Israeli human rights group B’Tselem on driver Muhammad Id’is who claims he was beaten at an Israeli checkpoint this month. This is his testimony:
I live in Beit ”˜Amra, which is next to Yatta. For many years, I have been transporting workers from the communities near Yatta and a-Samu’ to Khirbet Jinba, from which they go to their work sites in Israel. Some of the laborers have permits and some don’t. Over the past year, there has been a lot of this work. Every Sunday morning, I drive five laborers in my vehicle, a Mazda. Each of them pays me 70-80 shekels. When I transport laborers who don’t have a permit [to enter Israel], they sneak in through the fence and then Beduin drivers from the Beersheva area take them to where they work in Israel.
Yesterday [6 September], around 4:30 A.M., I collected five laborers from a-Samu’, one of them a boy fifteen years old. He was the only one of the five who did not have a permit. I drove along the bypass road that runs east of a-Samu’ and from there to a-Tuwani.
We decided to say morning prayers at the Tuwani Mosque, and I parked the car next to the mosque. Following prayers, I went back to the car and got in. Two of the laborers also got in and the other three were on their way to the car. Suddenly, an army Hammer jeep pulled up. It came from the bypass road and entered the village. Four soldiers got out, one of them an officer. The officer appeared very agitated. He came over to my car, opened my door and forcibly pulled me out by the neck. I fell to the ground. He grabbed my right arm, stepped on my neck and cuffed my hands behind my back. At first, he didn’t speak to me. He asked another soldier to pick me up. The officer told me to give him my identity card. I told him it was in my pocket. He took it out and kept it.
The soldier grabbed my arms from behind with force. He put his knee against my back. The officer said to me: “I killed four Gazans and you’ll be the fifth.”
Before I answered or said anything, he gave me three hard, quick blows to the stomach with his rifle. I cried out in pain and felt I was losing my balance. The soldier kneed me in the back from behind. I fell to the ground, face down. I don’t remember what happened after that. I think I was unconscious for about fifteen minutes, until somebody threw water on my face. When I awoke, I saw the officer checking the identity cards of the laborers, who were two or three meters from me. I saw the officer slap them all hard. He gave them back their identity cards and told them to get out of there.
Then the officer cut the handcuffs and told me to get into my car. He told me to follow the jeep to the checkpoint. I got into the car and sat behind the steering wheel. I was exhausted and my stomach hurt a lot. The officer got into the passenger’s seat next to me, and another soldier sat in the back. The officer put the barrel of his rifle to my head and told me to start driving.
I drove about 100-150 meters. Before we even left the village, I felt I was about to lose consciousness again. I told the officer that I couldn’t drive any further. He pulled up the hand brake and the car stopped. He yanked me to the seat next to the driver’s seat, moved into the driver’s seat, and began to drive. I don’t remember what happened then. I only know that we were approaching the Shani (“Congo”) checkpoint. I woke up after somebody threw water onto my face again. I was at the checkpoint. The officer stopped the car. A Hammer jeep was parked in front of us. It was around 7:30 or 8:00.
The officer got out and opened the door next to where I was sitting. He got back into the driver’s seat and kicked me hard, out of the car. … I fell to the ground. The officer called to two soldiers in the Hammer to take me to a place where there was gravel, a few meters from the car. The two soldiers helped me get there. I wasn’t able to walk and fell to the ground. The two soldiers kicked me in the stomach and back. I cried out and said to one of them: “Bastard, why are you beating me?”
The soldiers got real upset. They continued to kick me in the back and stomach for about ten minutes. I shouted loudly and asked them to stop. While I was lying there on the ground, the officer and the first soldier took pictures of me on their mobile phones.
I saw a female soldier run toward me from inside the checkpoint. I heard her tell the two soldiers that she was in charge of the checkpoint and that they should stop beating me. The officer, who was standing next to the two soldiers, told her not to interfere, and that it was his responsibility. She suggested calling an ambulance to check me and treat me, but the officer said he would do it himself, and again told her not to interfere.
The two soldiers stopped kicking me after the female soldier intervened. I was lying on the ground, crying out in pain and asking for first-aid. The officer ignored me.
At some point in time, I heard the officer tell the soldiers that a police van had arrived. I saw a van approach the checkpoint from the east. The officer told the soldiers to move me so that the police wouldn’t cause them any problems.
Two soldiers grabbed my legs and the officer and another soldier grabbed my shoulders and they took me into the army tower inside the checkpoint. My head was outside the tower and I was still shouting. The two soldiers who had beaten me previously kicked me and told me to shut up.
The police van stopped very close to me. A policeman and policewoman got out. The policeman asked me what happened and I told him that the soldiers had brutally beaten me. I begged him to help me, for the sake of his children. He had compassion for me and promised to help me. He told me to wait five minutes. I waited more than half an hour, and then a Red Crescent ambulance crew arrived. Two members of the crew came into the tower. I heard them ask the officer who was standing in front of the tower to help them take me to the ambulance. The officer refused, saying the matter didn’t interest him. The two paramedics brought a stretcher, put me on it, and took me to the ambulance.
Just then, I saw my father, my brother Usama, my uncle Abu Faisal, and my cousin running toward the ambulance. My father said to me, “Muhammad, Muhammad,” but I couldn’t answer. My uncle, who is sixty years old, got into the ambulance, and we drove fast to Aliyah Government Hospital, in Hebron. I felt like my stomach was about to burst, and I had sharp pains. At the hospital, the doctors said they would open my abdomen to make sure I had no internal bleeding or injury to internal organs, especially my spleen. At first, I didn’t agree, until my father arrived and signed the consent forms for surgery. When I woke up after the operation, my father, my uncles, and other relatives were around me.
My father told me that he and Usama had asked an officer at the checkpoint why the soldiers had done this to me. The officer told him that he was in charge of the checkpoint and that he didn’t assault me; that it was the soldiers in the Hammer who did it. My father said another officer arrived in an army jeep and that my father turned to him in Hebrew, and the officer replied in good Arabic: “You should thank Allah that your son is alive. Take him and take care of him. He could have died or ended up in jail.”
I’m still hospitalized. I have a feeling of fatigue and have stomach pains. The X-rays, tests, and operation indicated that I had damage to my intestines and other internal organs. The doctors told me to rest for a few days in the hospital, during which they’ll monitor my condition before releasing me.