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

Hamzah Salah, laborer

Hamzah Salah

On Thursday, 28 May, I went with eight friends to the Dead Sea to swim and have fun. We got to the Dead Sea area around 11:30 P.M. We parked our car, a Ford van, about 100-150 meters away from the ‘Ein Gedi checkpoint. We walked toward the sea, a distance of about 500 meters.

Shortly after we got to the sea, we saw a light next to our van. ‘Ata ‘Ariqat, ‘Abd Halbiya, the owner of the van, Ramzi Saleh, Hisham, and I went to the van. The others remained by the sea. When we got to the van, there wasn't anybody there, but we decided to move it anyway, so it would be closer to the checkpoint, where it is lit and is safer.

‘Ata got into the van and drove it toward the checkpoint. Ramzi, ‘Abed, and I walked behind, until we got to the checkpoint area, where we parked, forty meters from the checkpoint. There were lots of cars there. After ‘Ata stopped, two soldiers ran toward him. When they got to him, they told him to drive the van into the checkpoint. ‘Ata refused, and then one of the soldiers aimed his weapon at him and told him again to drive the van into the checkpoint. ‘Ata did as he was told. The soldier told me, ‘Abed, and Ramzi to enter the checkpoint and stand next to the van. We did as we were told.

Ramzi tried to speak with the soldiers, to get them to understand. They handcuffed him. They led him to a sign and tied him to it. He tried to tell them something, and then they told him to put his hands out for them to cuff him as well. ‘Ata refused. One of the soldiers hit him in the head hard with his rifle butt. Two other soldiers grabbed him hard and dragged him to an electricity pole, where they tied him. His head was bleeding, and the blood stained his shirt.

‘Abed, Hisham, and I went over to the soldiers. I asked them what our friends did. One of the soldiers threw a stun grenade in our direction to get us to move back. In the meantime, all our friends who had stayed by the sea arrived. There were seven of us, not counting ‘Ata and Ramzi. The soldiers threw two more stun grenades in our direction and threatened us with their riffles, to get us to move back. We moved back until a point a few meters from the checkpoint./>

About half an hour later, a large army vehicle pulled up. Inside were about eight soldiers, six in the back and two in the front. They all rushed out and went over to ‘Ata. He was tied to the pole. They started to beat him. One of them threw a large stone on him. They beat him badly. One of them hit him with his rifle butt and the others kicked and beat him. He fell down, and they continued to beat him. One of them kicked him in the head and all over his body.

One soldier went over to Ramzi and kicked him in the face. Ramzi managed to get out of the plastic cuffs. He bent over on the ground and the soldiers kicked him for about a minute. I saw everything they were doing to my friends. I couldn't stand it any longer, but I couldn't help them. I was so mad I had trouble breathing. I called 100, the police emergency number. I told the person who answered what was happening, but he didn't believe me. A few minutes later, I called again, and then again, and that time, the policeman who answered promised he would take care of it. We continued to stand by the checkpoint.

‘Ata and Ramzi were still in handcuffs. ‘Ata was tied to the pole and Ramzi was sitting on a chair.

Around 3:00 A.M., a Border Police patrol arrived at the checkpoint. They went over to ‘Ata and Ramzi, and then to us. They told us to give them our identity cards. We handed them over and then they asked us what happened. We told them everything. One of the policemen was a Beduin./>

About an hour and a half later, around 4:30 A.M., two white Skoda vehicles arrived. Four men in civilian clothes got out. They remained at the checkpoint unto 6:30 A.M. They cuffed me and Hisham and took us to the Ma'ale Adumim police station. When we left, Ramzi and ‘Ata were still cuffed, at the checkpoint.

At the police station, they questioned us on suspicion of assaulting security forces and obstructing their work, even though we hadn't done anything. Around 10:00 A.M., they told us we could leave if each of us paid a bond of 1,000 shekels. I called my family. They brought the money, and I was released.

Hamzah Muhammad Ibrahim Saleh, 22, is a laborer and a resident of Abu Dis in al-Quds District. His testimony was given to Kareem Jubran at the witness's workplace in Abu Dis on 6 June 2009.