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From the field

IDF soldiers beat six Palestinians at Sarra Checkpoint, December 2003

'Ala 'Adwan, one of the victims, age 21, resident of 'Azun, Qalqiliya District.

I live in 'Azun and study physical education at a-Najah University, in Nablus. I have classes in Nablus five days a week. Every time that I get to a checkpoint, the soldiers check my ID card before letting me pass. When the Sarra checkpoint is closed and the soldiers won't let people cross, I go around it and walk over the hills and through the olive orchards.

Last Tuesday [30 December], I was in a taxi with Muhammad Hassan, a student who lives in 'Azun, on our way to the Sarra checkpoint. I had two exams scheduled for that day, and he had one. At the Immatin checkpoint, which is on the way to Sarra, the soldiers checked us and let us pass. We reached the Sarra checkpoint at around 6:30 A.M. The soldiers said that the checkpoint was closed and that we had to go home. We went back to the gate and the concrete blocks on the road, a few hundred meters from the checkpoint, in the direction of Jit. There we met a student from Jit named Ashraf. The three of us decided to go through the hills and bypass the checkpoint, because we had to get to our exams.

As we were walking, we encountered two soldiers who were hiding in ambush under one of the trees. With their rifles aimed at us, they started to beat and kick us. They took our ID cards and ordered us to sit on the ground and raise our hands. They kicked us in the chest and asked, "Are you in the Hamas? Are you in the Jihad?" They pressed their rifle barrels against our heads. I tired to push away the rifle, and the soldier shouted at me, "Don't touch the weapon." That soldier had short, black hair, was tall, and spoke a little Arabic. The other soldier was blond and rather short. They continued to beat us, and kept saying that we were Hamas or Jihad members. I told them to check our ID cards.

They beat us for around half an hour. Then they stood us alongside an olive tree. They took my cellular phone and Ashraf's, sat the three of us around the tree and tied our hands to each other. They put the handcuffs between the branches in such a way that our hands were always in the air. It was a young tree, and its branches were pretty close to the ground. The soldiers kicked us a few times and then returned to their ambush position.

A few minutes later, I heard shouts and realized that the soldiers had caught some more people and were probably beating them. I heard two shots. I thought that the soldiers had shot one of them, which scared me to death. About thirty minutes later, the soldiers brought them over to us. There were three young Palestinian men, and they were crying out in pain. One of them was bleeding above his eye, by the eyebrow. The soldiers ordered them to remove our handcuffs. The blond soldier took out a colorful kippa [skullcap] from his pocket and gave one of the young men the clip that was on the kippa for him to use to open the cuffs. The men were not able to remove the cuffs, and the soldiers kicked them in the back, and told them that they had one minute to remove the cuffs. They weren't able to get the cuffs off, and actually just made them tighter.

The soldiers took the three of them and ordered them to sit on the ground. I saw the blond soldier step on their backs. He was wearing thermal pants, with the number 46 on it. Then the soldiers left and went back to their ambush position.

The soldiers came back about fifteen minutes later, gave the other three their ID cards and told them to leave. The soldiers told us to come to the checkpoint at 10:30 to pick up our things, even if somebody comes by and removes the cuffs before then. The blond soldier kicked each of us in the chest one more time, and then the soldiers left.

Around 9:00, a few minutes after the soldier left, an elderly man passed and tried to free us. He didn't succeed, and he continued on his way. Then a young man from Kafr Thulth passed by, and he too tried to remove the cuffs. He also failed, and said that he would go get a knife from Sarra. We told him to tell somebody about our situation. He left and did not come back. We decided to take matters into our own hands. We took stones and rubbed them against the plastic handcuffs, and managed to cut them. We discussed among ourselves whether we should go to the checkpoint, because it was not yet 10:30. I thought we shouldn't wait, and that we could go right away. We decided to go to the checkpoint, which was a few hundred meters from where we were. When we got there, it was around 10:00. The blond soldier asked us how we had freed ourselves. I told him that we cut the cuffs with stones. They gave us back our ID cards and cellular phones and told us to go home.

'Ala 'Adwan, age 21,is single and a student,. He is a resident of 'Azun, Qalqiliya District. The testimony was taken by Najib Abu Rokaya on 1 January 2003.