B’Tselem wrote to the Chief Military Prosecutor demanding that she open an investigation into the severe beating of two journalists. Sha’aban Qandil, a photographer for ANN and Joseph Handal, a photographer for France 2, suffered serious injuries as a result of a beating by IDF soldiers in Beit Sahur on Monday night.
In a testimony given to a B’Tselem fieldworker, Qandil reports:
“We drove 200 meters [in a clearly marked press car] … and then we saw two army jeeps approaching us… The two jeeps stopped in front of our car and six soldiers got out… They approached our car and opened the driver’s door. Joseph wanted to show them his press card and tried to speak to them in English, but the soldiers didn’t let him speak or take out his ID. They took him out of the car and started hitting him immediately…
Two soldiers approached me. One of them grabbed my shirt. I was afraid and held my right arm up to protect my face. The other soldier struck my right elbow hard with his gun. I felt my elbow break and I yelled in pain. Then they both dragged me out of the car and lay me on the ground… The two soldiers stomped on me and kicked me for five minutes. Meanwhile, I heard Joseph yelling from the other side of the car and I saw two other soldiers searching the car. They took out the film equipment… They beat me for another 15 minutes … and then drove away.”
“I am a cameraman for ANN, an Arab TV station that has been on the air for about one year. I usually work along with my colleague Joseph Chandel, who films for French television’s Channel 2. We document the events in our area. We have press cards from the Palestinian Ministry of Communications. These cards allow us to move about in the field, particularly when events are taking place, such as incursions into Palestinian cities and exchanges of fire, and also when a curfew is imposed. However, in most cases, the army does not recognize our cards passes and expels us from the area or delays us for a few hours. Sometimes, soldiers break our video cameras and accessories.
Yesterday [19 May], around 10:00 P.M., some journalists called Joseph and me to tell us that Israeli soldiers were shelling a vacant building in the ‘Ush al-Ghurab army base, which is near Beit Sahur. They also told us a large contingent of Israeli soldiers was in Beit Sahur because they suspected that Palestinians had fired at the army camp.
Around 11:00 P.M., Joseph left his home, which is located at the intersection near the Education and Culture Ministry, about four hundred meters from my house. He picked me up in his car, a white BMW, and drove toward Beit Sahur. We reached Istiah Street and were about five hundred meters from the ‘Ush al-Ghurab army base. We saw four army jeeps. The soldiers in the jeeps were firing at a vacant building. I do not know who owns the building. We also saw several journalists, cars belonging to the local TV stations, and cameramen from Arab and foreign news agencies. We spread out along Istiah Street and YMCA Street, planning to watch the events unfold.
The soldiers did not let us stay there, and they threatened to fire at us if we didn’t leave the area. So we had to go. Joseph and I went back to Bethlehem. He invited some other journalists and me to his house for coffee and to keep up to date on the events by telephone. We sat in his home and monitored the events. We did not get precise reports because no journalist or cameraman managed to get close to the site. The only thing we knew was that there had been Palestinian gunfire at the army base, and, in response, the army had deployed along several streets and neighborhoods in Beit Sahur and was firing at vacant buildings.
Joseph and I left his house about 1:00 A.M. We drove to my house to get some camera equipment. We drove around two hundred meters, until we got to the Education and Culture Ministry intersection, where two army jeeps approached us from al-Mahad Street. They blocked our way. Six soldiers in light green uniforms got out and came over to us and opened the door on the driver’s side. Joseph wanted to show the soldiers his press card and spoke to them in English. The soldiers did not let him talk or show them the card. They removed him from the car and began to beat him.
I took out my phone to call to someone for help, but I couldn’t think of anybody in particular who could be of assistance. I didn’t know what to do. The soldiers were beating Joseph with their weapons. Before I managed to call anybody, two soldiers came over to me. One of them pulled me by my shirt. I was really frightened, and I picked up my right hand to cover my face. The other soldier gave me a hard blow to my right elbow with his weapon. I cried out in pain. It felt as if it were broken. The two soldiers pulled me out of the car and onto the ground. For about five minutes, they kicked me and stomped on me, causing me incredible pain. While this was going on, I heard Joseph crying out on the other side of the car, and saw two other soldiers searching the car. They took out the camera equipment. When they finished the search, the soldiers beat me for another ten minutes or so. Then they got into the jeeps and left.
Joseph and I remained there on the ground. We were still crying out in pain. I got up slowly because my hands hurt so bad. I took out my phone and called a colleague, Na’il a-Shyukhi. I told him what happened and where we were. Then I called out to Joseph to check how he was. When he did not respond, I was worried and went over to him. He was lying on the ground around twenty meters from me. He was unconscious. Na’il, along with my brother Ahmad, arrived about five minutes later. They put Joseph and me into the car and rushed us to the Beit Jala government hospital.
At the emergency room, the doctors examined us and we were X-rayed. Because the hospital lacked sufficient medical equipment, we were transferred to al-Yemama, a private hospital. We were examined, X-rayed, and treated. The tests showed that I had suffered a fracture to my hand, which was also badly bruised. They put a cast on it. I was discharged about 2:00 A.M.”
“I live on a street near the intersection by the Education and Culture Ministry in Bethlehem. It is opposite the ‘Aabdin knitting factory. I have been working for three years as a TV cameraman for French television’s Channel 2. Since the outbreak of the intifada, I have been covering events in Bethlehem. I am unable to cover events elsewhere because of the closure on the Palestinian cities.
I try to keep the friction with soldiers to a minimum and to stay away from them. The last time that I got into a problem with soldiers was in April 2002. That was during the Israeli incursion into Bethlehem, when they surrounded the Church of the Nativity. I remained in the church area along with other cameramen and journalists. Then, about fifteen soldiers came over to us and delayed us for several hours. After that, they let us go and told us not to return to the area. I did not return, so that I wouldn’t have any problems with the soldiers.
Yesterday [19 May], around 10:00 P.M., some colleagues of mine who live in Bethlehem and Beit Sahur told me that soldiers had opened intense gunfire at a vacant building opposite the new branch of the Jerusalem Open University, in Beit Sahur. I drove over to Beit Sahur with a few of my colleagues. When we got to Istiah Street and YMCA Street, we saw a number of army jeeps and infantry soldiers spread out on the street. They did not let anybody or any vehicle pass, so we stayed about three hundred meters away and watched from there. When the soldiers saw us, they made us leave. We drove back to Bethlehem.
When we got to Bethlehem, I invited about ten cameramen and journalists to my house to follow the developments. About midnight, my colleagues began to leave. Only Sh’aban Qandil, who lives in the refugee camp about three hundred meters from my house, remained. Around 1:00 A.M., he wanted to go home. He would normally have walked home, but I wanted to get some empty video cassettes from him, so I drove him in my car, a white BMW.
We got into the car and drove about 150 meters until we got to the corner of the Education and Culture Ministry, where we saw two army jeeps. They came over to my car and blocked our way. I stopped the car, got out my press card and asked Sh’aban for his. I wanted to show them to the six soldiers who had gotten out of the jeeps.
The jeeps’ lights were aimed at my car from a distance of less than ten meters away. Two soldiers, their rifles aimed at me, came over to the car. They opened the door. I wanted to get out to give them the cards and talk to them. They started to hit me in the face and forced me onto the ground. Then they stomped on me, especially on my right hand. I felt intense pain. I became dizzy and lost my orientation. I think that the soldiers stomped on me and kicked me for five minutes. The pain was incredible. This was the first time I had ever been treated in such an inhumane way.
Meanwhile, I heard Sh’aban screaming from the beating he was getting about twenty meters away. I also saw two other soldiers search my car and take equipment out of the car. A video camera and accessories were in the car. About ten minutes later, the two jeeps left the scene.
I couldn’t move. I felt intense pain in my right hand and my head hurt. I heard Sh’aban speak with somebody, and a few minutes later, a journalist named Na’il a-Shyukhi, who works for Reuters, arrived and rushed me to the government hospital in Beit Jala.
I was taken to the emergency room. No doctors were there at the time, so I was given first-aid and was X-rayed. I was then taken to al-Yemama hospital, where I was X-rayed again. They found that I had a fractured and badly bruised right hand. The doctors put a cast on my hand, gave me a blood test, and took some other tests as well. I was discharged this afternoon. I have to go back on Thursday. My hand and the rest of my body still ache a great deal.”