Friday, June 12, 2009

Israeli soldiers admit widespread abuse of Palestinian detainees, including children

Dear friends,
Please find below an article by Ben Lynfield from the UK newspaper, The Independent, about Israel soldiers abuse of Palestinian prisoners. The article confirms, once again, the wide spread and illegal use of abusive force against unarmed Palestinian prisoners, including children (some as young as 14) by the Israeli occupation forces.

In particular, the article focuses on the Israeli occupation forces invasion of Hares village in the Salfit governate of the Occupied West Bank.

Hares is the village that the International Women’s Peace Service , (the team that I work with in Palestine) is based in. We have been located in the village since 2002, when the village issued an invitation for an international team to be based in the village as it was under constant attack in the first years of the Al Aqsa intifada.

Hares is located, along with several other villages, in the centre of the massive illegal bloc of settlements known as the “Ariel settlement bloc”. Ariel settlement is the largest settlement in the West Bank proper, with around 50,000 illegal settlers. From our balcony, you can see Ariel which is less than 2 km away; while from the window of our kitchen you are assaulted visually by the illegal colonies of Barkan and Revava. Barkan is an “industrial” settlement and produces furniture and wine, to name a few things. The settlement bloc includes approximately another 12 illegal colonies, all within a few kilometres of Hares.

At the time of the invasion mentioned in Lynfield’s article, my colleagues in Hares reported that the raid was part of an increased militarisation in the northern part of the Occupied West Bank that included the Israeli occupation forces erecting new roadblocks at the entrance of villages in the form of earth mounds – with this happening in Hares, as well as Azzun in the Qalqilya district (Azzun is approximately 30 -40 minutes from Hares).

Earlier in the month, the Israeli occupation forces invaded Hares and invaded our apartment/office in village. This was the first time in a number of years since this had happened. According to my team mates there was some speculation that the IOF has in the past few months been embolden by their “success” in Gaza and the election of the new ultra right government headed by Netanyahu

I have included below, as well, the link to the IWPS report on the invasion mentioned in Lynfield’s report. The original report, available on the IWPS website, includes a series of photographs taken during the invasion.

In solidarity,



Bound, blindfolded and beaten – by Israeli troops

Children among Palestinian detainees abused during West Bank operation, according to soldiers' confessions

By Ben Lynfield in Hares, West Bank

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Two Israeli officers have testified that troops in the West Bank beat, bound and blindfolded Palestinian civilians as young as 14. The damaging disclosures by two sergeants of the Kfir Brigade include descriptions of abuses they say they witnessed during a search-and-detain operation involving hundreds of troops in Hares village on 26 March. The testimonies have been seen by The Independent and are expected to add fuel to the controversy over recent remarks by Colonel Itai Virob, commander of Kfir Brigade, in which he said violence against detained Palestinians was justified in order to accomplish missions.

Both the soldiers, from the Harub battalion, highlighted the tight tying of the plastic hand restraints placed on detainees. "There are people who think you need to tighten the restraints all the way, until no drop of blood will pass from here to there," one soldier said. "It doesn't take much time until the hands turn blue. There were a lot of people that you know weren't feeling anything."

He said about 150 Palestinians, some as young as 14, were bound, blindfolded and detained at the village school during the operation, which lasted from 3am to 3pm. He was told it was aimed at preventing village youths throwing stones against nearby settler roads. It was clear many of the people detained had done nothing wrong, but they were held to gather intelligence, he said.

Photos by IWPS

Photos by IWPS

The worst beatings were in the bathrooms, he said. "The soldiers who took [detainees] to the toilet just exploded [over] them with beatings; cursed them with no reason. When they took one Arab to the toilet so that he could urinate, one of them gave him a slap that brought him to the ground. He had been handcuffed from behind with a nylon restraint and blindfolded. He wasn't insolent, he didn't do anything to get on anyone's nerves ... [it was] just because he's an Arab. He was something like 15 years old." The soldier said he saw a lot of soldiers "just knee [Palestinians] because it's boring, because you stand there 10 hours, you're not doing anything, so they beat people up."

A second soldier described a "fanatical atmosphere" during the search operations. "We would go into a house and turn the whole thing upside down," he recalled, but no weapons were found. "They confiscated kitchen knives."

The first soldier said involvement was widespread."There were a lot of reservists that participated, and they totally had a celebration on the Palestinians: curses, humiliation, pulling hair and ears, kicks, slaps. These things were the norm." He said the incidents in the toilet were the "extreme" and added that the beatings did not draw blood. They were "dry beatings, but it's still a beating".

The second soldier said some troops stole from houses they searched, even though the people were so poor it was hard for them to find anything to take.

Last month, Colonel Virob testified in a military court that hitting detained Palestinians could be justified. "Standing them against walls, pushing them, a blow that doesn't cause injury. Certainly, these are things that are commonly used in an attempt to accomplish the mission," he said. Despite a reprimand of Colonel Virob by the head of central command, General Shamni, and a disavowal by army chief of staff Lt General Gabi Ashkenazi, the remarks are seen by Breaking the Silence, an organisation that collects testimonies of soldiers, as proof that the alleged abuses in Hares cannot be dismissed as an isolated occurrence or low-level improvisations.

In Hares, Ihab Shamlawi, a university student, recalled watching as a high school pupil asked soldiers permission to go to the bathroom. "They put him on the floor, they kicked his legs and beat him," he said. Ten or 15 other soldiers were watching, Mr Shamlawi recalled. "They all laughed," he said.

The army spokesman's office yesterday said an investigation had been opened and added that, following Colonel Virob's previous remarks, General Shamni had distributed pamphlets to troops underscoring that "when someone is detained, stopped or held ... Israel Defence Force soldiers ... are absolutely and clearly forbidden to use any force or violence against them".


Photos by IWPS

IWPS report on Hares Invasion

27 March 2009

Army incursion in Haris, over 150 minors and youths arrested

Written by Rada Edited by Maria

A major military operation took place today in Haris between 2am and 5pm. Around 15 jeeps, 2 border police jeeps and vans belonging to Israeli Intelligence Shabak entered Haris and arrested around 150 people including large number of minors.

A number of people reported injury by the soldiers including several cases of beatings of small children and women. Soldiers also destroyed furniture, appliances, walls and various food products in at least 4 houses.

At 4:30pm most of the people who were arrested were released. At present IWPS is aware of 4 youths all aged 16 who have not been released and whose whereabouts is currently unknown. There are strong indications that more people were taken away and we are hoping to have more accurate figures soon.

At 2 am soldiers and jeeps entered Haris in a major military operation which lasted 15 hours. The soldiers raided most houses in Haris, arresting youths and interrogating them about their friends, family members and the layout of the houses. The IWPS has heard from many parents and adults that soldiers gave them a piece of paper with a number and photographed them holding this paper.

All those arrested were blindfolded, handcuffed and taken to the primary school in Haris. Here they were seated in the classrooms and in the playground and interrogated one by one by Shabak and the military. Those released were given a paper so that other soldiers would not re-arrest them as the arrests continued throughout the day.

The IWPS members witnessed several of the arrests and we have managed to secure photographic evidence and statements form a number of victims and their relatives.

Photos by IWPS

Photos by IWPS

IWPS also received a report of a man who suffered a back injury due to excessive use of force by the soldiers. The IWPS called for an ambulance which arrived shortly after but was denied entry into Haris by the soldiers, in spite of being urged by the IWPS and the villagers living near by. The reason given was that if a person was injured it would be army's responsibility to take care of them and provide the ambulance. However, the Israeli ambulance parked nearby was not called by the soldiers to treat the injured man.

Two photojournalists who managed to enter Haris close to the primary school where shortly after escorted by the border police out of the village. In addition, a TV van and two other journalists were denied entry into Haris.

The army incursion finished around 4.30 and the villages fear that it might continue in the near future.

When questioned about the purpose of the incursion, IWPS members were told by the army that they were updating its database of information of Haris residents. Last Saturday 21st March there was another army incursion into Haris where army jeeps and Shabak vans parked in front of the primary school and took photos of the school.

IWPS is concerned about the current wave of arrests of residents of Haris and especially minors and youths. IWPS is also very concerned about the violent behavior of soldiers during the arrests and the use of primary school for detention and interrogation purposes. In addition the media access has repeatedly been denied and there is limited flow information including about the very serious human right abuses mentioned above

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