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From the field

Hebron: IDF soldiers beat and abuse Palestinians in barbershop, December 2002

Bassem Maswadeh, owner of al-Wafaa barbershop

I live with my family in the Jabel Johar area in Area H2 in Hebron. I've been working as a barber for five years and I own the al-Wafaa barbershop. The shop is located at the end of Jabel Johar street, about 500 meters south of the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Wa'il Abu Rumeileh, 18, works with me at the barbershop. The area has been under curfew since Friday, 15 November 2002, the day of the military action against the Israeli army [when armed Palestinians killed twelve Israelis - nine soldiers and three civilians]. People are able to walk around and storeowners can open their shops, but when the soldiers or border police are around, everybody closes up.

On the 28th day of Ramadan [3 December], in the evening, I was in the barbershop with my employee Wa'il and another three customers who had come to get their hair cut. At around 6:15 P.M, I heard people on the street calling "Army, army." I immediately went outside to see what was going on. I could see three soldiers. They were only three meters away from the barbershop. Wa'il and I went inside and closed the iron door. Within seconds, we heard loud banging and shouting outside the barbershop. I figured it was the soldiers. They kept banging for about twenty minutes. I also heard the voice of my neighbor, Bilal Abu Queidar and another man, Nawaf al-'Ajaluni. They both asked us to open the door. They told us not to be afraid. The three customers hid behind the closet, which separates the shop from the bathroom. I opened the door.

A short, light-skinned, stocky soldier came inside. He started dancing. Three more soldiers came in after him. When the four soldiers were inside, the three customers came out from behind the closet. The soldiers ordered us to take off our jackets and stand in the corner of the barbershop. They searched us, and punched us in the stomach in the process. Then they told us to sit on the couch. The two soldiers who were inside kicked us when we sat on the couch. The short soldier asked who owned the barbershop. I told him it was me.

Two soldiers told one of the customers, Shaher Sharif al-'Ajaluni to go outside and stand by the door. They left with him. One of them hit Shaher, spread his legs and searched him thoroughly. I heard him scream.

One of the soldiers who stayed inside told me to sit on the chair and didn't say why. When I sat down, he took the number five electric razor. I figured he was going to cut my hair. That machine cuts all of it off. I was hoping it wouldn't work. When the soldier put the machine on my hair, I grabbed his hand and asked him what he was doing. He slapped me and told me in Arabic, to shut up. The soldier put the machine to my hair forcefully. It hurt. He cut my hair in random lines, so it looked funny. I asked him to switch machines and suggested I carry on with the haircut, but he ignored me.

While the soldier was cutting my hair, the soldiers took another customer, Bilal a-Rajbi, outside. They searched him and beat him as well. He also screamed.

The soldier called to Wa'il and ordered him to sit in the chair. The soldier started cutting Wa'il's hair the same way he cut mine and I heard him groan in pain. When Wa'il asked the soldier to be gentle, the soldier slapped him on the face. Then, the soldier told me to go outside. When I went out, I saw Bilal and Shaher standing near the door. The three soldiers who were out on the street were beating them. Shaher was crying. The soldiers had Bilal, Shaher, and me stand in the middle of the street, about a meter away from one another, as stones were being thrown at the soldiers from the houses across from and to the barbershop. The soldiers stood behind us, put their guns on our shoulders and shot upwards. The loud noise of shooting hurt my ears. The shooting lasted for more than half an hour. We were at the lower part of the street. At some point, it seemed like one of the stones was going to hit Shaher. He moved, and the soldier kicked him hard.

While I was outside, the "barber" soldier came out with scissors in his hand. He came up to Bilal and cut some of his hair. He held the hair close to Bilal's mouth and told him to open his mouth. Bilal refused and the soldier put the hair on his mouth.

A few minutes later, two elderly women came from the direction of the mosque, which was opposite the direction in which the soldiers were shooting. Bilal and I asked them to go into the barbershop to help the guy inside. While we were out in the street, we could hear Wa'il Abu Rumeileh screaming, and I thought the soldier inside was beating him.

At the same time, a TIPH car arrived, and the soldier closed the barbershop door. Wa'il and Muhammad Jibril a-Rajbi, another customer, were inside. The four soldiers gathered outside the barbershop. When one of the TIPH members got out of the car, one of the soldiers came approached him and scolded him: "What are you, crazy? You're going out when stones are being thrown in the street?" The TIPH man was standing near the car door. Then I saw the soldiers running down the street. They still had our IDs.

When the soldiers left the barbershop, a large crowd gathered. They took Wa'il to a nearby home and tried to treat him. I closed the door and then the three customers, Wa'il and I went to the Muhammad 'Ali al-Muhtasseb hospital where Wa'il received medical care. His nose was bleeding. Wa'il told me the soldier hit him with a metal bucket on the nose when he was cutting his hair. After the treatment we were discharged. Wa'il and I went to a barber, Khamis al-'Ajaluni, a friend of mine, whose barbershop is about a hundred meters from my shop. He redid out haircut. After that, I walked Wa'il home. I got home at about 9:00 P.M.

The next day, Wa'il called me and told me that someone had found our IDs lying on the road near Kiryat Arba when he was on his way to prayer. He brought them to Wa'il.

The commander was tall and thin, dark-skinned, and had a mustache. One of the other soldiers was short, of moderate build, and wore glasses. They all seemed to be about twenty years old and wore uniforms and helmets.

Bassem Yasser Khalf Maswadeh, is 24 yaers old. He is married with one child and works as a barber. The testimony was taken by Musa Abu Hashhash at the al-Wafaa barbershop, on 25 December 2002.