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From the field

Huwwara Checkpoint: IDF soldiers beat Ahmad 'Uda, May 2003

Ahmad 'Uda, age 18, resident of Huwwara, Nablus district, the West Bank.

I live in Huwwara, about seven kilometers south of Nablus. We are a family of twelve. Our house has three bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. I'm the only breadwinner in the family. My father stopped working when the Intifada broke out. He used to work in construction and farming inside Israel. I work as a car mechanic in a garage in Huwwara.

On Thursday, 16 May, 2003, I decided to go to Nablus to buy car parts. I left Huwwara at around 8:00 A.M. When I got to the Huwwara checkpoint, which separates Huwwara from Nablus, I saw a lot of people waiting. There was one line for women and one for men. I stood and waited in line. The soldiers were standing about 15 meters away from where the queues began, near the concrete blocks. When someone's turn came up, they would have to wait until the soldier motioned him to come over. The soldier would then check the ID and whatever bags and things the people were carrying. Sometimes the soldier would point to the next person in line, and sometimes he would call him over the megaphone. If the soldier knew some Arabic, he would call the next person in line in Arabic.

When it was my turn, the soldier motioned me to come over to him. I went over, holding my ID in my hand. The soldier took it, looked at it and then looked at me. He noticed that I was wearing a pendant with my cousin's picture on it. My cousin, Baher Shafiq 'Uda, was killed two years ago by Israeli soldiers in Huwwara. The soldier asked me whose picture it was and I said it was my cousin, Baher. The soldier asked me: "Why are you wearing it?" I said: "Because he was my cousin and I loved him very much." The soldier said: "This is a picture of a Hamas activist." I said: "I'm not a member of Hamas and this is my cousin's picture."

The soldier was about two meters tall. He was black. He wore a helmet, a bulletproof vest and brown boots. He looked at me, gave me back the ID and told me to stand aside. He didn't let me through and didn't tell me to go back. He just told me to wait about two meters away from him.

Then, he let through the people who had been behind me in line. About fifteen minutes later he came back to me and told me to go back to Huwwara. He told me: "You're not allowed to go through. You can't pass through here." I said: "I waited in line for an hour and a half until my turn came. I have to go to Nablus to get car parts." The soldier came up to me and slapped me on the right side of the face. He caught me by surprise. When the soldier stretched his hand out to slap me again, I grabbed it and tried to prevent him from hitting me.

He called out to two other soldiers who were hanging around the checkpoint area. They came immediately and the three of them started beating me, hitting me with the butts of their guns and kicking me. The two soldiers who joined in were wearing skullcaps and had long peyot [sidelocks]. They beat me for about fifteen minutes. I tried to protect myself. I put my hands over my head and tried to dodge the blows, but they beat me until I fell to the ground.

Some people who were nearby started walking over to me to save me from the soldiers. There was a commotion. The soldiers shot tear gas and percussion grenades to disperse the crowd. A white jeep got there. I think it was a Civil Administration jeep. It stopped and the people who were in it spoke to the soldiers. In the meantime, I managed to get up and walk toward the people who had gathered around about fifty meters from the checkpoint, on the Huwwara side.

I went back home. I was very weak from the beatings. My right hand was swollen and my left hand was injured. I had bruises all over my body. My hand kept swelling, and about an hour after I got home I went to a doctor in a nearby village, 'Einabus. The doctor treated my hand and bandaged it. He told me to massage it for a week until it got better. I didn't go to the hospital because I was afraid the soldiers at the checkpoint would beat me again. I couldn't work for a week.

Ahmad Khamis Khader 'Uda, age 18, is not married. He works as a car mechanic and is a resident of Huwwara, Nablus district, the West Bank. The testimony was taken by 'Ali Daraghmeh at the witness' home on 24 June, 2003.