Mahmud Ahmad, Palestinian National Security police officer
I am married and have two children, one twelve and the other ten... Because of the siege and closure and the difficulties in getting to and from Ramallah, I was assigned to a closer location, the Beit Rima checkpoint, which is located on the border between Areas A and B. I earn NIS 1,200 a month, from which I support my family...
We usually have seven or eight policemen at the checkpoint, and we divide into shifts. The procedure is that two of us remain on guard, and the others sleep, and that is the way we divide up the day's work. Our job is to oversee entry and exit from the village. The officer in charge of the checkpoint is Haris, from Burqa village, Nablus District, and he generally gives us the orders. He is the only one of us who has a radio transmitter, through which he receives the orders from our command headquarters, in 'Ein village, and reports to them about events at the checkpoint. We were ordered not to sleep in the caravan at the site, but to spread out and sleep in the nearby olive groves. The reason is that sometimes the Israelis fire at the checkpoint after Palestinians fire at Israeli vehicles driving along the bypass road.
On Tuesday [23 October], I finished my vacation and returned to the checkpoint. I arrived at 4:00 P.M. That was not my time to be on guard, so I sat with the others and talked until 10:00 P.M. It was very quiet in the area, no firing or shelling. They didn't inform us about any special preparations being made by the Israelis. Many of the village residents were picking olives in the nearby groves. At 10:00 P.M. we divided up into shifts. There were eight policemen at the checkpoint... I was to begin my shift at 6:00 A.M. and would be working alone. During the day, one guard is enough because Haris, the commander, generally remains awake during the day and helps whoever is standing guard at the checkpoint.
Sinan and Shadi went to the checkpoint, and we spread out in the olive groves. Each of us found a place and went to sleep. We were about fifteen meters from each other. Haris stayed awake. Suddenly I felt Kamel push me with his hand. He was in a panic, and called out to me, "Abu 'Odey, Abu 'Odey, get up, the army, the army." I hadn't heard any gunfire. Startled, I got up and went to Sinan to wake him. Then I heard shooting. I looked and saw that Kamel had been hit and had fallen to the ground. I took my shoes, which were near the bed, and my weapon and rushed to the path between the neighboring houses and the olive grove where we slept. I hid behind the wall that separated the grove and the path. I started to tie my shoes. The gunfire increased. It seemed to me that that the Israeli army had come through the olive grove from 'Abud village, and not from the main road from the Israeli army checkpoint near Halamish settlement.
While I was tying my shoes, Haris ordered me to help him carry a wounded person to the nearby house. I ran towards him and we carried Ashraf Shawaneh into the house of a person named Yusef. The house was on the main road about thirty meters from the checkpoint. 'Abd al-Mu'ati was with us. It was around 2:10 A.M. when we got to the house. We did not know what happened to the other policemen who were sleeping in the olive grove. I also did not know what happened to Kamel, who had woken me up and had been hit and had fallen near where Sinan had been sleeping. Haris reported to headquarters by radio transmitter. He told them about the person who had been wounded and taken to the house, and he asked them to summon an ambulance. It was then that we heard the sound of heavy equipment approaching the checkpoint. They came along the main road from the direction of Halamish and entered the village.
Under curfew. I looked out the window of the house we were in and saw around thirty to forty vehicles, including armored personnel carriers and other armored vehicles, approaching. Because we were armed and in uniform, we decided to flee and leave the wounded man in the house. We had already notified headquarters and we assumed they would summon an ambulance. Haris, al-Mu'ati, and I jumped out the rear window of the house. We started to walk quickly through the olive groves toward the ravine. We wanted to get to Beit Rima from the rear of the village. Each of us had our weapons and we were about five meters from each other as we walked. Haris and al-Mu'ati were on the right, and I walked on the left. The firing increased in intensity, and it came from all directions, at the entrance to Beit Rima and at the center of the village.
We walked some five to six hundred meters. I was very scared, but Haris encouraged us and he told me not to be afraid. Then I heard the sound of a helicopter circling above. I didn't dare look up, and neither did Haris or al-Mu'ati. Haris told us to walk at a regular pace so that they wouldn't pay any attention to us. It was dark and the helicopter didn't light up the area. Suddenly the helicopter opened heavy fire at us. We were the only people in the olive grove. I felt that I had been struck in the left leg and fell to the ground. I saw that Haris and al-Mu'ati also fell down. The three of us were apparently hit at the same time. I did not lose consciousness, but I felt intense pain in my leg. The helicopter continued to fire at us. Haris and al-Mu'ati fell around twenty meters from me, with al-Mu'ati being a bit closer to me. Despite the pain, I didn't make any sounds because I wanted the soldiers in the helicopter to think that we were dead. That way, they would stop shooting at us. The helicopter gunfire lasted around twenty minutes, and then the helicopter left. But we continued to hear the sound of gunfire, and its intensity even increased.
Haris called out my name, and I told him that I was all right. He also called to al-Mu'ati, and he, too, said he was all right. Those were the only words that we spoke among us. I think it was already after 3:00 A.M. I felt that I couldn't get up, and Haris and al-Mu'ati also remained lying on the ground. I took advantage of the break and threw my weapon to the side. I think that I lost consciousness, because I only awoke to the muezzins' call to morning prayers from the mosques in the nearby villages.
When I awoke, I heard al-Mu'ati gasping loudly, and I felt that he was dying. I heard Haris report via the radio transmitter that we were about to die. Then both he and the radio transmitter were silent. I didn't make a peep because I played dead, out of fear that the helicopters would fire at us again. I still heard the sound of helicopters but did not see them.
I felt dizzy, and I could no longer feel the leg that had been injured. Then I apparently lost consciousness. When I came to, it was already daylight, and the sun was shining. I looked at my watch and I saw that it was exactly 7:00 A.M. I noticed that the helicopter was still circling above us, and so I didn't move. In fact, I even closed my eyes. All sorts of thoughts passed through my head, and I was sure that I was going to die. I started to think about my children and what would happen to them, and how they would manage without me. I didn't hear Haris or 'Abd Al-Mu'ati at all, and I didn't dare lift my head to check if they were still lying there or if they had left.
At around 7:10 A.M., I felt people were walking toward us, and then I heard someone calling me in Arabic. I lifted my head and noticed about eight soldiers approaching me. They were no more than ten meters away. One of them told me to get up and put my hands up. I did not dare refuse and made an effort to stand up, despite the fact that I had no sensation in my left leg. I stood up and put my hands up. He also called Haris and 'Abd al-Mu'ati, but they did not move, and I knew that they were no longer alive.
One of the soldiers approached me and searched me. He asked about my weapon. I told him I didn't have one. He took my identity card. Two other soldiers approached Haris and 'Abd al-Mu'ati's corpses. They walked slowly, with their guns aimed at the corpses. When they reached the bodies, they kicked them to check if they were alive or not. But they were already dead and there was no movement. I started to cry and I called out their names, but they didn't answer. The soldier who was next to me asked me for my dead friends' names and I told them to him. The soldiers took Haris's and 'Abd al-Mu'ati's guns, Haris's radio transmitter, and my mobile phone.
Some of the soldiers walked toward the armored vehicle, which was about one hundred meters from us. Three of the soldiers went and the rest stayed near us. They asked me to take off my coat and throw it aside, and I did as they asked. The three soldiers who had walked away came back with two other soldiers and two stretchers. They moved my friends' corpses. They tied my hands behind my back and told me to walk toward the armored vehicle. I limped the whole way because I was in so much pain.
One of the soldiers asked about the blood on my leg. He wanted to know how I was injured. I told him that I was injured by the helicopter. We arrived at the armored vehicle and they put the bodies of my two friends on the roof of the car. I think it was already after 7:30 A.M. They blindfolded me with a handkerchief, and put me, tied up, into the back of the armored vehicle. We started driving and I did not know where I was being taken. I think we drove for about half an hour. They took me out of the car in a place which turned out to be the settlement Halamish. I remained lying on my stomach for some hours with my hands tied and my eyes covered.
After a few hours, someone arrived. He said that he was a military doctor and was going to treat me. I estimate that it was around 1:00 P.M. I felt the doctor cutting my pants and cleaning my wound. I was blindfolded and my hands were tied the whole time. The doctor told me that I had been hit by two bullets. I felt him stitch the wound. He treated me for about twenty minutes, and then left me. I was still tied and blindfolded.
My hands were tied and the most difficult thing was being unable to shoo away the flies that were attracted to the wound. The flies reached the wound because my pants had been cut. I experienced a few difficult hours. I felt the flies eating my leg. Every time I moved to try and get away from the flies, a soldier would come and kick me from behind so that I wouldn't move. I told him I was trying to get rid of the flies, but he shouted at me not to move and not to talk.
I stayed that way until about 4:00 P.M. Then they put me into a Red Crescent ambulance that had been waiting at the entrance to Halamish. During all that time, no one spoke with me or interrogated me. The Palestinian ambulance term gave me preliminary treatment and an IV. They took me to the government hospital in Ramallah, where I stayed for three days. I was released on Saturday. I feel that my medical condition is improving. The bullets did not hit the bone, so my leg was not fractured.
Mahmud Yusef Suleiman 'Ali Ahmad is 42 year-old, married and a father of two. He lives in Kafr a-Dik, Salfit District, and workds as a police officer for the Palestinian National Security. At the time of the incident he was stationed at the checkpoint at the entrance to Beit Rima.The testimony was taken by Raslan Mahagna on 29 October, 2001.