The Salah family from Kobar grow olive trees on ten dunams of land [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters]. On Tuesday, 7 April 2020, Ahmad Salah (64) and his two sons, ‘Abd al-Fatah (32) and Mahmoud (29), set out to plow a plot that stretches about four kilometers, west of Kobar. About a half-hour after they arrived, three settlers assaulted them. The victims will never forget what happened next.
One settler was armed with a rifle, another with a gun and the third with a knife or pocketknife. They aimed their weapons at the family. One settler slapped Ahmad and ordered him to leave. After the father moved away, they pushed ‘Abd al-Fatah to the ground and tied his hands with a rope. They took the two brothers’ mobile phones and led them away at gunpoint, one of them holding the rope tied to ‘Abd al-Fatah’s hands. Ahmad Salah returned home and informed the Palestinian DCO his two sons had been abducted.
The settlers led the two brothers about a kilometer on foot, through stony fields filled with thorns and across fences, constantly beating and swearing at them. The torturous journey came to an end about 500 meters from the settlement of Halamish, where a military patrol vehicle, five soldiers and a settlement security vehicle were standing.
The abductors told the soldiers that the Salah brothers had been planning to steal cows from them. Upon hearing this, the soldiers removed the rope from ‘Abd al-Fatah’s hands, handcuffed the two brothers with zip ties and put them in the settlement security vehicle. The settlement chief of security, accompanied by a military escort, drove to a military base opposite the village of Deir Nidham. During the ride, he swore at the brothers. Upon arrival at the base, soldiers seated them and placed a soldier to guard them. They were released after several hours and given their phones back.
Outside the military base, the brothers met a Palestinian contractor who drove them to the nearby ‘Atara checkpoint, where they were taken home by their brother Muhammad. They were greeted by family members and village residents, who had been worried about them since their father reported the incident. The injured brothers were taken to the Palestine Medical Center in Ramallah, where their bruises were examined. They were given painkillers and released. ‘Abd al-Fatah was examined a few days later by an ENT doctor for pain in his ear. He was diagnosed with a perforated eardrum, apparently as a result of a severe blow to his ear.
In a testimony he gave on 14 April 2020 to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, ‘Abd al-Fatah Salah described what happened that day:
“I took advantage of the fact that I wasn’t working during the lockdown, because of the coronavirus, and went with my father and brother to weed and plow our land. It was a pleasant day and good for work. When we arrived, we were glad to see that no settlers were around, such as the settler who lives in an outpost five kilometers away and often releases his cows to roam in our groves.
We started working, and suddenly three armed settlers appeared from between the trees. They approached us in a threatening way, and we were terrified. One of them immediately slapped my father and told him to leave. The tall one pushed me to the ground, laid me down and tied my hands in the front with a long rope. He kicked me in the thigh and hurt me very much.
They forced me to walk in front of them. The tall settler held the end of the rope that was tied to my hands, like you would lead cattle. He kept leading me and didn’t care if I stumbled or fell. The whole way, he beat me, kicked me, cursed and screamed at me. It seemed like he was enjoying it. Another settler led my brother Mahmoud, who was untied because they didn’t have any more rope. I heard him swear at him and beat him as well.
Every time we asked where they were taking us and what they wanted, they just yelled: “Silence! silence!” and then beat us more. They swore and screamed at us in Hebrew. We didn’t understand anything. The last blow I got was a very hard slap in the right ear from the tall settler. The impact was so strong that I felt dizzy, heard ringing in my ears, and saw sparks. I went mad. I wanted to react but he threatened me at gunpoint and told me to obey and keep walking.
They didn’t identify themselves or present any ID cards, and we felt that it was a kidnapping. We didn’t know where they were taking us and we were terrified, especially since they pounced on us while we were working in the grove and we’d had no previous confrontation with them. They took photos and videos of us the whole way. They took away our mobile phones so we couldn’t call anyone.
In a testimony his brother Mahmoud gave to B’Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad, he recounted:
About a kilometer from Halamish, a settlement security vehicle and a military patrol jeep was waiting for the settlers. They handed us over to them and told the soldiers about the “proof” they had of the cattle theft. Afterwards, we were taken in the settlement security vehicle to an army base. They sat us on a bench near a soldiers’ container. None of the soldiers spoke with us or asked us anything. After five hours of detention, an officer arrived, gave us back our mobile phones and told us to leave.