifle butt. A.Y. blacked out for a few minutes, and the soldiers stood around him.

At that point, several residents who had witnessed the incident came over and carried A.Y. to a resident’s car, with no objection by the soldiers. The resident drove A.Y. home, and from there to Thabet Thabet Hospital in Tulkarm together with two family members. Examinations and X-rays found abdominal hemorrhaging and a fractured right arm. A.Y. remained in intensive care until 12 May, when he was transferred to the pediatric surgery ward. He was discharged on 14 May.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi on 9 May 2020, A.Y. described the attack:

On 7 May 2020, my cousin and I were planning to cross through the fence to find temporary work in Israel for the day, so we could afford new holiday clothes.

We got to the fence around 6:30 in the morning and stopped a few meters away. Suddenly, a military jeep drove up and three soldiers got out. They started shooting and yelling at us to stop. I was terrified, especially when I saw they were chasing us. I got a real fright. My cousin and I started running east, towards the village, but after three or four steps I tripped over a stone and fell flat on my face. It hurt a lot. I started shouting and couldn’t move or breathe.

My cousin managed to get away, but the soldiers caught up with me. While I was still lying face down, one of them kicked me in the back and another hit me in my right shoulder with the butt of his rifle. I was in so much pain from the fall and the beating that I didn’t know what was happening around me. I blacked out.

The resident who came over and drove A.Y. away in his car described what he witnessed:

I saw a military jeep screech to a halt near one of the gaps in the fence. Three soldiers got out. They shouted at the young guys, ordered them to stop and fire live rounds in the air. I was about 30-40 meters away from the gap. I saw the two young guys run. One of them got away, but the other tripped over some rocks and fell. I saw the soldiers reach him. I had gotten out of my car at that point to watch. Later, I learned that the guy who fell down was called A.Y..

I started making my way over to him. He was lying on the ground, surrounded by soldiers. A few other young guys joined me. We picked him up and helped him get to my car. The soldiers didn’t object.

I drove A.Y. home. He was crying and screaming in pain the whole time. When we got there, his mother and brother got in the car and I drove them to Thabet Thabet Hospital in Tulkarm. Then I went home.

Not only assault, but live fire:

Soldiers lying in wait by gap in barrier shoot.’I.H in the leg, 3 May 2020:

On Sunday morning, 3 May 2020, at around 6:45 A.M., three Palestinians from the village of Dhinnaba in Tulkarm District arrived at an agricultural gate in the barrier west of the village of Far’on. The three, W.H, 55, and his two adult sons, have agricultural permits to enter their land, which lies west of the barrier. Soldiers were supposed to open the gate at 7:00 A.M., but none arrived. At 7:30, the three men gave up and decided, along with other Palestinians waiting there, to try and cross the barrier through a nearby opening. As soon as they did so, soldiers lying in ambush opened live fire at them with no prior warning. They shot one of the sons,.’I.H, 31, in the right leg. An Israeli ambulance took him to the nearby al-Kafriyat checkpoint, and from there a Red Crescent ambulance drove him to Thabet Thabet Hospital in Tulkarm. The soldiers did not allow his father and brother to go with him and ordered them to leave.

In a testimony he gave a B’Tselem field researcher over the phone,’I.H, a married father of four, related:

We waited for the soldiers, who were supposed to come and open the gate at 7:00. Meanwhile, four other people joined us. By 7:30, the soldiers hadn’t arrived and we decided to enter the ‘seam zone’ through an opening in the fence near the agricultural gate. I went first. I managed to cross the fence and take a step or two before I noticed two soldiers hiding among the olive trees west of the fence, about 10-15 meters away. One of them fired four or five shots and one of the bullets hit my left foot. I fell down. One of the soldiers shouted at us to stop, and everyone stopped and stood still.

The two soldiers came over to me and one of them gave me first aid. In less than two minutes, an Israeli ambulance showed up and I was treated on the spot. Then the ambulance took me to al-Kafriyat checkpoint, where the soldiers took photographs of me and of my ID card. A Palestinian ambulance that was waiting there took me to hospital in Tulkarm, where they examined and X-rayed me and took the bullet out of my foot. I was sent home three days later, with my foot in a cast.

Soldiers lying in wait near gap in barrier shoot I.’A. in the leg, 7 May 2020:

On Thursday morning, 7 May 2020, at around 6:00 A.M., I.’A., a 39-year-old building contractor and married father of four from Tulkarm Refugee Camp, went to the agricultural gate near Far’on. As his entry permit required that he stay in Israel throughout the month of Ramadan, he decided not to use it, but rather try and enter Israel through one of the openings in the barrier where several dozen Palestinians were waiting. After he crossed through, soldiers lying in ambush on the other side opened fire at him with no effective warning, and injured his right leg. An Israeli ambulance then took.I.’A. to al-Kafriyat checkpoint, where soldiers took photographs of him and of his ID card. From there, a Red Crescent ambulance took him to Thabet Thabet Hospital in Tulkarm.

In a testimony he gave on 9 May 2020, I.’A. recounted what happened:

I went over to one of the gaps in the fence and saw dozens of workers waiting to go through. I climbed through the concertina wire and the fence, walked a few steps and reached the security road. Suddenly, two soldiers came out from among the olive trees. They fired one shot in the air and another that hit me in the right calf, below the knee. I felt searing pain and fell down. I didn’t hear them shout any warning.

The two soldiers, one of whom was masked, came over to me. Then other soldiers arrived. One of them told another soldier, in Hebrew, to handcuff me. I showed them my new permit and they didn’t cuff me. One of them tried to stop the bleeding from my leg. Another soldier called for an ambulance, which showed up a minute or two later. I was given first aid and after about ten to fifteen minutes, the ambulance took me to al-Kafriyat checkpoint, where soldiers took photos of me and of my ID card. Then a Palestinian ambulance that was waiting for me took me to hospital in Tulkarm.

At the hospital, they examined me and put my whole leg in a cast, from thigh to foot. Three hours later, at my request, they transferred me to a private hospital in Tulkarm. I was discharged from there in the evening, with orders to rest and not stand on the leg.

Soldiers lying in ambush near barrier opening shoot S.S. and H.Q. in the legs, 10 May 2020:

On Sunday morning, 10 May 2020, at around 7:00 A.M., two Palestinians crossed through an opening in the barrier: S.S., 21, from Tulkarm, and his uncle H.Q., 58, from al-Far’a h Refugee Camp northeast of Nablus. When the two men reached the security road between the fences, soldiers emerged from among olive trees west of the barrier and fired shots at them, injuring both men in the legs. In this case, too, the men were given first aid by the soldiers, taken by Israeli ambulance to al-Kafriyat checkpoint, where soldiers photographed them and their ID cards, and then taken by a Red Crescent ambulance to Thabet Thabet hospital in Tulkarm.

In a testimony he gave on 20 May 2020, S.S. related:

I went first. I crossed through one of the openings and got to the middle of the security road. My uncle followed me. I didn’t see any soldiers in the area until suddenly, about four bullets were fired at us with no warning or any shouts to stop. I was hit in the left ankle and near the right knee. I didn’t see the soldiers who fired the shots, but after the shooting I heard them about ten or fifteen meters away.

I ran a few meters and fell down. Immediately, about six soldiers gathered around me and one of them tried to stop the bleeding with pieces of cloth. I was losing a lot of blood and in incredible pain. I couldn’t stand. The soldiers lay my uncle down next to me, and I saw he’d been hit in the leg too.

A few minutes later, the soldiers carried us on stretchers to the Far’on agricultural gate, about 100 meters away. Within five minutes, an Israeli ambulance arrived and the team gave us first aid and drove us to al-Kafriyat checkpoint. There, soldiers took photos of us and of our ID cards, and a Red Crescent ambulance took us to hospital in Tulkarm.

At the hospital, the doctors examined and X-rayed me. They found the bullet’s entry and exit wounds in my left leg and an injury under my right knee. My uncle had a bullet lodged under his right knee. I was in the hospital for about six hours, and then they discharged me with medication and referred me for further treatment at the orthopedic department. I’m currently not working and using crutches to get around the house.