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From the field

Wadi Batir: Border Police officers beat three Palestinians, June 2003

Ahmad Qatush, age 26, resident of Batir, Bethlehem District.

I am a construction worker and I work inside Israel. I have a work permit that is valid until June 2003. Because of the closure on Palestinian towns and the checkpoints at the entrances to Palestinian communities, we are unable to get to our jobs in Israel. Soldiers at the checkpoints delay us and then they don't let us pass. The army has blocked the side roads with piles of dirt, and Border Police officers ambush Palestinians who use these roads. They stop us, make us wait for hours, and beat us.

On Sunday, 22 June, I left for work with my cousin Yasser Qatush and his son Muhammad. It was my first day of work in Kiryat Yovel [a Jerusalem neighborhood]. I left around 5:30 A.M. and met Yasser in the al-Juran section of Batir. We walked along a dirt road full of potholes. Along the way, we met another laborer, Nader Muhammad 'Awina, and then, about two kilometers ahead, we joined a group of about twelve other men who were also walking to work.

We went down into the wadi [dry river bed] and continued on for about five hundred meters. Then five Border Police officers came out from behind a large boulder. They were dressed in dark green army uniforms. They pointed their guns at us and ordered us to stop. They took our ID cards, ordered us to turn off our cellular phones and sit on the boulders. They told us not to speak with each other. We sat there for an hour, during which the officers kept their guns pointing at us. Every time somebody moved or said something, one of the officers hit him on the back of the head with the butt of his gun.

Then one of the officers, who was black and around thirty years old, told Yasser, Nader, and me to get up. I think he chose us by chance, because we hadn't done anything. We were surprised when he told us to get up. He ordered us to stand around ten meters away from the other laborers. We went to where he told us to stand, and then another officer joined him. The second officer was around thirty-two, light-skinned, of moderate build, thin, around 1.70 meters tall, and had blond hair. The three other Border Police officers stayed near the other laborers. They surrounded them and pointed their guns at them. I heard the officers tell them not to look at us.

The two officers who were standing next to us began to hit us for no reason at all. They kicked us and hit us with their guns for about twenty minutes. I have no idea why they did that, or why they picked us. For five minutes, the blond officer hit me in the left leg with the butt of his gun. The pain was incredible, and I thought that he broke my leg. The black officer hit me with the butt of his gun.

After about twenty minutes of constant beating, the officers ordered us to rejoin the others. We sat there with them for about two-and-a-half hours. The soldiers stood there cursing and shouting at us. Then they told us to walk to the al-Walaja checkpoint to get back our ID cards.

The al-Walaja checkpoint is about eight kilometers away. All along the way, the others helped me because my leg hurt so badly. After a while, I had no strength to continue, and some of them picked me up and carried me. It took us about two hours to get to the checkpoint. We reached the checkpoint at noon. The soldiers told us to wait. Around 2:00 P.M., the soldiers returned our ID cards and work permits. Most of us had permits to work in Israel.

We left the checkpoint. I was unable to walk on my left leg. I asked one of the others, who had a cellular phone, to call a Red Crescent ambulance to take me to the government hospital in Beit Jala. I walked as far as the civilian D.C.O. in Beit Jala, which is around seven hundred meters from the checkpoint. The ambulance waited for me there and took me to the emergency room at the hospital. X-rays showed that I had a fracture and several torn muscles in my leg and a torn muscle in my back. The doctors gave me four kinds of medication for my leg and a salve for my back. I was discharged on Wednesday [25 June]. Every three days, I go back to the hospital for follow-up care. My leg still hurts a lot every time I move it. My back also hurts.

Ahmad Yihye Qader Qatush is 26 years old. He is married with two children, and works as a construction worker. He lives in Batir, Bethlehem District. The testimony was taken by Suha Zeyd at the witness's home on 28 June 2003.