Occupation routine, central Hebron: Soldiers attack Palestinians on street and accuse them of assault
On Friday, 19 September 2021, at around 6:00 P.M., brothers Shadi (37) and ‘Abdallah (23) al-Muhtaseb set out from their home, which lies near al-Haram al-Ibrahimi (the Tomb of the Patriarchs). When they passed by the al-Mahkamah Checkpoint, two soldiers detained them for inspection and provoked the two brothers. The soldiers also swore at their mother, ‘Erfat (57), who was called there to bring one of her sons his ID card. When the two brothers swore back, the soldiers assaulted them and their mother. At one point, Shadi’s wife, an Israeli citizen, arrived and started filming the incident on her cell phone. When she later went to the police station in Kiryat Arba to file a complaint, the officers confiscated her phone and issued a restraining order barring her from Hebron for 15 days.
The brothers were arrested and taken for questioning at the police station in Kiryat Arba. From there they were transferred to Ofer Prison, where they were held until Wednesday, 22 September 2021, at 9:00 P.M., when they were released after paying NIS 1,000 (~322 USD) in bail each.
Such incidents are part of routine life under occupation for the Palestinian residents of Hebron, which includes daily violence by Israeli security forces and settlers, extreme restrictions on movement and arrests. This time, the forces did not make do with assault and violence, but also alleged that the residents had been the ones to attack them and held them in custody for six days.
B’Tselem’s field researchers in Hebron, Manal al-Ja’bari and Musa Abu Hashhash, collected testimonies from the residents:
Shadi al-Muhtaseb (37) recounted the incident:
On Friday, 17 September 2021, at around 6:30 P.M., my brother ‘Abdallah and I set out from home to go for a stroll on our land in the area of Zif, south of Hebron. Soldiers at the al-Mahkamah Checkpoint ordered us to stop and hand them our ID cards. I gave them mine, but ‘Abdallah hadn’t brought his along, so we called our mother and asked her to bring it to the checkpoint. I sensed that the soldiers were going to make trouble, so I started filming what was happening on my phone. One of the soldiers insisted on knowing where we were headed, and when we told him, he said we were lying. Meanwhile, my mother came with the ID card. She joined in the argument, but I asked her not to intervene because I was afraid the soldiers would react violently. The soldiers inspected us and gave us back the ID cards, and we walked away.
When we were about 10 meters away from the checkpoint, we heard the soldiers cursing my mother. We turned back and asked them why they were cursing an elderly woman. We cursed them back. I was very angry about how they’d treated my mother and the two of us. At that point, the two soldiers drew their weapons and aimed them at us. My mother grabbed the rifle butts and pushed them to the ground. The soldiers pushed her and she fell.
‘Erfat al-Muhtaseb, a widower and mother of nine, described what happened that evening:
One of the soldiers swore at me. My sons, who’d already left the checkpoint, heard the swearing and got upset. One of them cursed the soldier back. Then the soldiers raised their weapons and pointed them at my sons. I tried to point their rifles to the ground. The soldiers pushed me, and I fell down on the road. Then they hit Shadi and ‘Abdallah. They knocked them over and stepped on them. I screamed and tried to get the soldiers off.
Then Antoinette, my son Shadi’s wife who was visiting us, arrived. She lives an Ashkelon and speaks good Hebrew. She also tried to get the soldiers off Shadi and ‘Abdallah, but then more soldiers and Border Police officers showed up. A Border Police commander tried to pull Shadi and ‘Abdallah away from the two soldiers, but they continued attacking them. Antoinette and I were hit when we tried to free them from the soldiers. I saw the soldiers hit my sons with their rifle butts and kick them. I saw one of the soldiers raise his rifle several times and was terrified he’d kill my children. I tried to get the soldiers off them again, and then one of the soldiers pushed me hard and I fell on my back. Then he hit me in the left arm with his rifle butt. It hurt a lot.
After they took my sons away, Antoinette and I went to the Ja’bara police station (in Kiryat Arba) to file a complaint. An officer let Antoinette in and I stayed outside. She only came out around 3:30 A.M. She said they’d interrogated her on suspicion of assaulting a soldier. When she told them that it wasn’t true and that we had proof because she’d recorded everything on her phone, they confiscated the phone and ordered her to leave Hebron and not come back for 15 days. Antoinette went home with me and left Hebron later that night.
I was in pain until the morning, and then I went to ‘Alia Hospital. I had tests and they found I was bruised in various parts of my body and injured in my left palm. I was treated and went home. I’m still in pain and worried about what will happen to my sons, ‘Abdallah and Shadi.
In his testimony, Shadi al-Muhtaseb recounted what happened after he was arrested:
The soldiers took ‘Abdallah and me to a place near the ‘Abed Checkpoint, less than 100 meters from the al-Makhamah Checkpoint. They wanted to continue beating us, but a Border Police officer who was there told them to stop. Then they took us to the police station in al-Haram al-Ibrahimi (the Tomb of the Patriarchs). They held us there for about two hours and then transferred us, handcuffed, to the Ja’bara police station (Kiryat Arba). They put us in the yard of the police station. ‘Abdallah’s face was covered in blood. The two soldiers who had attacked us went into the interrogation room and we stayed outside for about two hours. After the soldiers came out, they took me into the interrogation room.
There were an interrogator and a translator there. I told them I didn’t know Hebrew, even though I do. The interrogator accused me of rioting and of attacking soldiers. I told her it wasn’t true and that she should watch my video footage to see I was right. The interrogator started watching the video on my phone, but turned it off before she was done. After about 15 minutes, they took me out of the room and brought ‘Abdallah in. An officer took me to another room, where I was photographed and had my fingerprints taken. After ‘Abdallah's interrogation, the officer put us in the corridor between the rooms. The soldiers who had attacked us were also there.
I heard one of them telling the other that my wife Antoinette was outside the station and was asking to come in to file a complaint against them. Some soldiers drove us a short distance to a military clinic, where they didn’t treat us but only filled out a medical form. Then they put us in a trailer and we stayed there all night in the cold, handcuffed and blindfolded. They didn’t give us any food or drink until 7:00 A.M.
In the morning, the soldiers took us to an Israeli hospital whose name I don’t remember. They took ‘Abdallah for tests and I waited in the jeep for about four hours. I was handcuffed and blindfolded. After ‘Abdallah came out, they took us to Ofer Prison. That day we were supposed to have a court hearing, but our lawyer said it had been postponed until Wednesday. He told us the prosecution had said it would show photos proving our guilt. On Wednesday, the hearing took place without us and we were set bail of NIS 1,000 each. We paid and were released around 9:00 P.M. that evening.