Testimony: Soldiers severely beat Nazir al-Hreibat and abuse him near a-Ramadin, September 2009

Muhammad Hamad, laborer

Muhammad Hamad

For the past two years, I've worked as a construction worker. I had a permit to work in settlements and worked in construction sites in the Efrat settlement, but the permit expired on 6 May 2009. I asked the house owner to renew the permit for me, but he said the Etzion District Coordination and Liaison Office wasn't willing to renew it. I remained at home for a while and made a request for a permit to work in Jerusalem, but it was denied because permits are not being given to persons under age thirty for work in Jerusalem.

I have to support my family, and for the first time in my life, I had to go to work in Beer Ya'akov, near Ramle (in Israel). I'm the only worker from Bethlehem. Twelve of the laborers are from the Hebron area. We enter Israel via a-Ramadin, not far from Beersheva. A driver of a car with Israeli plates meets us at the fence crossing point and takes us, for 170 shekels each, to the construction site in Beer Ya'akov. We sleep at the site for two weeks, sometimes three.

The last time, on Tuesday [29 September], around 7:30 P.M., ten other laborers, all from Hebron, and I were on our way back from the site in Beer Ya'akov. We were in a silver-colored GMC van, with Israeli plates. We got to the place where we cross into the West Bank, near a-Ramadin. There is a dirt road you have to go along to cross the fence. The dirt road had a spiked roadblock. We didn't see soldiers.

One of the laborers, who was sitting next to the driver, got out to move the spikes. He picked them up. Suddenly, a soldier came from the side. He was short, pale-skinned, and looked about twenty or so years old. He shouted at the guy who picked up the spikes. The laborer threw down the spikes and ran away. The soldier threw some stones at our vehicle and we quickly got out, with our hands raised. The stones shattered the windshield. When we got out, I saw another soldier. Apparently, the two soldiers were waiting in ambush. They aimed their rifles at us. The first soldier I saw shouted at us in Hebrew. I said, in Hebrew, “Calm down, we surrender.” He kicked me in the leg and then pushed me to the ground and swore at me.

Then he told me to tell the others to lie on the ground opposite the vehicle. The lights of the vehicle were on. We lay down on the ground. The other soldier asked where the spikes were. We told him we didn't know. He said to me: “Shut up, I'm not talking to you.” The two soldiers slapped the driver and kicked him all over his body.

Then they beat another laborer, Nazir Haribat, who lives in Dura. The two soldiers beat him. The first soldier hit him in the stomach and the other soldier punched him in the ribs. Then they hit him in the legs, until he seemed to lose consciousness. When I saw him in that condition, I told the soldiers he had a kidney problem and would die from the blows. I said that because I was afraid for him. He lost consciousness, and it looked like he couldn't breathe. I asked the soldiers to let me care for him, and they let me go over to him. He was lying on the ground, unconscious. He wasn't breathing, and I think he had swallowed his tongue. I pulled his tongue out and tried to resuscitate him. I thought he still wasn't breathing. I was really afraid for him and asked the soldiers to call an ambulance.

Instead of an ambulance, a Border Police patrol jeep pulled up. The officer in the jeep, when he saw me trying to treat Nazir, asked me how he was doing. I said he was unconscious and wasn't breathing, and that he needed an ambulance. The officer summoned an ambulance.

A Magen David Adom ambulance arrived. The medics treated him for about half an hour. They put an oxygen mask on him. In the meantime, the soldiers treated the rest of us well because a Border Police officer was there. They didn't beat us any more, but I saw two of them searching our bags. The soldiers had our ID cards, including the driver's, except for mine and Nazir's. The medics asked me to arrange his transfer to hospital in Hebron, and I called the hospital to coordinate the transfer between them and Magen David Adom.

The soldiers let us go home with our bags. On the way, we opened the bags and saw that things were missing, particularly cigarettes and perfumes. We realized that the two soldiers had stolen from us when they searched our bags. We bring lots of things from home, especially cigarettes, because we stay at the construction sites for two weeks and more.

About an hour later, I called ' Aliyah Hospital to make sure that Nazir had arrived and was being treated. The next day, I called again, and they said he was in stable condition. I praised Allah for that. I can't forget the situation he was in, and that he had almost died. I can't forget that the two soldiers humiliated us and forced us to lie on the ground. The people lay there for more than half an hour, and one of them was fifty-five years old. I was next to Nazir and tried to give him first-aid, so I wasn't thrown to the ground, but I was beaten like the others. They weren't hard blows. They were slaps and punches that were very humiliating.

Despite the difficult financial condition, I decided not to try to enter Israel again.

Muhammad Mustafa Muhammad Hamad, 28, married with two children, is a laborer and a resident of the al-'Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem District. His testimony was given to Suha Zeid at the witness's home on 4 October 2009.