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Eyewitness Muhammad Tamimi points to the point where Bilal Tamimi was shot. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 26 January 2020
From the field

Violence, interrogation, shooting - just another Friday under occupation in Deir Nizam

On Friday, 24 January 2020, at around 2:00 P.M., a military jeep entered the village of Deir Nizam, located northwest of Ramallah. It stopped near the village’s old mosque and two soldiers got out, siezed A.T., a 15-year-old local, and put him in the jeep.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 27 January 2020, A .T. said:

“Two soldiers got out of the jeep, one who was sitting next to the driver and one who was in the back seat, and jumped me. One of them grabbed my arms from behind and shouted in Hebrew. I only understood the words “you throw stones”, which I know because kids use them when they play. I understood he was accusing me of throwing stones.

I was very scared, especially because it was quiet all around and there were no people on the street. I didn’t understand why they were arresting me and how they could accuse me of throwing stones. I started calling for help and for my parents. Some of the neighbors heard my cries, came out and tried to stop the soldiers.”

Several of A .T.’s relatives and other residents arrived and tried to convince the soldiers to release the boy, but the soldiers shouted at them and threw a stun grenade in their direction. A few minutes later, the jeep drove several meters down the road, with A .T. inside and residents still trying to get him released. One of the soldiers fired several live rounds in the air and immediately after that, fired directly at Bilal Tamimi, 26, a village resident who was passing through the area. The bullet hit Tamimi in the pelvis from behind and he was taken to al-Istishari Hospital in Ramallah.

The soldiers immediately drove off, taking A .T. with them. They blindfolded the boy, tied his hands behind his back and took him to a military base, beating him on the way. No one bothered to inform his parents of his whereabouts for two hours. At the base, he was interrogated and threatened without the presence of his parents or of legal counsel . A .T. was finally released after six hours, in which the soldiers did not allow him to go to the bathroom or give him food or water.

For most Israelis and their political and military leaders, what happened in Deir Nizam is a trivial, routine matter. But what about the people who live under our control in Deir Nizam? How terrifying is the brutality with which this trivial routine plays out? How physically injurious? How emotionally scarring? A teen jumped on the street on a Friday afternoon; hours of interrogation while his family has no idea where he is; humiliating treatment during the interrogation; stun grenades and live fire; Bilal Tamimi injured; and the probability of the incident ending with fatalities, as is often the case – in other words, routine.

Bilal Tamimi at the hospital. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 26 Jan. 2020

The shooting of Bilal Tamimi

Muhammad Tamimi, 58, a resident of Deir Nizam and father of nine, drove to the area of the mosque with three relatives after he heard soldiers were holding his nephew, A .T.

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad on 26 January 2020, Tamimi said:

Muhammad Tamimi. Photo by Iyad Hadad, B'Tselem, 26 Jan. 2020

When we drove over to the soldiers to intervene and get them to release the kid, the commander shouted at us and ordered us to stop. After we stopped, he pounded on the windshield and ordered us out of the car. We got out, and then he told us to hand over our ID cards and phones. I told him in Hebrew: “We haven’t done anything. Why are you detaining us and asking for our IDs”? I refused to hand them over, but he started shouting at us. One of the soldiers threw a stun grenade to scare us. We backed away in the direction of a coffee shop a few dozen meters away, hoping things would calm down and they’d release the kid.

The soldiers and the jeep came towards us and other residents also tried to get them to release the boy, but no one dared go too close because the soldiers were very aggressive, especially the commander, who was shouting the whole time and being belligerent. He came very close to me and fired several live rounds in the air. He was so close that I could feel the shell casings flying at me. I was scared and backed away from him. Another soldier randomly fired stun grenades at residents who had come out of their homes to see what was going on.

All of a sudden, I saw the commander, who was a few meters away from me, point his rifle at my relative Bilal Tamimi, who was about 25 meters away from me. The commander fired a few bullets, even though people had already started dispersing and I hadn’t seen any stone-throwing that day. Bilal was hit by a bullet and fell over on the road.

After that, a commotion started. People started yelling at the soldiers, and some people from the village drove Bilal to hospital. The soldiers got back into their jeep straight away and drove off with the boy.

Bilal Tamimi, 26, a court clerk who lives in Ramallah, was visiting family in the village and had gone to buy drinks.

In a testimony he gave on 26 January 2020, he described what happened:

I heard the sound of stun grenades before I left the house, but I thought it was nothing out of the ordinary. I lived in the village until two months ago, and we’re used to it. Soldiers come in, chase stone-throwers and young kids, hurl stun grenades, fire teargas and sometimes live bullets, and then leave.

When I neared the mosque, I saw the soldiers were going crazy. I decided to climb the outside stairs of the house of some relatives of mine who live nearby, to hide from the soldiers and watch until things calmed down. Before I managed to get up the stairs, a soldier opened live fire. At first he fired a few bullets in the air, and then he aimed his rifle at me. I didn’t think he would hurt me because things were quiet. At least, I didn’t see any stone-throwing.

The soldiers were about 20-30 meters away from me. The soldier fired a few bullets, and one of them hit me in the left side of my pelvis just as I was turning towards the stairs. It felt like an electric shock. I felt nauseous and dizzy and scared. I started bleeding and fell on the road. I called for help and a few young guys picked me up and took me to a car that drove me to al-Istishari Hospital. On the way, they bandaged the wound and applied pressure to stop the bleeding. I was fully conscious and it hurt a lot. I was scared the injury was fatal and I would die. I prayed to God to have mercy on me.

At the hospital, Tamimi was X-rayed and underwent surgery to remove shrapnel from the bullet that hit him in the lower part of the pelvis from behind. He was discharged on 6 February 2020.

In a testimony he gave on 23 February 2020, he said:

I still have pain and feel pins and needles in my left leg. Because the nerve connection in the left hip was hit, it’s hard for me to walk much and I can’t climb stairs or drive. I use crutches sometimes and need my wife’s help to walk. The doctors have reassured me it should get better in a few months.

I haven’t worked since the injury and I’m scared I’ll lose my job. The situation has affected me emotionally. I feel depressed. I’m sick of being at home and I’m frustrated. I can’t stop worrying about the future. I don’t sleep well because of the anxiety. I’m in bad shape. Only God understands what I’m going through.

A .T.’s “interrogation”

After shooting Bilal Tamimi, the soldiers put 15-year-old A .T. in the back seat of the jeep and drove him, blindfolded and handcuffed, to a military base located several kilometers north of Deir Nizam.

In a testimony he gave on 27 January 2020, A.T. said:

During the drive, I told the soldier who was beside me that I hadn’t throw stones, but every time I spoke, he pushed my head down and hit me on the head or neck. At the entrance to the village, the soldiers met up with an army vehicle, a khanzira (Arabic nickname for “wolf” armored vehicle). They told the soldiers in the khanzira that they’d caught a stone-thrower and the other soldiers swore at me, calling me” bastard”, “son of a bitch” and things like that.

When we got to the base, a few kilometers north of the village, they took me out of the jeep and made me kneel on the ground, which was covered in gravel, with my face to the wall of a pre-fab. The gravel dug into my legs and knees and it hurt, but they didn’t let me move or get up.

After about half an hour, the soldiers took A .T., still blindfolded, into the pre-fab. A person sitting inside asked for his personal information and questioned him about other youths from the village

. After about 20 minutes, A .T. estimates, his blindfold was removed and an officer who came in interrogated him about throwing stones at the settlement of Halamish, showing him video footage of kids throwing stones at the settlement. A .T. denied participating.

In his testimony, he further recounted:

Another interrogator came in. I understood he was arguing with the first interrogator. Then he started interrogating me. He yelled in Arabic: “Don’t piss me off! Tell the truth. The guy in the picture is you. Don’t lie!” But it really wasn’t me in the video. I told him: “Why would I lie? I wasn’t even there”. Then he asked me about my friends. I told him I don’t have any. He asked about my classmates, and then he said: “So you don’t want to talk. I’ll bring you an interrogator who will make you talk, against your will”. Then he blindfolded me again and tightened the knot until I couldn’t see anything.

He made me sit on the floor and then they left. I got cold and started shivering. I asked to go to the bathroom, but they didn’t let me. They left me without food or drink.

I stayed like that for more than five hours. I was scared and shivering with cold. Every time I asked for something – water, food, to go to the bathroom – the answer was “Shut up, be quiet.” Soldiers kept coming in and out, and sometimes they called me “son of a bitch”.

After more than five hours, the soldiers took me to a jeep. I was still blindfolded. The jeep drove off, I don’t know where. Suddenly, they let me out near the entrance to a-Nabi Saleh. It was eight or nine in the evening. The soldiers handed me over to the head of the local council, who was waiting for me there with my father, and they took me home.

A .T.’s father, 52, heard Bilal Tamimi had been injured and went to hospital to check on him. Other residents there told him his son had been arrested.

In a testimony he gave on 5 February 2020, he recalled:

I was very worried and afraid for my son. I hear a lot about the military mistreating minors who are arrested or detained. I had terrible thoughts: Are they holding him in the shabah position [with his hands and feet bound to a chair] , in the cold? Did they beat him? Did they humiliate him?

The head of the council and a member of the village council who were at the hospital told me they had contacted the Palestinian DCO and human rights organizations right away, and were following up.

I started wandering through the hospital, stressed and confused. My wife, kids and other relatives called me from time to time to find out what was going on with A . After an hour or two, we were told by the Israeli or Palestinian DCO, I don’t remember exactly, that my son was fine. They said he was at a [military] camp and would be handed over at 8:00 P.M. They didn’t say where he was being held. I calmed down a little, but was still scared and worried.

At 8:00 P.M., the council head told me the military would let my son go near the a-Nabi Saleh gate. I went there immediately. I hugged him and was very happy he’d been released. He was physically fine and wasn’t suffering from anything, but he was frightened and freezing cold. The officer said they’d let him go even though they had security camera footage showing him throwing stones near the Halamish settlement fence and trying to break the camera. He said next time they would arrest him for anything he did.

We went home. Everyone was very happy, especially his mother, who was eagerly waiting for him and really wanted to make sure he was okay. Thank God, my son came home alive and well.

Ever since then, my son gets very scared when he sees soldiers or hears they’re in the village. He runs away or leaves the area to avoid running into them. If he’s home, he doesn’t go out until he makes sure they’re gone.