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From the field

Soldiers humiliated Palestinian detainees during IDF assault on Jericho Prison, March 2006

Fadi Abu Tabikh, member of the Palestinian security forces

Fadi Abu Tabikh

 I am a member of the Palestinian National Security at the Muqat'a [government compound] in Jericho . Yesterday [14 March], I was among thirty-one security personnel who were training in the main yard of the compound. Suddenly, I saw more than twenty Israeli army jeeps pull up and surround the compound on all sides. Right after that, tanks, bulldozers, and all kinds of military vehicles appeared. We went into one of the buildings where we usually sleep.

At some point, soldiers in one of the jeeps moving toward the compound's entrance demanded that the gate be opened. At that moment, we realized that the Israeli army had broken into the Muqat'a to arrest the general secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmad Sadaat and a few wanted persons from the al-Aqsa Brigades and the Islamic Jihad, who were imprisoned in the prison's detention rooms.

The soldiers called out to us for a while to open the gate, and then the gatekeeper ran to one of the rooms and the soldiers knocked down the gate and entered the yard. As they did, they fired live ammunition and stun grenades, apparently to frighten us. Soldiers in one of the jeeps called out to us to surrender. They said, "You would be better off surrendering'… Let's end this as quickly as possible." Our forces did not open fire in response to the soldiers' gunfire.

After that I saw an army bulldozer come from the southern part of the Muqat'a. The bulldozer ran over vehicles and uprooted trees as it proceeded forward. It reached us and began to destroy the structures and the trees alongside the Muqat'a's barbed-wire fence. The bulldozer swept the ruins into mounds to serve as obstacles around the Muqat'a. There was intense, on-and-off firing going on all the time, and missile-fire struck the main building of the prison. Communications and electricity were cut off. The sounds of the shelling frightened us. Around 11:30 A.M., the bulldozer began to smash the room we were in, so we went outside and surrendered.

One of the jeeps was parked facing the gate of the structure which we had exited, and the soldiers gave us orders through a loudspeaker. They told us to come out one at a time, with our hands raised, holding our identity cards. When we went outside, the soldiers ordered us to undress. At first, we refused, because it offended our dignity. One of our officers, Abu a-Rish, yelled at the soldiers: "This makes no sense; both we and you are soldiers." The soldier with the loudspeaker ignored him and demanded that we undress. We still refused, and soldiers began to fire over our heads and threw stun grenades toward us to frighten us. We had no option. We took off our clothes, except for our underpants.

After that, the soldiers ordered us to walk in a line. I felt terribly humiliated. All our human dignity had been taken from us. They led us naked in a line. I have no words to describe the insult. They led us from the front part of the Muqat'a to the southern yard, a distance of about 200 meters. We walked with our hands raised holding our clothes in one hand and our identity card in the other hand. Some of the jeeps drove in front of us and some drove behind us. The soldier with the loudspeaker kept us moving briskly all the way. They gathered us together in the southern yard.

Later we were joined by security officials, clerks from the Muqat'a, and civilians who had been caught in the. We were about 100 persons in all. The worst thing was that about thirty women were also brought to the yard where we were being held naked. Apparently, they worked at the Muqat'a or were visiting. Some of them had infants with them. The soldiers put them about ten meters from us, which embarrassed us greatly. We kept our backs to them, and they turned their heads so as not to see us naked. According to our customs and tradition, it was shameful to be in such a situation.

At noon, the soldiers began to call us, four at a time. When they called me [and three others], they took our ID cards, tied our hands behind us with plastic cuffs, blindfolded us, and led us to a truck. They told us to put our clothes in a plastic bag, and then they took the bags.

Around 12:30 P.M., they took us to the Israeli DCO at the entrance to Jericho . They put us in an open yard, and the soldiers who were guarding us did not let us move. Whoever wanted to go to the bathroom had to ask a number of times and wait a long time before receiving permission. We numbered more than 200 persons: security officials, detainees, and clerks. They brought the women to the same yard, but they were kept on the other side of the barbed-wire fence. The soldiers forced us to sit down, naked and blindfolded, on mattresses that were burning hot from the sun's rays.

Around three o'clock, I asked for, and received, permission to go to the bathroom. The soldiers removed my handcuffs and raised the blindfold. When I finished, the soldier cuffed my hands in front of me and ordered me to cover my eyes. When I sat down next to the others, I tried to lift the blindfold a bit so it would be above my eyes. The soldier noticed and took me to the side and asked my why I had lifted the blindfold. I told him I was tired. He slapped me twice. Anyone who lifted the blindfold or broke the rules was hit by the Israeli soldiers.

At 3:30, they started to call us to the interrogation room, one after the other. The interrogators fingerprinted and photographed us, and recorded out particulars. They took me into a room and a GSS [General Security Service] agent began to interrogate me. I was sitting there naked. He was thin, tall, had blue eyes and spoke Arabic well. He asked me general questions, my personal telephone number and education, for example, and he recorded the answers on a computer. After about fifteen minutes of questioning, an officer - he had officer's stripes on his shoulder - came in. He introduced himself as the person in charge of the action in the Muqat'a. He was tall, had a dark-brown complexion and was heavyset, and was thirty-plus years old. He also spoke Arabic well. He said: "We are sorry. This action was not aimed against the security officials." I replied: "After everything that you did, you are sorry. Everything we had is gone. The only thing I want now is to go home." He offered me some sweets. I accepted because I was hungry; I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast. He said: "You aren't afraid that it's poison?" "I am hungry," I replied, "and I want to eat. Who cares what it is." The officer left the room.

The GSS agent continued to question me. He suggested that I cooperate: "We want to be friends. What do you think about working for us? We'll give you a room in a luxury hotel, give you everything you want, and you can enter Israel whenever you want." I refused: "My father's house has one room, but I think it is worth more than a hundred hotel rooms." He finished the interrogation and apologized for what happened in the Muqat'a. He blindfolded me. My hands remained cuffed throughout the interrogation.

I was taken back to the yard. The GSS officer told me that I had to wait a bit before I would be released. Soldiers brought our clothes. They were all mixed up together. Nobody managed to find his clothes, and we took whatever we could find to cover us. I only found pants and remained without a shirt.

About thirty minutes after my interrogation ended, soldiers gathered together twenty-three of us who had already been questioned and took us by truck to the main road leading to Jericho, about 100 meters from where they were holding us. They had us get out, removed the cuffs and blindfolds, gave us back our identity cards, and let us go. We walked two kilometers to the Muqat'a. We spent the night there, but it was impossible to sleep. The Muqat'a was all in ruins, nothing was in place, and we couldn't find a place to sleep. There were lots of media people, security officials, and Palestinian civilians who had come to identify with us after the army withdrew.

I lost my cell phone, credit card, pay slip, and 100 shekels, all of which I had given to soldiers when I gave them my clothes. I didn't get them back. The same thing happened to lots of others who were with me. During my interrogation, I asked the Shabak agent for my things, and he said that they would be returned via the Palestinian liaison personnel.

Fadi Fathi Yusef Abu Tabikh, 21, single, is a member of the Palestinian security forces and a resident of Jenin. His testimony was given to Iyad Haddad, at the Palestinian Authority government .compound in Jericho, on 15 March 2006.