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From the field

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

Yasser Qatush, victim, age 42, resident of Batir, Bethlehem District.

I live in the center of Batir village, which lies to the west of Bethlehem. I am married and have five children. My oldest child is twenty years old and is a university student. My youngest is nine years old. I am a construction worker and work in Israel.

On Sunday, 22 June, around 5:40 A.M., my cousin and son-in-law, Ahmad Yihye Qatush, came to my house to go with me to work in Kiryat Yovel [a neighborhood in Jerusalem]. Ahmad had a work permit that was valid until the end of June 2003. It was his first day of work. I don't have a work permit because the Civil Administration in Etzion denied my request. My son Muhammad joined us. He wanted to work one day so that he would have some spending money for the rest of the week while he was at the university.

The three of us walked until we got to a dirt road that joins Batir, the villages west of it and the settlements that surround it. We met Nader 'Awina on the way. He was also on his way to work. We walked about 2.5 kilometers and joined other laborers who had left for work before us. We all continued along the dirt road until we got to the edge of Wadi Batir. That area has lots of rocks and boulders, behind which there are roads leading to the settlements. There were fifteen of us. We wanted to cross the rocky section. As I was climbing over one of the boulders, I saw five Border Police officers about five meters from me.

One of the them reached out to grab me. I lost my balance and fell. My right leg hurt a lot from the fall. The officer grabbed me by the shoulders and two other officers stood me onto my feet. Then they pushed me back onto the ground and stomped on my back for two minutes. They left me on the ground and went over to the three other officers, who had kept their guns pointing at the laborers. The three officers took the workers' ID cards.

I can describe the two officers who stomped on my back. One was black, thin, and about thirty-two years old. The other one was around thirty, blond, and blue-eyed. They told me to get up and join the other workers, who were sitting among the rocks. I sat down alongside them. The five officers continued to aim their guns at us, and they didn't let us talk to each other. I still felt the pain in my back and right leg and could not move. I sat there in silence.

About an hour later, the black soldier ordered my cousin Ahmad, Nader 'Awina, and me to get up. We couldn't argue with the officer or ask him why he told us to get up. We said nothing and, one after other, went over to him. He was standing about five meters from us. He told us to follow him. We walked around fifteen meters away from the others. Another officer, who was tall, thin, light-skinned, and had blond hair, joined the officer who had taken us. The two of them started kicking and beating us with their guns. They didn't say anything to us. The black officer hit me on the back and knees with the butt of his gun for about three minutes. Then he went over to Nader and hit him for about four minutes, until Nader fell to the floor. Then he went over to the other officer, who was beating my cousin. The two of them beat my cousin for about fifteen minutes. Then the black officer came back to me. He hit me on the back with the butt of his gun and kicked me around the knees. This all lasted for around twenty-five minutes. The three of us ended up lying on the ground.

The two officers then ordered us to get up and sit next to the other workers. We got up and sat down next to them. Ahmad sat next to me. He complained about pains in his leg and told me that he thought his leg was broken. When the officers saw us talking, they told us to keep quiet, and threatened that if we didn't, they would beat us again. They swore at us and didn't let us move or talk with each other. We sat there for more than two hours. The soldiers surrounded us and kept their guns pointing at us.

After the two hours passed, the soldiers ordered us to walk to the army checkpoint at al-Walaja to get our ID cards back. We walked the 8.5 kilometers to the checkpoint. It was noon. The soldiers at the checkpoint made us wait two hours in the heat. I was very tired and thirsty. When the soldier gave me back my ID card, I wanted to leave quickly, but I had to wait until the soldiers gave Muhammad back his card. The cards were torn when we got them back. We took the ID cards and walked to the D.C.O. in Beit Jala. I asked a driver of a passing car to take me to the hospital in Beit Jala. He took me. I was treated at the hospital and was discharged later in the day.

Yasser Mahmud Qa'id Qatush, age 42, is married with five children. He works as a construction worker and lives in Batir, Bethlehem District. The testimony was taken by Suha Zeyd at the witness's home on 3 July 2003.