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Tareq Zbeidi in his home. Photo by Oren Ziv, Activestills, 25 Aug. 2021
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Running over, tying to moving car, hanging on tree, pepper-spraying, kicking, burning feet: Settlers abduct 15-year-old and abuse him until he loses consciousness

On 17 August 2021, at around 9:00 A.M., six teens from Silat a-Daher, a village in Jenin District, planned to picnic in the land around the village. They settled about 350 meters from the village homes and about 350 meters from the location of the settlement of Homesh, which was evacuated in 2005. After about half an hour, the teens noticed six settlers advancing towards them – some by car and others on foot. The teens panicked and fled the scene. At least one of the settlers threw stones at them.

Five of the teens managed to escape to the village, but Tareq Zbeidi (15) could not run fast enough as he had been injured in the leg two weeks earlier. The settlers who were driving in the car rammed into him, knocking him over. According to his testimony, the settlers got out of the car and began beating him with wooden sticks. They then bound Tareq’s hands and feet and tied him to the hood of the car with metal chains held by the driver and the passenger sitting next to him. They drove towards the area once occupied by the settlement of Homesh.

 

Tareq Zbeidi in the hospital. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B’Tselem, 18 Aug. 2021
Tareq Zbeidi in the hospital. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B’Tselem, 18 Aug. 2021

One of the settlers pepper-sprayed Tareq in the face, and another settler covered his eyes with a piece of cloth. The settlers then hung him with ropes on tree branches, with his feet in the air, and wounded and burned his feet. After a few minutes, the settlers took him down from the tree, and then one of them hit him in the head with a stick, causing Tareq to lose consciousness.

At this point, a military jeep drove up, and the settlers handed Tareq over to the soldiers, claiming that he had thrown stones at them. The soldiers put the unconscious Tareq in the jeep and lay him down on its floor. Meanwhile, Tareq’s uncle and brother arrived after the other teens informed them that settlers had captured him. The soldiers handed Tareq over to his uncle, who took him to a hospital in Jenin. At the hospital, bruises were found on his body, as well as wounds on his feet. He was discharged the next day.

The settlement of Homesh, established on land belonging to the village of Burqah and seized by the military, was evacuated as part of the “disengagement plan” in 2005. Since then, Israeli citizens have been forbidden from entering its territory. Despite this, there has been a continuous presence of settlers in the area since the evacuation, with security forces allowing them to stay there and attack Palestinians. This is the tenth settler attack on Palestinians near the settlement site documented by B’Tselem since the beginning of 2020.

This case may be exceptionally cruel, but settler violence against Palestinians, often with the participation of soldiers, has long since become part of Israeli policy in the West Bank and integral to the occupation routine. The long-term result of these violent acts is the dispossession of Palestinians from growing swaths of the West Bank, facilitating Israel’s takeover of land and resources there.

B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi collected testimonies from the abducted teen, his friends and his uncle two days after the incident.

Tareq Zbeidi’s feet after the abuse. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B’Tselem, 18 Aug. 2021
Tareq Zbeidi’s feet after the abuse. Photo by Abdulkarim Sadi, B’Tselem, 18 Aug. 2021

In his testimony, Tareq Zbeidi, a 15-year-old resident of Silat a-Daher, described his attack by settlers:

On Tuesday, 17 August 2021, at around 9:00 A.M., I met with five friends in front of the high school in the village. We decided to buy meat and bread and go out for a picnic in the al-Myadin area on the foot of the hill between our village’s homes and the site of the evacuated settlement of Homesh. We bought the food and set out there on foot. We were happy and chatting. We’ve all been friends since we were little.

About half an hour later, while we were sitting under the trees, we heard voices in Hebrew and then saw a private car with settlers approaching us. When the car reached about 30 or 40 meters from us, and we saw that they were really settlers, we got really scared and started running to the village through the fields. All of my friends managed to escape and get to the village homes, about 300 meters away.

I tripped and hurt my leg two weeks ago, and it was hard for me to run. The settlers drove towards me and hit me with their car, and I fell to the ground. The car stopped, and four settlers got out. Some were holding sticks. They attacked me and hit me in the shoulder, legs, and back.

After a few seconds, one of the settlers took out ropes from the car and tied my hands and feet. He lifted me and put me on the hood of the car, and then they tied me up there with metal chains so I wouldn’t fall on the road. The settlers got back in the car and drove for several minutes towards the evacuated settlement of Homesh, with me tied to it.

When we reached an area where the settlement’s water tanks were, the settler sitting in the passenger seat let go of the metal chains, and right at that moment, the driver pressed the brakes, and I fell hard to the ground. I saw two buses of settlers there, and there were about 50 settlers of different ages, men and women.

Some of the settlers who were there ran over to me and started kicking me. One settler approached me and pepper-sprayed me in the face. It hurt and stung, and I screamed in pain. Then one of the settlers brought a piece of cloth and tied it over my eyes.

Meanwhile, other settlers started cursing me in Hebrew mixed with Arabic. I heard words in Arabic like “Your mother," “Your sister,” and “Son of a bitch.” My eyes were covered, but I heard and felt some of them spitting on my body.

I was terrified. They kicked my hands, and at some point, lifted me off the ground and hung me on a tree. My feet didn’t touch the ground.

I was left hanging like that for about five minutes, with my eyes covered. I felt them cutting and rubbing the skin of my left foot with a sharp object. I was in so much pain. I couldn’t take it. Suddenly, I felt a strong burn on my right foot, from a lighter or something similar. It lasted a few seconds. I screamed and cried in pain and fear. It wasn’t until then that they took me down from the tree. Someone hit me in the head, and then I blacked out.

When I woke up, I saw that I was lying on the floor of an Israeli military jeep. At one point, one of the soldiers threatened me and said that if there was stone-throwing in the area, they would come to my house and arrest me.

Suddenly, one of the soldiers gave me his cell phone, and someone that I didn’t know spoke with me in Arabic. He asked what my name was, where I lived, and who my family was. He threatened me that now they knew everything about me and that if anyone threw stones at the settlers, he’d come to my house and arrest me.

I stayed in the jeep until my uncle, Mraweh Abu Qias, and my older brother, Hisham, came and took me away. I saw that we were by the entrance to the settlement, and there was a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance there. They put me in the ambulance that took me to the Jenin Governmental Hospital, and my uncle and brother drove there behind the ambulance.

I was taken to the ER, where I was examined and X-rayed. They found bruises and wounds on my shoulder, back, and legs, as well as wounds and burns on my feet. I stayed there until the next afternoon, and then I was discharged.

I’m lying at home now, and my whole body still hurts. I can’t walk by myself because of the cuts and burns on my feet.

In his testimony, Tareq Zbeidi’s uncle, Mraweh Abu Qias, a bakery owner from Silat a-Daher, recounted:

On Tuesday, 17 August 2021, at around noon, while I was distributing bread to stores, my nephew Hisham who works in the bakery with me, called and told me that settlers had run over and detained his younger brother Tareq (15) in the Homesh area. I immediately returned to the bakery, which is at the southern entrance to the village, picked up Hisham, and drove to the entrance to the evacuated settlement, which is about 500 meters away from our bakery.

When I got there, I parked the car by the roadside, and Hisham and I got out. I didn’t dare enter the settlement. I saw a military jeep parked by the road inside the settlement, about 350 meters from the entrance, and I started yelling and waving my hands. I went on like this for about 15 minutes until the soldiers noticed, and the military jeep started advancing towards us. Before the jeep reached the intersection where we were standing, I saw a Red Crescent ambulance passing by chance and motioned it to stop. The ambulance stopped next to me just as the jeep arrived. Meanwhile, more people from my family started coming there in their cars. An officer got out of the jeep and asked me to keep the rest of the family away and that only my car and the ambulance would stay there. We did as he said.

I didn’t know that my nephew Tareq was inside this military jeep. I started talking to the officer about what the kids told us, that settlers had run over my nephew, assaulted him, and taken him to the site of the evacuated settlement of Homesh. The officer told me that the boy threw stones at the settlers, and then they caught him.

Meanwhile, the officer made a call on his cell phone to another man who spoke Arabic. I think it was an intelligence officer. He handed me his phone, and this man said he knew who I was and about my bakery. I felt that he had a lot of information about me. I told him what I knew about what had happened to Tareq.

At the end of the call, the man on the phone told me that because of everything he knows about me, he’d tell the officer to hand Tareq over to me. Despite that, he threatened that if it turned out that Tareq had thrown stones at settlers or soldiers, they’d come to his house and arrest him.

Then, after the phone call, I was surprised when the officer opened the back door of the jeep and I saw Tareq lying there on the floor. The officer asked me to get Tareq out of the jeep along with the paramedics. We transferred him to a Palestinian ambulance that was standing about 20 meters away. I asked the ambulance driver and the paramedic to take him to the Jenin Governmental Hospital, and Hisham and I drove there after it.