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Soldiers snatch 'Abd a-Rahman al-Qun, 15, from his brother's fishing boat and abuse him, Rafah, January 2007

'Abd a-Rahman al-Qun, 15

'Abd a-Rahman al-Qun

I am fifteen and live in Rafah with my family. About two years ago, I began to help my brother, Khalil, 21, fishing, which helps support the family. We fish off the coast of Rafah . I go to school only one or two days a week.

Last Wednesday [10 January 2007], at seven in the morning, I went fishing with my brother Khalil in our rowboat. We rowed to about one kilometer from shore, where we stopped and threw out the nets. Then, all of a sudden, two Israeli ships approached us.

I heard gunfire and the two ships pulled to about twenty meters from us. The soldiers in one of the ships ordered us to stand and raise our hands. After a few minutes passed, they ordered us to row westward, following their ships. We rowed quite a distance, and then they told us to stop, stand up and take off our clothes. We stood there in our underpants.

One of the soldiers asked Khalil what his name was, and Khalil answered. Then he asked me, and I told him. The soldier ordered Khalil to jump into the water and swim to the Israeli ship. Khalil obeyed. They the soldier ordered me to do the same thing. I told him that I can't swim. He ordered me to jump, and that he would throw me a life-saver float to hold on to. He threw it into the water and ordered me to swim to it. I went into the water and tried to swim. I was scared I would drown, but I feared disobeying the soldier even more. The water was all around me and I was sure I was drowning. I barely managed to get to the float, which was about twenty meters from me. The soldier pulled the rope tied to the float and drew me to the Israeli ship.

When I got to the ship, the soldier threw an iron ladder over the side and ordered me to climb up. I climbed up, and when I got on deck, one of the soldiers grabbed me, cuffed my hands and blindfolded me. They he pushed me, and I fell onto the deck. I lay there on my chest for more than half an hour.

One of the soldiers picked me up and took me to another place on deck. I felt the ship starting to move. After a while, it stopped, and two soldiers picked me up and took me off the ship. They put me into a room and ordered me to lay on the floor. I think I stayed in the room for about an hour. I didn't see or hear anything. Then one of the soldiers came in, grabbed me, and told me to come with him. We walked about ten meters, and then he put me into another room and sat me down on a chair.

A few minutes later, he took off my blindfold. I was facing a person in civilian clothes. He began to question me. He asked me why I was at sea, and I told him that I went fishing with my brother Khalil. He asked me if I was in a permitted area or forbidden area, and I replied that I was in a permitted area. Then he asked me if we had crossed into Egyptian territory, and I said we hadn't. He asked if we were smugglers, and I said we weren't, and that we were only fishermen. They he asked me if I wanted him to bring me girls. I told him I don't want girls, and he asked, "What do you think about working with us?" and "Do you know somebody from Hamas?" I told him I don't know anybody and that I am a minor and want nothing else but to work as a fisherman with my brother.

When he finished questioning me, a soldier came into the room. He blindfolded me, took me to another room and told me to sit on one of the chairs. I waited there for about half an hour, and then came back and told me that the doctor wanted to check me. The doctor asked me if I suffered from anything, and I said I had a headache. He gave me a pill and put a cup of water to my mouth. I swallowed the pill.

The soldier and the doctor left, and about an hour later, the soldier came back and ordered me to stand up to put on pants and a shirt. I stood up and the soldier dressed me. Then he grabbed my hand and told me to go with him. After walking a few meters, we stopped and two soldiers picked me up and put me in some high place. I realized I was on the Israeli ship because I felt it starting to move. I was very cold. After a while, the ship stopped.

One of the soldiers ordered me to stand up. I got up. He removed the blindfold and took off the cuffs. I saw that I was dressed in a green uniform. He told me to take off the clothes and jump into the sea. I saw Khalil in our boat, which was a few meters away. I told the soldier that I can't swim and was afraid I would drown, but he ordered me to jump and aimed his rifle at my back. I was very frightened, and I jumped. I barely managed to keep my head above water, and somehow managed to get to our boat. It was freezing cold, and my whole body hurt. I couldn't find my clothes. Nor could Khalil find his. We rowed back to shore dressed in our underwear and went home. We reached the house at eleven at night.

Abd a-Rahman 'Abd al-Hadi al-Qun, 15, is a resident of 'Izbat a-Nada, in al-Mawasi neighborhood, Rafah. His testimony was given to Muhammad Sabah at the witness's home on 17 January 2007.