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Testimonies: Security coordinators of the Ro'i and Beka'ot settlements mistreat shepherds in al-Hadidiyeh, backed by security forces

In recent months, B'Tselem has received several reports from Palestinian shepherds that security coordinators from the Roi and Beka'ot settlements mistreated them, with the backing of soldiers and police. The incidents took place in the al-Hadidiyeh area, in the Jordan Valley, where the settlements have been established. The area has extensive grazing lands, which are used both by the permanent residents and by families that come to the area every summer to graze their flocks.

The first incident took place on 6 September 2009. In a testimony given to B'Tselem by Hamzah 'Awawdeh, 18, a resident of Furush Beit Dajan, he related that he and his uncle, 'Abd al-Ghani 'Awawdeh, 40, had been grazing their flock 1.5 kilometers west of the Beka'ot settlement. About a half an hour after they arrived at the grazing site, Danny Gindin, the security coordinator of Beka'ot, pulled up in a jeep. According to 'Abd al-Ghani 'Awawdeh, he ordered the two to leave the place.

In his testimony, Hamzah 'Awawdeh described what happened when he and his uncle tried to leave the area with their flock:

Hamzah 'Awawdeh'Abd al-Ghani and I tried to walk away from the spot and then Danny came over to me, kicked me and slapped me. We continued to gather our flock and started to herd it away. I saw Danny walk over to the jeep. He drove along a dirt road and came toward us. Just as we were about to cross the road, he arrived in the jeep and tried to run over the sheep. 'Abd al-Ghani stood between the jeep and the sheep and tried to prevent Danny from running them over. He continued standing even when the jeep was just two meters from the sheep. Danny stopped the jeep and got out. He had a knife in his hand. He grabbed 'Abd al-Ghani, put the knife to his neck and threatened to kill him. I kept walking with the sheep, to get them away from there.

According to 'Awawdeh, Gindin summoned both the army and the police to the site. When a policeman arrived, Gindin accused the two Palestinians of entering the lands of the settlement and assaulting him. The soldiers who arrived took 'Abd al-Ghani 'Awawdeh to the nearby Hamra checkpoint. Once there, they cuffed his hands with plastic cuffs and took him to the Ma'ale Ephraim police station, where he was questioned. In his statement to the police, he said that Gindin had assaulted him. Several days later, Hamzah 'Awawdeh was also questioned at the police station.

The police opened an investigation and the file is being handled by the Samaria Claims Department.  

In another incident, which took place on Tuesday, 15 September 2009, Ghazi Bsharat, a 20-year-old resident of al-Hadidiyeh, was grazing his flock on land that his family leases from a resident of Tubas, in the northern Jordan Valley. The settlement of Ro'i was established some 150 meters from the leased plot. Around 4:30 P.M., while Bsharat was sitting next to a tank used for watering the flock, Moshe Sivan, security coordinator of Ro'i, drove up in a car with a passenger beside him. According to the witness, Sivan drove fast at him and ran over one of the goats in the flock.

 

Bsharat stated that he tried to block the car's path, to protect his flock. Sivan got out of the vehicle, threatened Bsharat with his rifle, and ordered him to go away. Sivan then summoned the army. As Bsharat tried to return home with his flock, Sivan continued threatening him and attempting to scatter the flock. About twenty minutes later, an army jeep pulled up. The soldiers demanded to see Bsharat's identity card but did not let him go and get it from his house, which is 250 meters from the spot. According to Bsharat, the soldiers shouted at him and supported Sivan's claim that he did not have permission to be in that area. />/>

A few minutes later, police officers arrived. They blindfolded Bsharat and took him to Ro'i, where he was kept blindfolded until approximately 10:00 P.M. Not only did the police wait until then to take his statement, but also Moshe Sivan, who had filed a complaint against him, was present when they did so.

Around 11:00 P.M., Bsharat was released. A policeman accompanied him home, as he feared that settlers would harass him on the way. The policeman took a picture of the goat that Sivan had run over and killed, according to Bsharat.

The next day, at around 2:00 P.M., soldiers and police came to the Bsharat family's home, a small tent with mattresses and kitchen utensils. They forcibly removed Bsharat from the tent and searched it, turning over its contents. While conducting the search, one of the policemen ordered Bsharat to tell his father that he must maintain good relations with Moshe Sivan.

The testimonies paint a worrisome picture of army and police support for harassment of shepherds by settlement security coordinators. The police humiliated the shepherds by detaining them, but not the security coordinators whom the shepherds claimed assaulted them; interrogated one of the shepherds in the presence of his assailant; automatically supported the position of the security coordinators; and conducted a violent search of a residential tent, adding a strange comment that the family would be better off if they maintained good relations with the regular security coordinator.

B'Tselem wrote to the Judge Advocate General's Office, to the Department for the Investigation of Police, and to the Israel Police, demanding that they investigate the incident. In addition, B'Tselem wrote to the commander for the Jordan Valley Brigade, to whom the security coordinators in the Roi and Beka'ot settlements are subordinate, demanding that the cases be investigated. B'Tselem also demanded clarifications regarding the powers of security coordinators.