Full Report, DOC - I have been a taxi driver for two years now.doc

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Full Report, DOC - I have been a taxi driver for two years now.doc

    ).ר.ע( םיחטשב םדאה תויוכזל ילארשיה עדימה זכרמ

    B‟Tselem – The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

    In Broad Daylight

    Abuse of Palestinian by IDF soldiers on July 23, 2001

Written by Yael Stein

Data coordination by Nimrod Amzalak and Korin Degani

    Fieldwork by Musa Abu Hashhash and Raslan Mahagna

Translated by Maya Johnston

    Edited by Jessica Montell

    July 2001

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     8 Hata‟asiya St. (4th Floor),Talpiot, Jerusalem 93420, Tel. (02) 6735599, Fax (02)6749111



    This report details a case of severe abuse of Palestinian residents of the Samou village, in the Hebron district, by Israeli soldiers. According to testimonies given to B‟Tselem, twelve Israeli soldiers detained two Palestinian taxis. They dismissed three women, a child and an elderly man and proceeded to abuse the nine remaining Palestinians over a period of two hours.

    On Monday, July 23, 2001, around noon, soldiers from the Shimshon Battalion, permanently stationed in the West Bank, stopped a Palestinian taxi on the Samou-Hebron road, near the village of Karma. The soldiers, who had been riding in two jeeps, forcibly removed the taxi driver and three passengers from the vehicle while yelling and beating them. The soldiers then took the Palestinians‟ identity cards.

    One of the passengers, Muhammad Sufia, was taken to the back of a parked army jeep by one of the soldiers. The soldier beat Sufia with his helmet and the butt of his gun on the head and left ear. Fifteen minutes later, another soldier arrived and beat him over the head with a metal object. Sufia lost consciousness as a result of the blows. Another passenger, Mahmoud Hawamdeh, was also beaten by the soldiers as soon as he got out of the taxi. Khaled Rawashdeh, the taxi driver, was ordered at gunpoint to drive his taxi into a rock-strewn clearing in an olive grove. The soldiers ordered an elderly man who had been in the taxi to leave the place.

    At that point, an additional military jeep arrived at the scene. They had stopped another passing taxi. The soldiers, shouting and using physical force, ordered the passengers to get out of the taxi and give them their identity cards. They ordered the driver of this taxi, Muhammad a-Salamin, to drive his taxi into that same rock-strewn clearing in the olive grove. The soldiers ordered all the passengers of this taxi to get out of the vehicle. Using course language, they then told the three women and the little girl who had been in the taxi to leave. They ordered the five male passengers and the driver to stand, along with the three Palestinians from the other taxi, near the wall of a storage room in the olive grove.

    After the nine Palestinians were lined up against the wall, the soldiers began to beat them severely. Among other means, the soldiers struck the men with the butts of their guns and their helmets. Some of the soldiers went to the two taxis, broke their windows and slashed the seat covers and tires.

    The soldiers ordered the Palestinians to beat each other in pairs, while threatening that if they refused to do so they would be killed. When the blows the Palestinians inflicted on one another were too gentle for the soldiers‟ liking, they forced the Palestinians to use more force. At one point, the soldiers forced Khaled Rawashdeh, the taxi driver, to beat the other eight men as a condition for their release.

    Following two hours of abuse, the soldiers finally let the Palestinians leave. They stoned the victims as they were leaving. Four of the victims, including the two taxi drivers, were taken by residents of Karma village for medical treatment.

    On Friday, July 27, 2001, B‟Tselem researcher Musa Hashhash drove to Karma, near the place of the incident to carry out his work. While there, he noticed a few soldiers going toward his car, which he had left outside the village. He noted that the jeep they were driving had the same license plate number given by Muhammad a-Salamin in his testimony. He thought these might be the soldiers who abused the nine Palestinians on the previous Monday. He conducted a lengthy conversation with them, in which he mentioned the event described in this report. In response, one of the soldiers said: “They deserved it,” because they knowingly disobeyed the prohibition to drive on the closed road.

    Below are the testimonies of four of the Palestinians abused by the soldiers:

     1Testimony of Khaled Mershed Hassan Rawashdeh, 36, married, taxi driver

    I have been a taxi driver for two years now. I travel every day from my town Samou to Hebron, a 23-kilometer drive. During the last month, because the direct road from Samou to Hebron was often blocked with piles of earth, I can only take passengers part of the way.

    On Monday, July 23, 2001 at about 10:00 A.M, Israeli bulldozers removed the earth roadblocks at the entrances to Dura and Fawwar, and all the taxi drivers from Samou started to use this part of the road again. That morning, I drove from Hebron to Samou and returned to Hebron at about noon. I had three passengers in the taxi: Ahmad Suleiman Rawashdeh, 65, Muhammad Khalil Abu Seif, 21 and Mahmoud Muhammad Hawamdeh, 22, all residents of Samou. I had driven for about 8 kilometers on the main road (near a small village called Karma) when I passed a military jeep parked on the road, with four soldiers standing alongside it. I had only gone 50 meters past them when one of the soldiers near the jeep began to whistle and signal me to stop. At first I considered ignoring him, but I saw another jeep 400 meters ahead, so I stopped and drove back to the first jeep.

    When I stopped near the jeep, one of the soldiers came toward us and took my ID card and those of the passengers and told me to get out of the car. Another soldier got into the taxi and opened the glove compartment. He threw the documents, the cassettes, and the money that was in the glove compartment on the floor of the taxi.

    Meanwhile, the jeep that was parked down the road drove over and four other soldiers joined the first four. Now six of the soldiers began to severely beat two of the passengers, the two young ones. The two men fell on the ground and the soldiers continued kicking them and beating them with their gun butts. This lasted for about 10 minutes.

    Then the soldiers told me to drive into an olive grove on the right side of the road. An 80 or 90-cm (2 ? foot) stone wall separated the road from the grove. I told the soldiers that this wall was blocking my way. One of them replied, “Either you drive or you‟ll be the Hebron martyr of the day.” I tried to drive slowly, but the soldier told

    me to go back and drive quickly. I had to do so, and when I hit the wall, the taxi dislodged a big stone that stayed on the taxi as I drove onto the land. I stopped the taxi with great difficulty among the trees, and one of the soldiers told me to get out of the car.

    The soldier got into the drivers‟ seat and started to drive the car over the stones that had been dislodged from the wall, and to drive into the trees. He did that for about 10 minutes, during which my taxi sustained a lot of damage.

    Then he got out and told me to drive the car over the stone wall. I refused, so he offered me a dagger and told me to slash the four tires of the car. I refused, and told

     1 Testimony given to Musa Abu Hashhash at the witness‟ home on July 25, 2001.

    the soldier he could do that himself. I went to the window of the car and switched the engine off, and put the keys in my pocket. The soldier slashed two of the tires, then he saw another taxi coming from the direction of Hebron. The other soldiers were beating the two younger passengers. The old passenger was given his ID and told to leave the place quickly. At that point, four more soldiers came in a third jeep and stopped the other taxi. The soldier who slashed two of the tires came back to my taxi and slashed the two remaining tires.

    From my position near my car, I recognized the driver of the coming taxi. He was Muhammad Yousuf Muhammad Salamin, 28, from Samou. There were three women and five men in his taxi. As they did with me, they told Muhammad to drive into the olive grove. He refused at first, but one of the soldiers put his gun to his head and forced him to drive. The passengers were out of the taxi, and the soldiers let the three women go, swearing at them, saying “go away whores.” One of the soldiers got in and began to drive the taxi into the trees and over the rocks. to the taxi and

    Then they told the passengers to stand by the wall and they started to beat them. Then they came for the driver Muhammad and took some money from him. He told me that they stole 1000 NIS from him, explaining that the money was Israeli money and that it was theirs. Then the soldiers told him to stand with the passengers. While he was walking to the line they beat and pushed him.

    Now we were nine men standing in a line, one next to the other and the soldiers continued beating us as if they were playing a game. I saw one of the soldiers run from his position, six meters away, and kick one of the men in the stomach. They also threw stones at us and beat us with their hands and their gun butts. This lasted for about 20 minutes.

    The passengers were very tired and were staggering. The soldiers, who also seemed to be tired, divided themselves into two groups (6 each). One group went to the two taxis and started to damage them. First they tried to break the windows with small stones. When the glass didn‟t break, one of the soldiers suggested using bigger stones. They did so, and broke the windshield, the left side window and the mirror. The soldiers also slashed the ceiling and the seats of the car. Muhammad Yousuf‟s taxi sustained

    more damage than mine, and the soldiers broke his wireless radio and his car‟s cassette player. The soldiers told him to go ask Arafat to buy him a new radio.

    The other group of soldiers came toward us. One of them came up to me and struck me with the handle of his dagger under my right eye. The soldier also broke an armrest from the taxi and threw it at my head.

    Then one of the soldiers told us to beat each other in pairs. They threatened to shoot anyone who didn‟t do it, and whoever wanted to be a martyr just had to disobey that order. So we began to beat each other with our fists in the head and the face. Anyone who tried to beat his partner lightly was beaten by the soldiers until he beat his partner harder. This lasted for 10 minutes.

    Then they told one of the men, 'Abd al-Muttaleb Muhammad Musleh Mahareeq, 21 years old, to beat us one by one. He refused, but the soldiers threatened to kill him on the spot. The other men asked him to beat them. With tears falling from his eyes, the

    young man started to beat us with his fist on our faces and heads. He tried to beat us gently but one of the soldiers put his gun at to his head and told him to beat us more seriously. They told him to beat me the most. He struck my face me six or seven times.

    Then the soldiers themselves began to beat us for 5 minutes. Two of the men almost collapsed: Muhammad Abu Seif, who had blood coming out of his left ear, and another man, who was unconscious and fell several times. I tried to help these two, by taking them to the shade of an olive tree. One of the soldiers saw this, ran over to me and hit me in the shoulder with his rifle. He asked if I sympathized with them. I replied that I didn‟t see why not since they were my passengers and I was responsible

    for them. He then told me I could help them get away and offered to give them their IDs back if I beat them one by one.

    I refused to beat them. So he told me, 'Abd al-Muttaleb and Muhammad Rawashdeh to get out of the line. He said if we didn‟t want to be martyrs or a news flash on Al-

    Jazira Television, we should start beating the others.

    The others asked me to do as the soldier instructed. I hesitated, and tears came to my eyes. The others begged me to do it, and at last I agreed. The soldier then brought one of the passengers and asked me to beat him in the face. He told the others to come closer and watch the scene. I tried to beat him gently, but the soldier noticed and showed me, using his fist, how I should do it. The man standing before me encouraged me to do as I was told. So I did it to him and to the other seven, one by one. I beat them on different parts of their bodies according to the soldier‟s instructions. The last one whom I beat was 'Abd al-Muttaleb whom I beat on his mouth. When I finished, the soldier told me to beat myself for showing sympathy for the passengers. I replied that I deserve it and I beat myself on my mouth as hard as I could, out of hopelessness and despair.

    About two hours after we were stopped, the soldiers gave us our ID cards back and told us to run away. They added that they wanted us to feel how painful the stones were when thrown at soldiers. As we began leaving, some of the soldiers began to stone us. Some of the stones hit our backs and legs.

    When we were 10 or 15 meters away, the two passengers who were wounded, Abu Seif and Al-Hawamdeh were put into cars of villagers from nearby Karma and were taken to Ibn Seina Clinic in Samou. The other passengers dispersed quickly. Muhammad Yousuf a-Salamin and I hid behind a wall and watched our cars. Muhammad then called the Palestinian police in Samou who advised us to stay there until they could handle the problem. About 30-45 minutes later, an ambulance came and took us to „Alia Hospital in Hebron. I found out that Abu Seif and Al-Hawamdeh were taken to Al-Ahli Hospital.

    At about 17:00, Muhammad and I went back to the place of the incident. We were going to replace the tires of our cars. There were soldiers and a police car there when we got there. We approached, but the soldiers started chasing us. We finally managed to speak to the police officers, but they refused to help us. After the army and the police left, several children from the village helped us and we managed to replace the tires and drive home. We got home at about 8 p.m.

Testimony of Muhammad Yousuf Muhammad a-Salamin, 28, married with three 2children, taxi driver

    I am married with three sons. The eldest is six and a half years old, the second is four and a half and the youngest is two years old. I own a Ford transit taxi, 2000 model. I started working as a taxi driver in 1998. I work on the Samou Hebron route. My

    workday begins at 6:30 AM and ends at around 17:30-18:00 PM.

     On July 23,2001, I left the house at 6:30 AM. As usual, I drove passengers to Al Fawwar refugee camp. By 10:30 AM, I had made three trips to the camp. At 10:30, an army digger opened the entrance to the refugee camp. I found out that the entrance to Samou had also been opened, so I set out toward Samou from Al Fawwar without passengers, using the bypass road. I arrived in Samou at 10:45 AM. I immediately picked up passengers and drove toward Hebron on the bypass road. My taxi was full

    seven women and two men. On the way to Hebron I saw soldiers in different places on the bypass road, but no one stopped me. I arrived in Hebron at around 11:15. When I got to the central station I saw that there was a long queue of taxis waiting for passengers, so I decided to go back to Samou and pick up passengers along the way. Nine passengers got into the taxi three women, one of them with a little girl, and

    five young men.

    Around noon, I drove by Karma, near the UNRWA Billy school. I didn‟t see any military jeeps. Suddenly, about 20 meters past Billy school, five soldiers jumped out of the olive groves and ordered me to stop. I stopped immediately. One of the soldiers came toward the taxi. The rest of them were pointing their guns in my direction. They were standing about 30 meters away. The soldier came to the window beside me, kicked the door and crassly asked for my ID card. I gave him my ID and he put it in his pocket without even looking at it. He ordered me to proceed. I started driving slowly, and then a soldier came out of the olive trees and ordered me to go into the olive grove.

    I looked in the direction the soldiers told me to go and told the soldier that I couldn‟t take the taxi that way because it was full of rocks. He hit the side mirror with the butt of his gun. The mirror is electric and costs a lot of money. He broke it and shouted at me to get into the way they told me. I felt that if I disobeyed his orders I would pay with my life. I started moving back and forth trying to get into the road. I had no choice, and I forced the taxi into the place I was shown. The taxi hit the rocks and sustained severe damage. The exhaust pipe dislodged and fell to the ground, the power steering was destroyed, the gearshift was destroyed, and the back bumper came off. The sides of the vehicle got dented. I saw Khaled Rawashdeh's taxi standing there (I know him from the village). After a few attempts, I managed to get the vehicle to the place they showed me. The soldier was shouting and banging his gun on the side of the car and telling me to drive faster the whole time I was attempting to drive where they had told me. I got in and parked behind Khaled‟s taxi.

    Before I managed to switch the engine off, a soldier arrived, opened the door, grabbed me by the neck and dragged me out. I fell on the ground face down. One of the

     2 The testimony was given to Raslan Mahagna on July 26, 2001 at the witness‟ home.

    soldiers stepped on my neck and another on my back. A third soldier arrived and told the other two to move. I understand Hebrew, so I understood what he said. The two soldiers moved, so I took advantage of it. I got up, went to the taxi, switched the engine off, took the keys and put them in my pocket. They tried to take the keys out of my pocket, so I got them out and threw them far away. The soldiers took 1000 NIS ($250) in bills out of my pocket. I had a cash box in the cab. The soldiers took it apart and took all the money that was there about 250 NIS in coins.

    I was afraid that they were going to hit me, so I bent my head and put my hands on the back of my neck. The soldiers started punching my abdomen and back. They told me to take my hands off my head, but I refused. One of the soldiers handed me a dagger and ordered me to take it to the taxi and slash the tires. I refused, and then heard the air coming out of the tires. The soldiers ordered me to kneel. I put my head between my knees, and covered my head with my hands, as I was afraid I would get hit on the head. I heard them calling the soldier who held the dagger and telling him that I had a spare tire in the taxi. The soldier went back to the taxi and slashed the spare tire as well. I heard the air come out of that one too.

    One of the soldiers caught me by the neck and pulled me up. I tried to turn around and see his face, and then he slapped me hard and ordered me to walk without looking left or right. I saw Khaled and other people standing near a wall of storage rooms belonging to Karma‟s residents some 20 meters away. I walked in the direction I was told, and while I was walking, the soldiers kicked me and punched me all over my body. I stood by the men who were standing near the wall. He ordered me to lift my hands up, spread my legs and stand with my face to the wall. I heard them swearing in Hebrew words that are difficult for me to repeat. They went and had a thorough search of the taxis. They broke the windshield. One of the soldiers grabbed me by the hair, turned my head around and said: “Look at your vehicle, pretty isn‟t it? If we broke the rear window it would look even better”. He then powerfully shoved my head toward his chest. My head hit his bulletproof vest. He then told me to face the wall again.

    While searching the taxi, they found Al Ayyam newspaper. One of the soldiers started reading and translating to the other soldiers what was written. He said to them: “Look what these people write about us.” I heard the soldiers coming toward me and then

    they started beating us. I didn‟t see how many of them beat us, because I was facing the wall. I just heard the others‟ screams. I was also crying and screaming the whole time. One of the soldiers turned my head around and asked me in Hebrew: “What

    brought you here? You know this is Israeli territory.” I told him I wasn‟t in Tel-Aviv

    or Jerusalem. I was around Hebron. Then he butted me in the head, while wearing his helmet. He walked off, and three soldiers came over and started kicking and punching me all over my body. They ordered me to kneel, facing the wall. I put my head between my knees. They hit the man next to me and he fell down. While falling, he pushed me, and I also fell. I got on my feet and tried looking toward the soldiers. One of them jumped up and gave me a karate kick in the stomach. I fell on my back. The soldier came over to me and pulled me by the hair. He stood me by the wall. Another soldier went to my cab and took apart my Motorola two-way radio. He asked me why I had such an instrument. I told him every driver in my station had one in their taxi. He said: “Motorola isn‟t yours. Go get Arafat to get you equipment”.

    They made me stand facing the wall again, and I could feel stones being thrown at us. Three stones hit my shoulder and two hit my back. One of the soldiers caught me by the hair and dragged me toward my taxi. He said: “Look at your car” and then got me to stand facing the wall again. Khaled was standing beside me. The soldiers dragged him back and told him: “If you want to be released, you have to hit everybody with your fist.” That soldier told all of us to hit each other. They told us where on the body to hit. One soldier brought one of the men, Muhammad „Ali Mehariq and told me to slap him. I covered my face with my hands and refused. The soldier struck my face. Another soldier came over and put his weapon on my shoulder, pointed at Muhammad‟s head. He told me to take my hands off my face; or else the next news item on Al Jazira TV would be about Muhammad‟s death. So I uncovered my face

    and Muhammad slapped me. This didn‟t satisfy the soldier and he ordered him to slap me harder. I told Muhammad to hit me hard and not get upset. With tears in his eyes he slapped me hard. This satisfied the soldiers. They brought another person from our town, „Abd al-Muttaleb Muhammad Mehariq. They ordered him to punch me in the

    eye. He hesitated, and I told him not to get upset and to punch me hard. He punched me hard in the face, and immediately started to cry. I think it was because of the anger, not the pain he suffered from the beating.

    After that, the soldiers ordered Khaled, at gunpoint, to hit us all on the head with his fist. The soldiers ordered us to face the wall, and I put my hands on my face. Khaled came to me with a soldier. I didn‟t see them. The soldier ordered me to take my hands off my face. He threatened that if I didn‟t do it, Khaled would die. I hesitated at first, and then I heard the sound of the trigger being cocked. I was afraid and took my hands off. I told Khaled not to hesitate and beat me. After he hit me, I fell down due to the exhaustion and the beatings. Then I heard them tell us to leave the place.

    Two jeeps left, and four soldiers remained in the place. One of them grabbed my head and turned me around. Another tried to open my right palm and put the dagger in it, but I refused and closed my palms tight. They beat me severely on the head and the rest of my body for two, three minutes. After that, they put the ID cards in Khaled‟s

    pocket, ordered us to look the other way, toward Karma, and started throwing stones at us. We all started running up the hill. I ran away toward the storage rooms and from there, I could see the jeep‟s license plate. I will never forget the number – צ6100210. I

    remained lying behind the storage rooms to rest from everything I‟d been through.

    After about 15 minutes, I called the Palestinian police station in Samou, and they sent us an ambulance, which arrived 45 minutes later. They took Khaled and me. At that point I lost consciousness and woke up only in the emergency room at „Alia hospital in Hebron. At about 17:30, we were released, and Khaled and I went back to where our taxis had been left. We saw soldiers and a police jeep. We waited for a while for the soldiers to leave, but when we saw the police jeep, we decided to approach. It was around 19:00. The soldiers didn‟t let us get close, but finally I spoke to one of the police officers and told him what the soldiers had done to us. He told me it wasn‟t his

    business. I then told him that the soldiers had stolen my money, the tape deck I had in the car and my Motorola wireless radio. The police officer gave me a phone number, 996-9444, and told me to call them. When I called, I found out that it was the Kiryat Arba police station. I told them everything that happened to us, and about the things the soldiers had stolen. They told me to go there the next morning. When I went home

    and discussed it with friends, I was advised not to go, because I might be arrested for fines I hadn‟t paid.

    I can definitely identify one of the soldiers. I could pick him out of a thousand soldiers. He was about 180cm tall. He had fair hair and skin. He wore silver sunglasses, and a light crème colored bulletproof vest, which was different from the others. The vest had writing on it, which I couldn‟t read.

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