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Testimony: Soldier beats Mahmoud 'Awwad, fracturing his skull, Jan. '09

Update: On 1 January 2012 the MAG Corps informed B'Tselem that upon conclusion of the investigation, the case was closed. The grounds for closing the case were not given. On 9 August 2012 Att. Emily Schaeffer of Att. Michael Sfard's law firm filed an appeal to the Chief Military Prosecutor regarding the decision by the MAG Corps to close the case. In August 2013 a decision on the appeal had yet to be made.

Na'im 'Awwad, taxi driver

Na'im 'Awwad

Yesterday [20 January], around 1:00 P.M., my brother Fawzi, 23, called me. He works in Israel without a permit because the authorities denied his request for one. He told me that he had tried to enter Israel and soldiers had stopped him at the Huwara checkpoint. He asked where I was and I told him I was at the checkpoint, next to the parking lot. He said he wanted to give me the things he had on him - wallet, documents, and cell phone - because he was afraid the soldiers would arrest him. I told him to pass the things to me via somebody crossing the checkpoint.

About fifteen minutes later, somebody I don't know came to me with Fawzi's things. He told me that Fawzi wanted me to bring him a pack of cigarettes. I thanked him and went to buy cigarettes. Then I went to the soldiers at the checkpoint and asked one of them if I could give the cigarettes to Fawzi. He agreed. Fawzi was sitting in the detainees' room. His hands were not cuffed. I gave him the cigarettes and left.

Five minutes later, I came back because I wanted to ask Fawzi why he was detained and what was happening with him. When I came near, a soldier shouted at me, “Why are you speaking with him?” I told the soldier that I wanted to know why my brother was being detained. He said: “Come and be detained with him.” He pushed me into the detainees' room and closed the door. He didn't take my ID card and didn't even ask my name.

About fifteen minutes later, another soldier came and took me to a small, three-sided concrete room about fifteen meters away. I asked him, “Why are you detaining me?” He took plastic handcuffs from his pocket and cuffed my hands behind my back.

I saw policemen talking with Fawzi. Fawzi took his ID card from one of the soldiers and asked him, “What about my brother? You detained him because of me, and I'm being released now.” The soldier said, “I detained him, and I'll release him whenever I want.” I called to another soldier and said, “Let him take his things.” The soldier came over to me, took Fawzi's things, and gave them to him. Fawzi left.

A tall soldier, about 1.8 meters high, light-skinned, with a thin face, came over to me and said, “Your nose is too much up in the air. You'll lower your nose and bow now.” He grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the room. He called another soldier over and the two of them beat me. The other soldier was shorter, light-skinned, thin, and had a bit of a beard. They pushed me to the ground and hit me with the butts of their weapons on my shoulders and back. I tried not to fall. They wanted to humiliate me but I preferred to die than to be humiliated. I didn't do anything, my hands were cuffed. The soldiers beat me hard. They said, “You'll go down on the ground, whether you want to or not.” I told them I wouldn't. The soldier who had cuffed me said to me, “Now I'll show you how you'll go down.” Then he blindfolded me with a piece of cloth.

In the meantime, my brother Mahmoud, 29, arrived at the checkpoint. He was on his way to work in Israel and was waiting in line at the checkpoint. I heard him say to the soldiers, “Why are you beating him? What did he do?” The beating stopped and the soldiers shouted. Then I heard some commotion, but I couldn't see what was happening. Somebody, I don't know who, removed my blindfold. I saw my brother stretched out on the ground. His head was bleeding and he was unconscious. The soldiers shouted at people coming to the checkpoint to move back. Some people picked up Mahmoud and walked away. I ran after them. I couldn't believe my eyes. Somebody told me that a soldier had hit Mahmoud in the head with his weapon, and that Mahmoud had immediately lost consciousness. We took Mahmoud by car to Rafidya Hospital.  On the way, somebody removed the cuffs from my hands.

At the hospital, Mahmoud's skull was X-rayed and he received first-aid. The physicians decided to transfer him to the Specialist Hospital [in Nablus], which specializes in head injuries. They operated immediately because he had a fractured skull and bleeding in the brain. Parts of his skull were removed during the operation. He is now on a respirator in the intensive care unit. The doctors said he is in serious condition. They'll wait 72 hours before waking him up. Then they'll know more about the extent of his injury.

Note by Salma a-Deba'i: A female soldier was at the checkpoint, and she saw what happened. She checked the ID cards of the young people crossing the checkpoint. Na'im heard soldiers call her Ayala. She is light-skinned, of moderate build, 1.65 meters tall, and has long, brown hair combed into little braids.

Na'im Muhammad Fawzi 'Awwad, 39, married with four children, is a taxi driver and a resident of Kafr Salem, in Nablus District. His testimony was given to Salma a-Deba'i at the Specialist Hospital in Nablus on 21 Jan. '09.