'Azzun 'Atma, Fri 1.5.09, Afternoon

Observers: 
Hagar L., Translator: Judith G.
01/05/2009
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Afternoon

   At approximately 12:15 I got a telephone call from a resident of ‘Azzun ‘Atma, that soldiers had beaten a woman who lives west of the upper Fence, and that the woman is lying on the ground.  With the help of Hannah A., I clarified where the Friday shift were, and it turned out that they had just returned home and there was no possibility of getting the women over to ‘Azzun ‘Atma.

 I called the Hotline ("the case is known through the Qalqilya DCO and is being treated").  I passed along the personal details of the woman to BeTzelem ("it is impossible for us to send a reporter to the area now, we will send someone to the hospital in Qalqilya"). In further telephone calls, I found out that the army was preventing the entrance of an ambulance to the village, an ambulance which the residents had called in from Qalqilya.  The ambulance had been delayed for an hour.  I heard that the soldiers were trying to get rid of the woman and that they had also begun beating another man, who escaped.

 
Because of these reports, I decided to go there myself.  When I arrived, the woman had already been taken to the hospital, along with her husband.  At the checkpoint, there were 2-3 female soldiers, and one male soldier, and 2 volunteers from the "Seam Group"...There was also a patrol group there.  They didn't allow me to enter the village and I couldn't speak with the people who were present at the place where the woman had been beaten. Of course, they tried to get me out of the area, but I decided to stay since I had heard, from residents of the village, that all the residents of the village were going to gather at the checkpoint at the end of the prayers. Around 13:00, the people started to gather, and the female soldiers there apparently called the patrol group back again.  As the number of the worshippers increased, so did the military force gathering there (3-4 Hummers, with 4 armed soldiers in each one). 

I didn't see the DCO representative until the end of the prayers.  He stood on the side and didn't interfere or try to make contact with the worshippers. In my estimation, there were now about 300 worshippers there, including workers who had come especially from a nearby settlement, in the middle of their work day.  In general, one could say that the army tried very hard to raise the level of tension and did as much as they could to humiliate people and heat up the atmosphere.  The jeeps stood very nearby the worshippers.  The female soldiers marched back and forth in front of the worshippers (in fact, in the most dangerous position, one might say , if a violent incident were to develop).  Their rifles were cocked with gas grenades or shock grenades;  the maximum distance from the worshippers was 20 meters, the minimum was zero. I stood on a high rock so I could see both the worshippers and the soldiers, who themselves could see that I was photographing all the time.  In my opinion, my presence with the camerainfo-icon prevented, to a certain extent, the firing of tear gas.

 At about 14:30, the prayers ended and the people scattered.  The residents who live west of the checkpoint, and the workers who had arrived for the prayers from their workplace on the settlement, stood in line for inspection, and the usual procedures returned to their place. 

I left after I saw that the head of the regional office was speaking with the DCO representative and one of the officers who was there.

( Maan News attached an article in English concerning the incident)