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Munzer Muzher a few days after the assault. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash, B’Tselem, 25 Feb. 2019
From the field

Israeli soldier beats blind, diabetic, kidney-diseased Palestinian man in bed, continuing even after the man’s face was bloodied

One of the soldiers assaulted my father and beat him in the face until he bled. I was shocked and furious. I couldn’t understand why he’d done it. Didn’t he know my father was ill and blind? What did my father do to deserve that? I have a lot of questions that I still need answered. It’s a nightmare I can’t ever forget, even though it’s very upsetting whenever I think about it.

Taken from the testimony of Mazen Muzher (15)

On 20 February 2019, at around 4:30 A.M., about five soldiers forced their way into the Halawah family’s apartment in the town of a-Doha, west of Bethlehem, in search of Fadi Halawah (21) who was at work at the time. When they realized he was not home, the soldiers ordered his father, Nizar, to call him and tell him to come turn himself in. In the meantime, some of the soldiers decided to enter the first-floor apartment of the Muzher family, who own the building. They did so despite Nizar Halawah’s warning that the head of the family is very sick. Meanwhile, Fadi Halawah arrived and turned himself in to the soldiers. Some of them left, taking Fadi with them.

The soldiers stormed into the Muzhers’ home. The family – Iman (44) and Munzer (46), and their four sons: a 17-year-old and 15-year-old triplets – were all asleep in bed. Munzer Muzher, a retired laboratory worker, has diabetes and kidney disease. He lost his sight 15 years ago, had his toes amputated and has to undergo dialysis three times a week. He needs intensive help around the house. His wife, Iman, has cancer. The soldiers went into Munzer and Iman’s bedroom and one assaulted Munzer, punching him in the face for several minutes. The soldier continued despite Iman’s pleas that her husband is sick and blind. The soldiers also went into the boys’ room and ordered them into the living room.

Iman helped her husband, whose face was bleeding, to the living room. Their sons were brought there a moment later. The soldiers ordered the boys to raise their hands behind their heads, and one soldier kept his gun pointed at them. The soldiers stayed in the apartment for several minutes without explaining why they had come, and then left.

Once they were gone, a neighbor drove Munzer Muzher to al-Hussein Hospital in Beit Jala, where doctors found his jaw and left hand were fractured, his face bruised, wounded and swollen, and his right leg swollen.

In other words, armed soldiers broke into the house of a sick man, beat him and threatened his entire family without offering any explanation, and then left. They did so although they knew full well that the man they were seeking was not in the building and was, in fact, on his way over to give himself up.

Soldiers raiding Palestinians’ homes in the dead of night, waking entire families, has long since become part of the routine that the occupation regime imposes in the West Bank. To carry out these raids, which sometimes include searches or arrests, but are often aimed solely at intimidating the entire household, soldiers are not required to show a search warrant or even provide a reason. These actions, which are clearly intended to intimidate and menace the local residents, are unjustified and are but another example of the arbitrary abuse of power by the military.

B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash collected testimonies from members of the Muzher family.

In a testimony he gave on 25 February 2019, the father of the family, Munzer Muzher, described how things began:

I was asleep in bed with my wife, in our bedroom. I woke up in a fright when I felt someone grab my face. Then he started punching me hard in the face. At first, I thought I was still asleep and was having a nightmare. But it hurt so bad that I realized this was no dream. I thought we were being attacked by robbers. I started shouting: “Robbers! Robbers!” to wake my wife and sons. I heard my wife screaming and crying. She said: Leave him alone, he’s sick, he’s blind, he can’t move. The man kept hitting me. I tried to raise my hands to protect my face, but I couldn’t.

After he punched me in the face for a long time, I heard him say in Arabic: We are the Israel Defense Forces. He paused for a moment and then went on punching me in the face for another thirty seconds or so. Then he stopped. I felt my face was bleeding.

Munzer and Iman Muzher in their home. Photo by Musa Abu Hashhash, B’Tselem, 25 Feb. 2019

Iman Muzher described what she and her family underwent that morning in a testimony she gave on 25 February 2019:

I have cancer. My husband and I spend a lot of time in hospital, especially him. At home, he spends most of his time in bed. He needs me and our four boys to help him get about, both in the house and outside. Despite my illness and my husband’s condition, we cope and stay upbeat. Our sons, who are all in high school, are strong and help us a lot.

On Wednesday, 20 February 2019, before 5:00 A.M., I was woken by my husband shouting: Robbers, robbers! I leaped out of bed in my pajamas, without my head cover. The room was dark and all I could see were colored laser beams moving around. After my eyes got used to the dark, I made out five or six soldiers in the room. One of them had grabbed my husband and was punching him in the face. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

My husband shouted: “Who are you? What do you want from me?” He said he couldn’t see them. I also screamed at the soldier punching him that my husband is blind and can’t move. I begged him to stop. I went up to the soldier and tried to get him off my husband, but he pushed me away and kept beating him. The other four soldiers just stood there, doing nothing. I cried and yelled and didn’t know what to do. I kept asking: “What do you want from us? What do you want from a sick blind man?” After several minutes of non-stop punching, the soldier said they were from the Israel Defense Forces. He paused for a few seconds and then started up again, hitting my husband’s bloody face. Then he stopped. My husband asked me to get him out of the room and asked after our sons.

I helped him out of the room. He was terrified and very worried that something bad had happened to the boys. I helped him sit down on a chair in the living room. There were five or six soldiers around us, all but one of them wearing masks. I asked if they felt no remorse for attacking someone in my husband’s condition. I couldn’t understand what on earth they had been thinking. They made three of my sons sit and one of them stand, all with their hands behind their heads, and told them to keep still. One of the soldiers kept his gun pointed at them. A few minutes later, the soldiers left the house, leaving my husband bleeding. I tried to calm him and the boys down. We wiped the blood off my husband’s face. His face and eyes were swollen. I held back my tears, I didn’t want him to be upset that I was crying. Why did they attack my husband when they saw he’s disabled? I keep asking myself, why did this happen to us? Aren’t we suffering enough with these illnesses, to have soldiers now attack us for no reason? I still have no idea why the soldier attacked my sick husband in his sleep. I just don’t get it.

Mazen Muzher, 15, described the attack on his father in a testimony he gave on 27 February 2019:

I woke up in a fright when somebody opened the door to the room I share with my brothers. We sleep in bunk beds. The room was dark and I didn’t know who had opened the door. There were several people in the room, and that scared me even more. When I tried to get up, one of them came over and shoved me. I fell down from the top bunk and hit my head on the carpeted floor. I figured the men were soldiers.

The soldiers ordered us to go into the living room. I stood up with difficulty and went into the living room. My three brothers followed me. The light was on in the living room. I saw five or six soldiers there. My mother was standing next to my father, who was sitting in a chair. His face was bleeding. I was scared and didn’t know what had happened. One of the soldiers told my brothers to sit and told me to remain standing. He ordered us to put our hands behind our heads and keep still. I stood for a few minutes and then collapsed onto the couch, probably because I’d banged my head when I fell out of bed. My brothers told me afterwards that I passed out for a few seconds.

My mother tried to wipe the blood off my father’s face. The soldiers didn’t give him any medical care. I thought my dad may have fallen on his face. It never occurred to me that the soldiers might have assaulted him.

Later I learned that one of the soldiers had assaulted my dad and punched him in the face until he bled. I was shocked and furious. I couldn’t understand why he’d done it. Didn’t he know my father was ill and blind? What did my father do to deserve that? I have a lot of questions that I still need answered. It’s a nightmare I can’t ever forget, even though it’s very upsetting whenever I think about it.