Testimony: Soldiers brutally beat Salman Zaraneh, a-Ramadin, Sept. '09

Salman Zagharneh, worker

I live with my wife and six small children in the village of a-Ramadin, which is about seven kilometers south of Dahariya. My village lies behind the separation barrier that the Israeli army built four years ago. To build the barrier, the army took village land. The barrier surrounds the village on the south and west sides. There is an opening in the fence, by a-Ramadin, through which laborers from the Hebron area and elsewhere in the West Bank who don't have permits pass.   In most cases, they enter Israel in the beginning of the week and return home at the end of the week. Since the barrier was built, there are more Israeli security forces - soldiers and Border Police - in and around our village. They ambush laborers and chase after them on their way to work and on their way home.

Salman Zagharneh after his lower jaw was set. Photo: Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem.
Salman Zagharneh after his lower jaw was set. Photo: Musa Abu Hashhash, B'Tselem.

During this time, I've heard lots of cases of laborers being assaulted. It takes place in many ways - beatings, detentions, and shooting. Until about a year and a half ago, I worked as a laborer, but then my permit expired, and I haven't worked since. I didn't want to take a risk like the others without permits do, and I hoped I'd get another permit and be able to enter Israel legally.

On Wednesday, 23 September, around 2:00 P.M., I left my house and wandered around the village for about two hours. I went to visit my friends Musa a-Sh'ur and Musa Reb'i, who live on two sheep farms about two kilometers west of my house, and 100-150 meters from the barrier and the opening through which laborers pass. On the way there, I saw an army jeep chasing a white Mitsubishi Magnum van that was driving laborers who tried to flee from there. The van managed to get away from the jeep.

Around 4:00 P.M., I was walking on that same road on which the van and the jeep had driven. There was no one on the road except me and the army jeep. On a hill opposite the barrier, about one kilometer from me, I saw vehicles and laborers waiting for the road to open.

When the soldiers in the jeep saw me, they drove over and stopped next to me. Two soldiers got out. One was short, thin, and dark-skinned, and the other was average height, pale-skinned, and of medium build. Both appeared to be in their thirties. One of them asked me, “Where are you going?” I told him I was going home. They were very agitated, maybe because they hadn't been able to catch the Palestinian van. They jumped on me and beat me with their hands and kicked me. They kicked me in the leg a few times. Then one of them told me to give him my ID card and cell phone and to wait alongside the barrier, next to the opening through which laborers pass. The soldiers got into the jeep and drove and picked up two soldiers who were waiting for the jeep by the opening.  The jeep turned around and drove off. I walked to where the soldiers told me to wait, next to the opening in the barrier. I sat on the ground and waited for the jeep to come back because I wanted to get my ID card and cell phone back.

After waiting about half an hour, the jeep returned and three soldiers got out, two of them the ones who had assaulted me previously. With them was a tall, thin, pale-skinned soldier. They told me to approach the jeep, which was parked next to a dirt pile alongside the opening. I went there and stood between the three soldiers. The dark-skinned, short soldier took out my ID card and cell phone and handed them to me. The moment I took the card and the phone, one of the other soldiers hit me on the right cheek with the butt of his rifle. One of the soldiers said to me: “Get out of here.” I felt the bones breaking in my face, it hurt so much. I was dazed and started to lose my balance.

I moved away from the jeep and the soldiers. I could barely walk. I walked about 200 meters and motioned to cars driving by and a Mitsubishi Magnum van carrying some laborers stopped for me. They took me to the entrance to a-Ramadin, where my two brothers - Khader, 36, and Yunes, 46 - were waiting. One of the passengers had called them and told them what happened. I got into my brothers' car and we drove to al-Ahali Hospital, in Hebron. The doctors apologized that they couldn't admit me because they didn't have an orthopedist who specializes in the jaw, and sent me to the ‘Aliyah Government Hospital, in Hebron.

There, I was examined and X-rayed. My lower jaw was broken in three places. I was hospitalized. I waited four days for a specialist to come and operate on my jaw. He didn't arrive and we decided to go to the government hospital in Ramallah. I underwent surgery and they set the break and the lower jaw with pieces of metal. Due to the operation, I can't eat or speak.  The doctors told me I'd be like this for a month and a half.

I was released from the hospital on 28.9.09 and since then I am confined to my bed and can only eat liquid food.

Salman Muhammad Mashri Zaghaneh, 42, married with six children, is a worker and a resident of a-Ramadin in Hebron District. His testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash in Hebron on 1 October 2009.