Israeli authorities arrest Israeli border policemen suspected of killing ‘Imran Abu Hamdia

Israeli occupation soldier while occupying home in Nablus, June 2002

B’Tselem welcomes the arrest of four Border Policemen suspected of beating to death ‘Imran Abu Hamdia, 18, in Hebron in December 2002. The Department for the Investigation of Police (DIP), of the Ministry of Justice, investigated the incident after B’Tselem provided its findings to DIP and requested that it open an investigation into the matter.

B’Tselem urges DIP to investigate the many complaints of abuse that B’Tselem has filed with it regarding Border Police abuse throughout the Occupied Territories, in general, and in Hebron, in particular.

B’Tselem urges the commander of the Border Police to act firmly to put an end to the abuse of Palestinians by Border Police in the Occupied Territories.

Background

Around 8:00 P.M. on 30 December 2002, a Border Police jeep stopped alongside Abu Hamdia, who was standing with friends outside his home in Hebron. According to testimonies given to B’Tselem, the Border Policemen put Abu Hamdia into the jeep and left. A few of Abu Hamdia’s friends went to Hebron’s industrial area, which is known as a place where Border Policemen take residents and beat them up. About forty minutes after Abu Hamdia was taken, his friends found his body lying in the industrial zone, alongside the road.

B’Tselem began its investigation that evening. Among its findings, the organization found that Border Policemen had also severely beaten two other Palestinian residents of Hebron the same evening. After taking the initial testimonies, B’Tselem demanded DIP to open an investigation. B’Tselem assisted DIP in locating the witnesses and getting them to the DIP investigators so they could give their statements. B’Tselem and the Palestinian human rights organization al-Haq obtained the consent of Abu Hamdia’s family to open the grave and remove his body, and arranged that Danish pathologist Dr. Jurgen Tomassen participate in conducting the autopsy. The autopsy revealed that Abu Hamdia had been severely beaten before he died.

Testimonies

  • Ra’id Abd Al-Hafez Al-Mun’im A-Rajbi

    Ra’id Abd Al-Hafez Al-Mun’im A-Rajbi, age 29, married and father of two, worker, Resident of area H2 in Hebron. The testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash near the victim’s house, at Tarek Ibn Ziad St., Hebron, 31.12.02

    “Yesterday, 30.12.02, I was at Tarek Ibn Ziad club, where food is being distributed. The club is in front of my house, on Tarek Ibn Ziad Street. After I finished my business at the club, I was standing next to my house with Falah Abu Hamdia, Naim A-Rajbi and ‘Imran Abu Hamdia. At about 19:45 a Border Police jeep drove up to the place where we were standing. The door at the back of the jeep was open and one the officers sitting at the back called to us. Naim got to him first and then the three of us. There were four officers in the jeep. The officer who had talked to me had dark skin and his hair was combed sideways. He talked Arabic and asked, in a polite and calm manner, “Why are you standing here?” We said that there was no curfew and he confirmed. He then asked for our ID’s, looked at them quickly and asked us for our ages. We answered him, and then he ordered Naim, Falah and me to leave and told ‘Imran to stay and to take off his coat. I then tried to interfere and said that ‘Imran’s father had died two days ago. The truth is he died forty days ago. The officer said he won’t harm him and that he just wanted to talk to him. I tried to stay with him, but the policeman ordered me to go away. I turned and walked away and after about five meters I looked back and saw the jeep driving away. I couldn’t see ‘Imran and I’m sure he was on the jeep.

    Falakh and I began to walk towards Al-Fakhs Street in the industry zone. It is known that’s where they’re taking people to beat them. On the way we met Hamza Nabil A-Rajbi, who had joined us. Children hanging out on the street told us they had seen the jeep going south. We walked a Kilometer or more. The street was lit and completely empty. Next to Shahin station, where people fill their gas tanks, we saw a body in the middle of the road. We ran towards the body and saw that it was ‘Imran. He was lying on his back, blood running from his nose, mouth and the back of his head. I could see traces of blood on the ground. We had reached the body at about 20:15. ‘Imran hadn’t moved at all. Falakh put his ear on ‘Imrans chest but couldn’t hear him breath. We then saw a car passing by. We stopped the car, put ‘Imran in it, and drove with him to Muhammed Ali Al-Mokhtaseb Hospital.

    A few minuets after ‘Imran had gotten to the hospital, the doctors have pronounced him dead. He was transferred to the morgue at Alia Hospital and was buried at noon, the day after, at Abu Sneina cemetery.”

  • Bassem Yihya ‘Aaref Ahamra

    Bassem Yihya ‘Aaref Ahamra, age 34, married and father to four, laborer, resident of area H2, Hebron. The testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash at the military checkpoint near the Tomb of the Patriarchs on 5 January , 2003.

    “I live with my family in the a-Salayma neighborhood, about a hundred meters north of the Tomb of the Patriarchs. On Friday, January 3, around 11:30 A.M., I was on my way back home from the market. That day, there was an announcement that the curfew would be lifted until 14:00 P.M. I was with my neighbor, Rami al-Masri, and the two of us went toward the Tomb of the Patriarchs. At the end of the road, a border police officer stopped me next to the military checkpoint. There were two more officers at the checkpoint. The officer that had stopped me ordered me to take off my coat and take all the documents out of my pockets. I did as he said and then he demanded my ID and told me to go and stand next to the watchtower, on the right side of the road. He told me to face the tower and to put my left hand behind my back and my right hand up . Then the officer proceeded to spread my legs by kicking me. He searched me and hit me several times on my back with his hand and with the butt of his rifle, then he left me.

    Some time later, one of the other two officers approached me and told me to alternate my hands and I did as he said. He searched me and hit me on my back. The officer stuck his hand in my pant pocket and pulled out a 20-centimeter-long, black, knife. I didn’t have a knife. He said that he had found it in my pocket and that they were going to arrest me. I was shocked and I got scared. I told him that the knife wasn’t mine and that they had planted it in my pocket. None of the officers listened to me and they told me to remain where I was. Every so often, one of the officers would come up to me and hit me on the back.

    After about two hours, one of them gave me back my ID, and told me to leave the scene. I know the officers that stopped me, and I could identify them anytime.”

  • Hamza Suleiman Yihya a-Rajabi

    Hamza Suleiman Yihya a-Rajabi, age 22, single, laborer, resident of area H2, Hebron. The testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash, at the witnesses’ home, on 31 December, 2003

    “I live on the Tareq Ben Ziyad road in area H2, in Hebron. My house is about 300 meters away from the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Yesterday, Monday, 30 December, 2003, at around 6:30 P.M., I left my house to pray at the Tareq Ben Ziyad Mosque, which is on the same road, about a 100 meters to the south. The curfew was lifted that day. All the stores were open and there were people and cars on the streets. Further down the road, I saw a border police jeep. The officers were talking to a passer-by. I continued in the direction of the mosque and then, when I was about ten meters from the jeep, an officer got out and pointed his rifle at me. He told me to approach him. I showed him my ID and he talked on his communication device. He asked me where I was going and I told him that I was on my way to the mosque to pray. I overheard him talking to his colleagues in Hebrew. I didn’t understand a word they were saying. A little later, he told me to get into the jeep and when I got in, he pushed me hard and told me to seat and keep my head down.

    The jeep left, but I couldn’t tell in which direction. After about five minutes, the jeep stopped and the four officers got me out and came out themselves. Then, I realized I was on al-Fakhs street, about a hundred meters from a gas station. One of the officers had a video camera. Another officer hit me with the barrel of his rifle on the right shoulder. The officer that was standing next to me asked if I was a member of the Islamic Jihad or the Hamas and I said I wasn’t. He said: “Then you’re a collaborator.” I said I wasn’t. Two of them started beating me on the shins with long heavy clubs. I fell to the ground. I sat, bent my knees upwards, put my head down between my knees and covered it with my hands to protect it from the blows. The two officers hit me on my arms. I noticed a blinking light on the camera the third officer was holding. I think he was filming me. The beating went on for about ten minutes. I was on my knees on the ground from the pain. Then the officer holding the camera kicked me forcefully in my right side. Afterwards the officers got into the jeep and left.

    Earlier, when the officer was checking my ID, he took out all the documents I was keeping in its case and threw them on the ground. There were 150 shekels among those papers. I couldn’t find the money after the officers left. When they left I tried to get up, but was unable to. I tried to crawl and after about twenty minutes three youths came to me. They told me that they had seen a jeep leave, and thought that the officers might have beaten up somebody, so they came to see if everything was all right. They supported me and helped me to get to the Muhammad ‘Ali al-Muhtaseb hospital, about 700 meters from the place everything had happened. At the hospital I was examined and transferred to the ‘Alia hospital for further treatment.

    Right now, I can’t use my left leg and suffer from pains in my left shoulder and elbow. I can identify one of the officers that beat me. He was about 1.70 cm tall, and had a lean face. He was slim, fair-skinned, and wore a cloth cap.”

  • ‘Alaa ‘Abd-al Fatah Sanukrut

    Alaa ‘Abd-al Fatah Sanukrut, age 20, stone factory worker, resident of the a-Rama area in area H1 in Hebron. The testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash at the witness’ home, on 2 January, 2003

    “My family and I live in a-Rama, which is in the H1 area of Hebron. I work at a stone factory, which belongs to my family. The factory is located on the main road of the industrial area, in area H2 in Hebron, at a distance of about a kilometer from the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

    On Monday afternoon, 30 December, 2002, I was standing in the area of the stone factory with my brother Bassem, aged 25, Shaher al-Bakri (Abu Shadi), aged 40, and some neighbors. There was traffic on the road and the area was not under curfew. At around 2:00 P.M., I saw a border police jeep traveling slowly along the road. When the jeep was about fifty meters away from us, it stopped. The border police officers were looking around and it seemed like they were looking for someone. After they spotted us the jeep came quickly toward us and stopped. My brother, Bassem, and I got into our car, a Suzuki, and were about to go home. One of the officers called to my brother, demanding that he leave the car and hand over his ID. Bassem grabbed his ID and approached the officer, who was sitting in the back of the jeep. The rear door of the jeep was open. The officer looked at my brother’s ID and ordered him to return to the car. He then told me to come to him. I got out of the car and handed him my ID. He talked to me in Arabic and demanded that I get into the jeep. I got in and the jeep went off to the south.

    The officers began talking to me in Hebrew. I don’t know Hebrew and couldn’t understand what they were saying to me. The officer who was sitting in the front next to the driver had a black video camera. He pointed the camera at me as the officers were talking to me. When the officers kept on talking to me in Hebrew, I told them I didn’t understand and asked them in Arabic where they were taking me. The officer that was sitting next to me hit me in the mouth with his elbow and ordered me, in broken Arabic, not to make a sound. I did as he said. As we were riding, the same officer kept beating his club against the floor of the jeep, as though he were threatening me. I was really scared. My fear increased when, after about a kilometer and a half, the jeep turned left onto a rough road. The jeep kept travelling along this road for about another fifty meters until it came to an isolated courtyard, both sides of which were fenced off. There was a large water tank in the courtyard. The officers rode around the courtyard, probably checking out the area. They then parked the jeep between the two fences, so that no one standing outside could see into the yard. When the jeep stopped, the officer inside kicked me out onto the ground, while the officer with the camera kept on filming. When I was out of the jeep, I found myself completely surrounded by the fences, the water tank and the jeep.

    I was really scared because there were no people in the area. One of the officers told me to get up and face the wall. After a while, he told me to turn around. When I turned around I saw two officers facing me and the officer with the camera on the right, still filming. The officer with the club was holding it in one hand, and tapping it on the other. Another officer searched me and asked me where my wallet, money, and cell phone were. I told him I didn’t have anything on me. He asked, suprised, why I didn’t have any money. I told him there was no work because of the closure. Suddenly, the officer who was standing to the left, with the club, raised it toward my face . I managed to cover my face with my left hand. I got hit on the arm and felt a sharp pain. The officer who was standing to my right hit me on the right shoulder with the butt of his rifle. I took a blow to the thigh from the club and another blow with the rifle butt. They kept beating me like this until the officer with the club hit me forcefully on the head and I fell to the ground. I started to scream at the top of my lungs. I was hurting very badly. I kept on shouting in the hope that somebody in the area would hear me and come to my rescue.

    When I fell to the ground, one of the officers kicked me in the torso. The officer with the club hit me several times, until blood started flowing from my head and covered my face. From outside the courtyard, I could hear people shouting: “Oh God!, Oh God!” When the officer with the club saw the blood and heard the screaming, he jumped inside the jeep. The officer who had hit me with the butt of his rifle and the officer who had been filming the beating ran after him and got into the jeep. The officer must have remembered that he had thrown the club on the ground, because he jumped out of the jeep, picked up the club, got back inside and the jeep left.

    A lot of people gathered outside the courtyard, after the jeep left. Some of them carried me to the main road and waited for a car to pass by. I saw the jeep coming back and stopping in the middle of the road at a distance of about thirty meters from us. The people took me to a nearby alley and got me into one of the houses. I stayed there for about an hour and a half and only after the jeep left the scene did they take me outside and into one of the neighbors’ cars. They took me to the Muhammad ‘Ali al-Muhtaseb hospital.

    The doctors at the hospital told me I had a crack in my skull and that they couldn’t do anything for me except dress the wound. They told me to go to the ‘Alia hospital for further treatment. After about half an hour, my brother, Bassem arrived at the hospital and took me to the ‘Alia hospital. Once there, they gave me seven stiches, and took x-rays. The doctors told me to remain at the hospital for further observation, but I preferred to be treated at home and at around 4:00 P.M,. I returned home.

    Description of the border police officers:

    1. The officer that was sitting next to me, behind the driver, was about 165-170 cm tall, slim, fair-skinned, and had an elongated face. He was wearing a helmet.

    2. The officer that was sitting in front of me was a little taller than the first one, fair-skinned, and plump.

    3. The officer who was filming was of average height, medium build, and was fair-skinned.

    4. The fourth officer stayed in the jeep the entire time and I don’t remember what he looked like.”

  • Ziyad Sa’adi Muhammad Banat

    Ziyad Sa’adi Muhammad Banat, age 15, tile factory worker, resident of Jabel Johar, in area H2 in Hebron. The testimony was given to Musa Abu Hashhash in Jabel Johar on January 6, 2003.

    “My family and I live in Jabel Johar, in area H2 in Hebron. I work in a tile factory in the industrial area in area H2 in Hebron. On Wednesday, 18 December, 2002, at around 8:30 A.M., I left the house to buy some food for the family. As the area was under curfew, I went with my neighbor, Badi’ Abu Hamdiya, age 23, in his car to look for an open grocery store in the industrial area. Badi’ drove a Renault 9. Half way there, a man we didn’t know, asked Badi’ for a ride home. When we got close to the Shahin gas station, I saw a border police jeep in the middle of the road and four border police officers standing next to it. When we were about ten meters from the officers, one of them called out to us, and demanded to see our ID cards. We handed them to him.

    When we got closer, three officers stood behind us and started throwing stones at me. They threw about seven large, heavy stones. They then told me and Badi’ [Abu Hamdiya] to stand near an unfinished store across from the Shahin gas station. They told us to put our hands up. One of the officers approached me from behind and banged my head against the wall three times. My mouth was injured and began to bleed. After that, the officer hit me on the nose with the butt of his rifle. I fell to the ground, dizzy and bleeding from my nose. The four officers kicked me in the head. I tried to fend off the blows with my hands and then I got to my feet. Badi’ [Abu Hamdiya] was still standing next to the fence with his hands in the air. When I was standing, the officers ordered me to put my hands up and face the wall. One of them hit me with a long and thick club. I took more than five blows to the back and shoulders. One of the officers went back a little distance then jumped me and kicked me in the back.

    As the officers were beating us, they cursed us in Arabic and Hebrew. They took turns beating, so that at any one time one of the officers was beating me. This went on for more than half an hour, until eventually one of them called me over to him. I stayed put. The officers talked to me in Hebrew, which I don’t understand. Another officer, who was holding a 30-centimeter-long knife approached me and punched me on the right side of the face. He lifted the knife in the direction of my right shoulder, but I managed to move it away, so that it cut my coat. I was afraid the officer would try to stab me again, so I ran away in the direction of the Shahin gas station. I jumped over a fence about a meter high, ran behind the gas station and hid there, in the Um a-Dalya area.

    When I was about 200 meters from the place where everything happened, I used my cell phone to call my friend, Badi’, but he didn’t answer. When the border police jeep left the scene, I went back to the place where the officers had beaten me. Badi’[Abu Hamdiya] was there. He told me that the officers had beaten him as well. Badi’ was exhausted and blood was coming out of his nose. His car had also been damaged. The windows, the tires and the seats were ruined.

    I phoned up Badi’s brother, ‘Abd al-Hakem, aged 30. He came in his car and took us to the Muhammad ‘Ali al-Muhtaseb hospital. The doctors gave us preliminary treatment and told us to go to the ‘Aalia hospital. ‘Abd al-Hakem took us to ‘Aalia hospital where we were x-rayed. The doctors determined that I had two cracked ribs a cracked nose. I had bruises on my back from the stones that had been thrown at me. I was released from the hospital the same day, but I have not been able to work since, because of pains in my back.

    The following day, somebody brought back my ID. He told me that he had found it lying on the ground.

    Descriptions of the officers:

    1. Tall, slim, dark-skinned, black-haired. He has a black spot under the right eye. He was not wearing a helmet.

    2. Tall, slim, blond, hair cut short and combed upwards.

    3. Short, black-haired.

    4. Fair skinned, medium height, black-haired.

    I think the first officer is a Bedouin. There are rumors that his brother was killed in Hebron in November. I could easily identify these border police officers. I also gave a testimony to the Employment Bureau and the Palestinian Prisoners’ Organization.”

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