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From the field

IDF soldiers take brothers from their home and beat them for hours, October 2006

NadelAshtiyeh, greengrocer

Nadel Ashtiyeh

I am thirty years old and live in Salem . I sell vegetables in the village.

Two days ago [Sunday, 8 October], at around 3:00 A.M., I was awakened by pounding on the door. When I opened the door, an Israel soldier was standing there with his rifle aimed at me. He told me, in Hebrew, "Everyone in the house must get out immediately." I answered, in Hebrew, "All right." The whole family was at home: my mother, my six brothers and sisters, and the family of one of my brothers. I told them to go outside. We all went outside, where about ten soldiers were standing. They aimed their rifles at us.

One of the soldiers ordered the women to sit by the door of the house, and demanded that my young brothers and I give them our ID cards. The soldier checked the cards and said something via walkie-talkie. After that, the soldiers searched the house. When they finished, one of them ordered us to hand over all the cell phones we had. We gave them six phones - my mother's, mine, and those of my four brothers.

About an hour after the soldiers made us leave the house, one of them tied my brother Ahmad's hands, blindfolded him, and put him into a jeep. Then they did the same thing to me and Nidal, another brother of mine. They put Nidal and me into another jeep, not the one they had put Ahmad in. We sat on the floor and the soldiers sat around us. During the journey, the soldiers kicked us and hit us with their rifle barrels. The jeep drove for about fifteen minutes and stopped. A soldier called out, "Up!", and a dog jumped into the jeep and began to smell us and walk on us. When the dog got out, the soldier told it to get back in. The dog got in and out of the jeep about five times. After that, the soldiers had us get out of the jeep. One of them sat me down on the ground. Then the soldiers slapped and kicked me. I heard them slapping Nidal and saying, "You are Hamas, you are Jihad," laughing as they spoke. They said similar things to me. Based on the time the journey took and the direction we drove, and because I know they take detainees there, I think we were at the army base in Huwarra.

After an hour or so passed, one of the soldiers took me to a narrow corridor and searched me. He took off the plastic handcuffs and replaced them with metal ones. Then he took me to a room and removed the blindfold. It was a small room. An officer asked me about my brother Amhad and about his friends, who calls him and where he goes. He asked me about my work and my situation. I answered him. After about ten minutes passed, another soldier blindfolded me, took me from the room, and sat me down on the ground. The soldiers continued to slap and beat me.

About fifteen minutes later, soldiers took me to an army vehicle. One of them changed my handcuffs, from metal to plastic. My hands were bound behind me. Inside the vehicle, I felt somebody next to me. I asked quietly, "Nidal?" He replied, "Yes." The vehicle started to move. I think many soldiers, maybe seven, were in the vehicle with us. This time, they beat us harder than before. One of the soldiers kicked me, another hit me with his rifle butt, and another punched me. They were talking and laughing as they did this. The jeep drove for a long time, and I couldn't determine which direction we were going.

When the jeep stopped, I heard one soldier tell another, in Hebrew, to detain us for four or five hours. The second soldier replied that he wouldn't do that without a formal letter from an officer. The jeep continued to drive for another fifteen minutes or so and then stopped. I heard a soldier say, "Hold them for eight hours and take care of them." One of the soldiers took us out of the jeep and led us somewhere. I heard a door close and the sound of soldiers walking away. My blindfold was on tight. I asked Nidal to remove it. I sat there on my knees so that Nidal could reach my blindfold. He managed to lower it, even though his hands were cuffed. I managed to raise his blindfold so it went around his forehead.

We saw that we were inside a room made of concrete that was 1.5 meter square. The ceiling and the door were made of tin, and there was a window with a glass pane. I saw women and men passing by outside, and realized we were at the Huwarra checkpoint. The floor was filthy, with empty packs of cigarettes and bottles of juice and spilt coffee. We couldn't sit down. After about fifteen minutes passed, the door opened and a tall soldier, about 1.9 meters tall, entered along with another soldier. The tall soldier had broad shoulders, a black beard, and a dark-brown complexion. The moment they entered, they blindfolded us again, this time even tighter. Then they beat and kicked us all over our bodies. They also hit us with their rifle butts. They beat us for about four minutes and then left and closed the door.

After being in the room for about an hour, a policeman in a blue (regular police) uniform came in and said, in Hebrew, "What happened to you?" We told him what happened. Nidal asked if he could go to the bathroom, and the policeman let him. When the policeman left, Nidal told me that he couldn't urinate because the bathroom was so filthy. I told the policeman that the cuffs hurt me a lot. He looked at them and said they were all right. He spoke in Hebrew. Then he left.

When he left, Nidal and I again removed the blindfolds. A few minutes later, the tall soldier came back, this time with two soldiers. He fixed the blindfolds around our eyes and the three of them beat us brutally. We cried out in pain, and begged them to leave us be. We were in great pain. When they left, they closed the door. We called to people who were outside, so they would know that we were inside and would notify somebody to help us get released, but they didn't hear us. We were afraid to speak too loudly, fearing that the soldiers might hear us and come back and beat us.

The soldiers came and beat us two more times. The last time was really brutal. Three soldiers, one of them the tall one, beat us hard and quick. They kicked us, hit us with their rifle butts, and punched us all over our bodies. Nidal and I stayed next to each other out of fear and pain. This went on for about fifteen minutes. We screamed and asked for help, thinking somebody outside might come and rescue us from the horrible nightmare. The pain was intolerable. I felt as if I were about to die. One of them hit me in the midsection with his rifle and I fell to the floor. He hit me on my right hand and I felt like it was broken. I lost consciousness.

After a while, I don't know how long, I woke up spread out on the floor. The soldiers were next to me. I didn't know if I was in the morgue or in a grave. I don't know. I barely managed to call to Nidal. I asked him, "What happened to you?" He replied, "I feel as if my back and ribs are broken." He asked what happened to me, and I told him that my midsection, back, and hand hurt.

After about 15-20 minutes passed, two soldiers came in, kicked us, and one of them said, in Hebrew, "Come on, up! You are joking." I told him that I was unable to stand. He grabbed me by the hair and pulled me. I couldn't stand, and almost fell. He held me and took me out of the room. After going a few meters, he let me go and I fell. He grabbed me again and took me to the taxis that go to Nablus . I heard one of the soldiers say, "Take them to the hospital." One of the soldiers removed the blindfolds and the handcuffs.

One of the drivers at the checkpoint summoned an ambulance. He told us that an ambulance would arrive in a moment and take us to the hospital. The ambulance arrived a few minutes later and took us to the "Arab hospital" in Nablus . We were treated at the hospital. The tests showed that we had no broken bones, but lots of bruises. The soldier gave us pain relievers and discharged us after a few hours.

We were at the Huwarra checkpoint from about 7:00-11:00 A.M. Ahmad is still detained at the Huwarra army base.

Nadel Muhammad Amhad Ashtiyeh, 30, is a greengrocer and a resident of Salem, Nablus District. His testimony was given to Salma a-Deb'i in Salem on 10 October 2006.