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From the field

Testimony: Soldiers severely beat and abuse Palestinians near the Dead Sea, May 2009

‘Ata ‘Ariqat, driver

‘Ata ‘Ariqat

On Thursday, 28 May, I went with some friends on a trip to the Jericho area. We got to Jericho about 10:00 P.M. We ate some sandwiches in the city and then decided to go to the Dead Sea area. We rode in a Ford van belonging to my friend ‘Abed Halbiya. We got to a gas station by the Dead Sea around 11:00 P.M, where we got out and sat on the grass. A few minutes later, an army jeep and a Skoda vehicle arrived. People in civilian clothes got out of the Skoda and asked us to leave. We got into the van and drove off. I was driving.

We drove toward ‘Ein Gedi. About 150 meters before we got to the checkpoint, I stopped, and we walked toward the sea. We left the van in an area with dozens of vehicles, some with Israeli plates and some had Palestinian plates. We went to the sea and were there for about half an hour.

Ramzi Saleh said that he saw a light inside our van. We ran to it, a distance of about 500 meters. When we got there, nobody was around. I decided to move the van and park it closer to the checkpoint. I parked it about forty meters from the checkpoint. I thought it was safer there. There were soldiers and the place was lit.

'Ata 'Ariqat after the beating. Photo: Kareem Jubran, B'Tselem, 1 June ‘09.
'Ata 'Ariqat after the beating. Photo: Kareem Jubran, B'Tselem, 1 June ‘09.

When I got out, I saw two soldiers running toward me. They called to me, and I approached them. They told me to drive the van into the checkpoint. I asked why, but they insisted. I went back to the van and parked it inside the checkpoint. In the meantime, Ramzi arrived. Soldiers rushed over to him and handcuffed him.

9. The two soldiers told me to put out my hands for them to cuff me. I refused. I asked them why they were doing this, and what I had done to them. Another soldier came over from the lookout tower. He wore a device to straighten his teeth. The three of them assaulted me. One of them hit me in the head with his weapon. My head started to bleed, which hurt a lot and mad me dizzy.

The three soldiers grabbed me and led me to an electricity pole next to the checkpoint. One of them threw a stun grenade in the direction of my friends, to get them to move back. They grabbed my hands, and cuffed them to the pole. They cuffed Ramzi to a sign a few meters from me. In the meantime, my head was still bleeding, and I was in great pain. I asked the soldiers to help me. I repeatedly asked them to treat my wound. One of them finally came over to me and tied my head, with a bandage, to the pole. I asked him what he was doing, and he said he was giving me first-aid. “Tying my head to the pole is first-aid?” I asked. I moved my head and managed to free it from the pole.

About half an hour later, a large army jeep arrived. It had a long bench in the middle, the kind that seats people on both sides. Inside were six soldiers with helmets. The soldiers got out of the jeep and rushed over to me and beat me. One of them grabbed a large stone and threw it on my shoulder. I thought it fractured my shoulder. One of them hit me with the butt of his rifle, another kicked me hard. They beat me from all sides. I couldn't stand it any longer, and fell to the road. I felt one of them step on my shoulder, the same shoulder that had been hit by the stone. It hurt so much that I thought I was going to lose consciousness. The soldier went from me over to Ramzi. They beat me for a few minutes. My face and eye were bleeding. One of the soldiers kicked me hard in the head. My head was knocked against the pole, and I lost consciousness. Later, I saw Ramzi twisting and shouting in pain. Then one of the soldiers put him on a chair and cuffed him.

The soldiers left me tied to the pole. They didn't treat me. I asked them repeatedly to call for an ambulance. After about thirty minutes passed, an ambulance came, and a paramedic got out. I think he was Arab. He began to bandage my head. I asked him to remove the cuffs, but he refused. I told him I wouldn't let him treat me while I was cuffed, and he left me.

I asked the soldiers for water. After many times, a solder came over and poured water, from a bottle, on my head. They did this more than once. Some time later, Border Police arrived. One of them let me drink a whole cup of water. I think he was Beduin. It was the only time I drank properly. The soldiers only poured water on my head.

One of the soldiers blindfolded me with a piece of cloth. I felt dizzy. I wanted to sleep, I was in such great pain, and I finally fell asleep, while tied to the pole. I woke up when I felt somebody removing the blindfold. This hurt, because the cloth was stuck to the wounds on my face. When I looked at the guy who removed my blindfold, I realized that I knew him. He is bald and tall, and works as an investigator in the Ma'ale Adumim police station. I know him because he moves about in Abu Dis a lot. He asked me what happened, and I told him. It was 5:00 A.M. About half an hour later, the investigator left with Hamzah and Hisham. Ramzi and I remained cuffed at the checkpoint.

Later, I heard the soldiers tell all our friends waiting for us outside the checkpoint that they could go and take the van. About half an hour later, a soldier removed our handcuffs and let us go. It was 7:00 A.M. We started to walk.

We walked for a bit, but I couldn't continue. I called my friends and asked them to come back. They took me to the clinic in Abu Dis, where I was treated.

Later, I went to the Ma'ale Adumim police station to file a complaint. I waited half an hour, and then spoke with an investigator who said his name was 'Adel. I told him I had come to file a complaint, but he said that he first had to take my testimony. I told him what happened. He asked me if I had fled from the soldiers, and I said I didn't, and that, in any case, I was handcuffed the whole time. After I finished giving my statement, he wanted to fingerprint me. I asked him why, and he said it was standard procedure. Then he told me I had to pay a 1,000 shekel bond. I told him I wasn't the accused; I had come to file a complaint. He let me go only after I paid a 500 shekel bond. He told me he would give me a receipt on Sunday.

'Ata Salah Khalil 'Ariqat, 27, is a driver and a resident of Abu Dis, al-Quds District. His testimony was given to Kareem Jubran at the witness's home on 31 May 2009.