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Testimony: Border Police beat laborers from Sa'ir severely, Jerusalem area, March 2009

Update: On 12 October 2009 the MPIU informed B'Tselem that upon conclusion of the investigation, the case was closed for lack of public interest.

Nassim Shalaldeh, 26

Nassim Shalaldeh

I live in Sa'ir with my parents and six brothers. I studied biology at Bethlehem University, but didn't find work in biology, so I have no option and have to work as a laborer in Israel. In early March, I got married. My wife, who is a student, lives with me in the house with my family.

My brother Sanad, 21, studies accounting at the Open University. My brother Muhammad, 19, studies business administration in the Open University. The two of them work in Israel sometimes./>

Since I finished my studies, I've been sneaking into Israel to work in construction at the Har Homa settlement [in East Jerusalem]. During the week, I sleep at the construction site. Our conditions are very harsh. We don't have mattresses, and two or three laborers sleep together under one blanket. The site doesn't have glass in the window, so it is really cold. We eat from tin cans and don't leave the construction site, fearing the Border Police will catch us. Despite all this, we continue doing it.

I have to work harder than my brothers because I am married and have to support my wife. My father gave me lots of money during my studies, and I have to help in the house expenses. Sanad and Muhammad work during vacation from university to save money for tuition and to cover their expenses.

Generally, we enter Israel in the dark. We cross at an opening in the fence in Abu Dis, or via a-Za'ayem, or al-‘Issawiyya, like hundreds of other laborers from the West Bank. Every week, we return home on Thursday night. I make 120 shekels a day for working from 7:00-3:30. After paying for travel and food, I barely make seventy shekels a day.

Last Saturday [14 March], around 6:00 P.M., I left Sa'ir with my two brothers, Sanad and Muhammad, and other laborers from Sa'ir - Ashraf Shalaldeh, Munir Shalaldeh, Ahmad Shalaldeh, Hassan Shalaldeh, Samer Shalaldeh, ‘Alaa Musa Shalaldeh, and Mahmud al-Khadur, from Bani Na'im.  We went by taxi to Abu Dis and from there by foot to the fence near a-Zeitun checkpoint. We crossed the fence and walked toward a-Tur. We saw a Border Police jeep and tried to hide with some Bedouins, but one of them kicked us out.

After the jeep was gone, we walked a bit, until we saw a border policeman. He was tall, had brown skin, and was big, about 1.90 meters tall. He had a short beard and looked to be in his early thirties. He spoke Arabic. I think he was Druze. We were about ten meters from him. He held his rifle and shouted, “Stop, ??: bastard,.  I'll screw you, I'll shoot you.” Ashraf and Mahmud ran away, and the rest of us stopped. The policeman told us to sit on the ground and give him our identity cards.

My brother Muhammad, who sat on the ground, gave the policeman his ID card. He said, “Here it is, my identity card.” The policeman, out of nowhere, kicked him hard in the side. Muhammad cried out in pain. Sanad and I got up. I pushed the policeman, so he'd stop hitting my brother. I said, “Why are [typo in Hebrew] you beating him? He didn't do anything. He gave you his identity card in a respectful manner.” The policeman replied, “Sit down or I'll shoot you.” There weren't any other policemen at the time. It was around 7:15 P.M.

After the officer took our ID cards from all of us, he led us toward the road and told us to sit. Ashraf Shalaldeh and Mahmud al-Khadur arrived. Ashraf was resting on Mahmud's shoulder, and his face was bleeding. A Border Police jeep with two policemen inside also arrived. I assumed they were the ones who beat Ashraf and Muhammad. The two policemen were tall and fair-skinned. I think they were Russian. One of them told me to get into the jeep. My brother Muhammad intervened and said, “Where to?” The policeman said, “You want to get in?” and Muhammad said, “Yes.” We got in, as did the three policemen. They told the others to walk behind the jeep.

The jeep drove about 200-350  meters, to a-Zeitun checkpoint. When we got to the checkpoint, they told us to get out and wait. In the meantime, my friends arrived. I was carrying a biology book. One of them told me to leave the book with my brother, Muhammad. He took me into the checkpoint and told me to go into the bathroom. He told me to take off my shirt, and he threw it on the floor. Then he told me to empty out my pockets. He looked over the papers I had in my wallet. He took off his vest and removed the magazine [from the rifle]. I thought he was going to hit me with the rifle. “I don't need these things,” he said.

The policeman pushed me into the small bathroom stall and came in after me. He told me to sit down on the toilet, and I refused. He jumped on me and beat and punched me. He tried to knock me down. I tried to protect myself and block his blows. I shouted out and asked him to stop, but he continued. Three years ago, I had an appendix operation. I told him that, and that if something happened, he would be responsible. He told me to show him where the operation was; I lifted my shirt and showed him the scar. Shortly after that, he stopped and took me outside. He told me to stand with my face to the road, a few meters from the others who had come with me.

The policeman called to my brother, Sanad and took him into the checkpoint. I assumed he wanted to beat him too. I stood outside, and could heard Sanad's shouts from inside the bathroom. Sanad was in there with the policeman for about twenty-five minutes. When he came out, his face was red. He was holding his jacket and his things. Muhammad was still in the jeep, next to the checkpoint.

When Sanad came out, a senior officer of the Border Police pulled up in a white Toyota. He got out and asked what was happening at the checkpoint. Sanad told him that his brother Muhammad was suffering because a border policeman had beaten him. The officer asked, “Which policeman?” Sanad pointed to the policeman who had beaten Muhammad. I intervened and said that that policeman had also beaten Sanad and me. The officer looked at Ashraf and asked what happened to him. At first, Ashraf didn't manage to tell him. I intervened again, and pointed out which policemen beat Ashraf.

The officer spoke with the policeman who beat us. Then he spoke with the two policemen who assaulted Ashraf. With the bit of Hebrew I know, I understood he asked them why they did it.

The officer took Ashraf into the checkpoint and returned after a few minutes and told us to stand in a line. The policemen searched us. Meanwhile, the policeman who beat us tried to get Muhammad to sign a paper stating that he had not been beaten. Muhammad refused. The policeman got mad and tore up the pages. The officer said they were going to release us. Muhammad remained next to the jeep, outside the line. I asked why Muhammad wasn't leaving with us, and one of them said that Muhammad was being detained. I said, “It's not enough that you assaulted him, you also have to detain him? I want to take him to hospital.” I told him I wouldn't leave without Muhammad. The policeman said that he would summon an ambulance and ensure he was taken to hospital. I was sure he was lying, just so I would go. I told him I wouldn't abandon my brother, even if they arrest him  or take him to hospital. The policeman shouted at me to go away quickly.

I went to the officer and asked to speak with him. I told him that the policeman wants to detain my little brother, and that I wanted to go with him. He said, “Go and Muhammad will come after you.” I left the checkpoint with my friends. A short while afterwards, Muhammad joined us. I think it was already after 8:00 P.M.

We couldn't make up our mind whether to go home or to try again to enter Israel. We decided that, if we already paid for the ride, and had already been beaten, there was no reason to go home. We agreed to try and cross the fence by a-Za'ayem. We walked one kilometer and got to the fence. Next to it were dozens of laborers who waited for the road to be clear, so they'd have a chance to cross. Two policemen were standing there. We waited more than half an hour, but the policemen didn't leave. So we decided to cross by al-‘Issawiyya. When we got there, we saw a jeep on the bridge and more than 150 laborers waiting for the jeep to go away. One of the laborers was Jabril Mahmud Shalaldeh, 35, from Sa'ir. He told us he had been waiting since ten in the morning. We waited for about an hour, but the jeep didn't move.

We decided to return to a-Za'ayem, a kilometer away. We walked there but there, too, we found a Border Police jeep. After we waited about twenty minutes, the jeep drove off. The fence there is 5-6 meters high. There was a rope that somebody had tied to the fence. Jabril and I climbed up first. Jabril jumped and fell to the ground. I quickly jumped, and the two of us ran and stopped by a hill. I looked at the fence and waited for the others to jump like we did. Sanad climbed up and jumped. Right then, a Border Police jeep arrived with its lights turned off. The policemen roared in glee and chased after Sanad with clubs in their hands. They beat him, and he cried out. A few minutes later, two policemen picked him up and took him to the jeep and drove off.

I called Sanad several times, but he didn't answer. A half an hour later, he answered and barely managed to talk. He said, “Save me, the policemen pounded me and threw me outside the checkpoint.” I ran to him. I crossed the checkpoint,  Soldiers shouted at me, but I didn't stop. I continued to run until I got to Sanad. He was lying on the ground, ten meters from the road. In the meantime, my brother Muhammad and my friends also came.

When I saw Sanad, I decided to go back to the checkpoint and complain about what they had done to him. Everybody came with me, and we carried Sanad. About ten meters in front of the checkpoint, two policemen stopped us. One of them was a border policeman and the other was wearing a black uniform. Both spoke Arabic. I told them what happened. In the meantime, I summoned a Red Crescent ambulance. The border policeman said he also summoned an ambulance.

Within ten minutes, another Border Police jeep pulled up, and three policemen got out. Another two or three border policemen came from the checkpoint. I realized that one of them was in charge of the area. I said to him, “Why did you [plural] do this?” He said that they saw Sanad on the camera and that he fell from the fence, and that nobody assaulted him. I told him, “Somebody who falls from the fence doesn't get injured like that.” I told him I'd go with him to the place where they assaulted Sanad, and he could see the signs of the assault, that he could see everything on film, unless somebody altered it.

He didn't like what I said, and he pushed me onto the jeep, hurting my back. He hit and kicked me. Muhammad tried to defend me, and get him off me. In the meantime, other policemen came and beat me and Muhammad. I tried to defend myself. The policeman's badge fell, and he got very mad.

 

Two policemen put me and Muhammad in rooms at the checkpoint. The policeman in the black uniform was holding a club. He said it was an electric club, and he brought it close to my face. He said that he'd kill me if I moved./>/>

Five policemen came into the room, one of them the policeman whom I was told was in charge of the area and had beaten me. Everybody was mad. The policeman told me he would make me forget the milk I sucked from my mother's breast, because I knocked his badge off. They assaulted me, kicking me and hitting me with their rifle butts. I cried out real loud. I think everybody heard me. The policemen continued to beat me for about twenty minutes.

The Red Crescent ambulance arrived and the crew put Sanad in it. The border policemen told Muhammad and me to leave quickly and go in the ambulance. Before I left, the policeman who they said was in charge of the area kicked me. Muhammad and I got into the ambulance. Ashraf also wanted to come, but the paramedics apologized and said they couldn't take more than three at a time. The ambulance drove to al-Hussein Hospital, in Beit Jala. We got there about 1:00 A.M. At the hospital, they checked me and X-rayed me, and said I had contusions on my left leg, scratches and contusions on my neck, and swelling on my head. My head hurt a lot, and so did my back, leg, and hand. I was given medication. Last night, three days after the beating, I had blood in my urine.

We were released from the hospital about 2:30 A.M. We returned home by taxi. Sanad really suffered and had to go back to the hospital today. Muhammad went to the doctor today.

Nassim Raja Mahmoud Shalaldeh, 25, is a laborer and a resident of Sa'ir in Hebron District. His testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash at the witness's house on 17 March 2009.