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From the field

Bethlehem: IDF soliders beat two journalists, May 2003

Sh'aban Qandil, victim, age 22, TV cameraman.

I am a cameraman for ANN, an Arab TV station that has been on the air for about one year. I usually work along with my colleague Joseph Chandel, who films for French television's Channel 2. We document the events in our area. We have press cards from the Palestinian Ministry of Communications. These cards allow us to move about in the field, particularly when events are taking place, such as incursions into Palestinian cities and exchanges of fire, and also when a curfew is imposed. However, in most cases, the army does not recognize our cards passes and expels us from the area or delays us for a few hours. Sometimes, soldiers break our video cameras and accessories.

Yesterday [19 May], around 10:00 P.M., some journalists called Joseph and me to tell us that Israeli soldiers were shelling a vacant building in the 'Ush al-Ghurab army base, which is near Beit Sahur. They also told us a large contingent of Israeli soldiers was in Beit Sahur because they suspected that Palestinians had fired at the army camp.

Around 11:00 P.M., Joseph left his home, which is located at the intersection near the Education and Culture Ministry, about four hundred meters from my house. He picked me up in his car, a white BMW, and drove toward Beit Sahur. We reached Istiah Street and were about five hundred meters from the 'Ush al-Ghurab army base. We saw four army jeeps. The soldiers in the jeeps were firing at a vacant building. I do not know who owns the building. We also saw several journalists, cars belonging to the local TV stations, and cameramen from Arab and foreign news agencies. We spread out along Istiah Street and YMCA Street, planning to watch the events unfold.

The soldiers did not let us stay there, and they threatened to fire at us if we didn't leave the area. So we had to go. Joseph and I went back to Bethlehem. He invited some other journalists and me to his house for coffee and to keep up to date on the events by telephone. We sat in his home and monitored the events. We did not get precise reports because no journalist or cameraman managed to get close to the site. The only thing we knew was that there had been Palestinian gunfire at the army base, and, in response, the army had deployed along several streets and neighborhoods in Beit Sahur and was firing at vacant buildings.

Joseph and I left his house about 1:00 A.M. We drove to my house to get some camera equipment. We drove around two hundred meters, until we got to the Education and Culture Ministry intersection, where two army jeeps approached us from al-Mahad Street. They blocked our way. Six soldiers in light green uniforms got out and came over to us and opened the door on the driver's side. Joseph wanted to show the soldiers his press card and spoke to them in English. The soldiers did not let him talk or show them the card. They removed him from the car and began to beat him.

I took out my phone to call to someone for help, but I couldn't think of anybody in particular who could be of assistance. I didn't know what to do. The soldiers were beating Joseph with their weapons. Before I managed to call anybody, two soldiers came over to me. One of them pulled me by my shirt. I was really frightened, and I picked up my right hand to cover my face. The other soldier gave me a hard blow to my right elbow with his weapon. I cried out in pain. It felt as if it were broken. The two soldiers pulled me out of the car and onto the ground. For about five minutes, they kicked me and stomped on me, causing me incredible pain. While this was going on, I heard Joseph crying out on the other side of the car, and saw two other soldiers searching the car. They took out the camera equipment. When they finished the search, the soldiers beat me for another ten minutes or so. Then they got into the jeeps and left.

Joseph and I remained there on the ground. We were still crying out in pain. I got up slowly because my hands hurt so bad. I took out my phone and called a colleague, Na'il a-Shyukhi. I told him what happened and where we were. Then I called out to Joseph to check how he was. When he did not respond, I was worried and went over to him. He was lying on the ground around twenty meters from me. He was unconscious. Na'il, along with my brother Ahmad, arrived about five minutes later. They put Joseph and me into the car and rushed us to the Beit Jala government hospital.

At the emergency room, the doctors examined us and we were X-rayed. Because the hospital lacked sufficient medical equipment, we were transferred to al-Yemama, a private hospital. We were examined, X-rayed, and treated. The tests showed that I had suffered a fracture to my hand, which was also badly bruised. They put a cast on it. I was discharged about 2:00 A.M.

Sh'aban 'Abdallah Sh'aban Qandil is 22 years old. He is single and woks as a TV cameraman. Sh'aban is a resident of al-'Aza refugee camp, Bethlehem District.

The testimony was taken by Suha Zeyd at Qandil's home on 20 May 2003./>