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From the field

IDF soldiers damage taxi of Basel Mar'i and beat other drivers, Ramin Plain, August 2006


Mar'i , taxi driver

I have worked as a taxi driver for some years now. About a year ago, I started to work for the Warud Cab Company, in Jenin. I work the Jenin-Ramallah line. I drive a 2005 Volkswagen. Like the other taxi drivers who leave Jenin, I go via dirt roads and bypass roads because of the Israeli-army checkpoints on the roads to Ramallah. In recent months, Israel has also completely forbidden residents of Jenin from going to Ramallah and to the southern West Bank .

Yesterday [Tuesday, 22 August], I left Jenin very early, as usual. I got to the entrance to the Ramin Plain, near Sebastia, around 4:00 A.M. Other drivers waiting there told me that soldiers were on the Ramin Plain and were delaying drivers they caught. I waited on the main Jenin-Nablus road. There were lots of vehicles, and we all waited for the soldiers to leave. One of the drivers was from Kfar Tammun. He told me that the soldiers had caught him on the Ramin Plain, beat him, and ordered him to turn around and go back.

A little after 5:00 A.M., other drivers told us that the jeep with soldiers had left. We drove onto the plain. Before leaving the area, I saw a Hummer jeep coming from the direction of Shevi Shomron. The jeep went onto the dirt road that we use on our way out of the plain. We were about six or seven vehicles, two of them were private passenger cars. Two soldiers got out of the jeep and then the jeep chased after a few of the cars that tried to flee. The soldiers yelled at us, in poor Arabic and in Hebrew, to turn off our engines and get out. I understand Hebrew a bit. Then the two soldiers took the passengers' identity cards and checked them. When the jeep came back, the soldiers transmitted our ID numbers by two-way radio.

After a few minutes passed, I saw the soldiers beating Iyad, one of the drivers, who is from 'Ajja. They also beat another driver, I think he was from Tammun, but I don't know him well. After than, my turn came. One of the soldiers asked me why I was driving via Ramin Plain, and if I knew it was forbidden to go that way. He said that he saw me riding along the road every day. I tried to stay calm with the soldiers so that they wouldn't beat me, especially after I saw what they had done to Iyad. I answered in Arabic and a bit in English. Even though I wasn't rude, the two soldiers who spoke to me broke the left headlight of my taxi. One used his rifle and the other picked up a rock and threw it at the headlight. Then the two soldiers went to the light in the rear and hit it. One of the soldiers continued to the mirror on the right side. He broke it with his rifle. The other soldier tried to break the mirror on the other side. Then the soldiers went to the other cars.

The soldiers checked the cars and the passengers' belongings. It took about half an hour. When they finished, one of them told me, in Arabic and in Hebrew, that he was marking down my taxi number and that he would give the number to all the jeeps. He said that if I go along this road again, he would destroy my taxi.

When the soldiers let me go, I turned around and drove away. The other drivers did the same. We waited until the jeep left, and around 6:00, we traveled again via Ramin Plain. I drove along the bypass road near Sarra. I drove by the area before the soldiers arrived at the Sarra checkpoint. I continued to Huwwara and from there to Ramallah.

Basel Salem Amin Mar'i, 32, married with one child, is a taxi driver and a resident of al-Fandaqumiya, Jenin District

The testimony was given to 'Atef Abu a-Rob in al-Fandaqumiya on 23 August 2006./>