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Testimony: Soldiers severely beat four Palestinians on a trip to the Dead Sea, holding them for an entire night, April 2009

Update: On 3 August 2009 OC of MPIU Jerusalem District informed B'Tselem that after the complainants refused to provide testimony to the MPIU, the investigative procedure of the complaint would be discontinued. A renewed demand by B'Tselem to investigate the serious allegations, despite the refusal of the complainants to give their testimony, was not granted.

Majed al-‘Odeh, quarry worker

Majed al-‘Odeh

I work in a quarry in Beit Fajjar. I have a car with an Israeli license plate. It is in terrible condition, but the registration is valid and I use it to get to work.

Since the second intifada broke out, I have not gone out for fun or on any trips, because we have nowhere to take a trip. My whole life is work. I wanted a bit of a change, so I decided to take a trip with three friends. Last Thursday evening [2 April], we drove in my car from Beit Fajjar on the a-Rashayida road, heading to the Dead Sea.

After driving for about two hours, we got to a checkpoint next to Kibutz Qalya. The soldiers at the checkpoint stopped us and took our identity cards and the car registration. We waited in the car for about an hour. They gave us back our documents and said, “You're forbidden to go to the Dead Sea! Drive on the road that goes to Qalya, or go home!”.

We headed toward Qalya, but the gate was closed. We headed back in the direction of the checkpoint. About 150 meters from the checkpoint, we turned onto a road that runs up the mountain. After going a short distance, we stopped. We saw tents in the distance. We didn't know if Palestinians or Israelis lived in the tents. We could see the sea. We talked and decided to stay in the car until morning and then go down to the Dead Sea by foot. We, ate the food we had brought, outside of the car, and then got back into the car. It was quiet, and the weather was nice. We were happy, ten years had gone by without being able to sit like this. I took off my shoes so I could feel totally relaxed.

Suddenly, I heard somebody say “Come! Come! Arab!” and cocked his weapon. Three soldiers aimed their rifles at us. They were very close to us. They told me to get out of the car. I was afraid they would shoot me. I raised my hands and got out. One of the soldiers stood next to me, his hand behind his back. In his hand was a metal tube, and he slammed me in the head with it, which hurt and made me very dizzy. I could barely see. I fell down, and the soldiers kicked me in the neck and stomach. They left me and went over to the car, to remove my friends. They beat them as well. I was afraid they would shoot us. My head was bleeding badly. I managed to crawl away, to a place where I couldn't see them and they couldn't see me. My head continued to bleed a lot, so I put earth on the wound to stop the bleeding. Everything was spinning and I apparently lost consciousness, because it was totally dark later on.

I think it was already the middle of the night. I crawled for a while and then heard Mahmud call me. I assumed soldiers were with him, so I was very scared to return to them. I continued to crawl away from them, until I got to running water. I threw myself into the water because I was thirsty and dirty with blood. I remained in the water until sunrise. I heard them calling my name and saying, “Please Majid! Come back so the soldiers will let us go home.” They shouted and shouted, and I finally decided to return. I crawled back to them, crawling faster than before.

A fair-skinned soldier rushed over to me and pulled me forcibly. I had trouble moving. We got to the other two soldiers. My friends were with them. I fell down, losing consciousness again. I woke up in the hospital in Beit Jala, in the intensive care unit. The doctors stopped the bleeding from my head and X-rayed my head. I was dizzy, and my head still hurts a lot. I have also received medications. I'm still in the hospital, two days after the incident.

I wanted to hike, and get a change of atmosphere after ten years of not having taken a trip or going out at all, and the first time I did, I got beaten and bled all night long. All we wanted to do was enjoy ourselves.

Majed Qawas 'Abd a-Sami' al-'Odeh, 28, married with four children, is a quarry worker and a resident of Beit Fajjar in Bethlehem District. His testimony was given to Suha Zeid at the hospital in Beit Jala on 6 April 2009.