Hebron, South Hebron Hills, Mon 4.4.11, Morning
We arrived at the 160 checkpoint……..at 7.35 and saw that there were a few detainees. We therefore alighted and approached the soldiers who though at that moment were polite were not very forthcoming. After a short wait three of the men were handed back their IDs and another man in a car was also allowed to go on his way. We were surprised at seeing all this as on previous shifts we had never noticed any particular activity at this guard post. The young man who was left told us that he was from Jordan, did not have an ID, worked on the settler side of the checkpoint and passed through there every day. We were then ordered by the soldiers not to speak to him and not wanting to make matters worse where he was concerned moved a little way away and then decided to do our circuit of Hebron and come back to see if he were still there. At this stage he said he had already been there an hour …the soldiers said 5 minutes….I decided that neither was probably telling the truth but later events made me more inclined to accept the Palestinian’s estimate.
We came back at about 9:15……….to still see the young man standing there……it was raining the whole time and very cold and there was no place where he could really shelter. But by then another four men were standing with him. As we sat watching in the van we saw one of the young men being called towards the soldiers and an argument ensued . We could not make out what it was about.
(Later this evening, 8.50. I asked a friend to phone the mother Mirvat and find out how the whole argument had started and this I think is important. I realize now that one of the Palestinians told me this but my Arabic not being so good I thought I had not understood and so dismissed it. Mirvat told my friend that the soldiers had stopped her son who told them that he was on his way to work. But at that moment a woman had come past and the soldiers had spoken impolitely to her. Her son had reprimanded them saying that they could speak to him as they liked as he was a man but to have more respect for a woman. And that is when the whole incident escalated as how can a Palestinian teach the border police the rule of manners or etiquette!
Then suddenly the two border police grabbed him and pulled him behind the guard post. Unfortunately it is always easier by hindsight to realize that we should simply have walked up the road to see what was being done to him there but we did not and so had to rely on the information of a neighbor who unfortunately disappeared in the commotion towards the end before we could get her name and ID number.
A woman whom we realized was his mother came flying down the road.. From her later we understood that the young man had left his home which is diagonally opposite the guard post to cross through the barrier to his work in Palestinian Hebron. Why the border police saw fit to detain him when he came from about 200 metres from them and was not going into settler Hebron is difficult to understand. She got into an argument with the soldiers who were then dragging the young man to the army jeep. As they got to the back door he collapsed completely and there was chaos. At first I think the soldiers wanted to believe that he was putting on an act but he would have had to be a very good actor to do so as to both I and Yehudiet it looked as if he had died. The soldiers started to pat his face and call for water. Then they carried him over to the side of the road where they laid him down under what passed for shelter in their eyes. His right side was being soaked by the rain which continued and also a little stream of water running next to him. He was shaking with cold and one of the neighbours ran to bring a blanket.
We were then told by one of the neighbours that she had seen them on the hidden side of the army post being beaten and gas being sprayed into his face. The fact that a woolen cap had been pulled over his face did not help him to breathe either. The fact that he had been sprayed by pepper gas was confirmed by the army doctor but it was said that he had not been beaten. Yehudiet who had been trying to help bring him to said that his hands had been tied so tightly that the blood had stopped flowing. At this stage I phoned Hanna Barag and within 5 minutes army ambulance arrived and also a jeep with the sign of first aid on it and army officials who were certainly of a much higher rank than the two border police who has given the impetus to this affair. We were told that the young man was now under arrest. When we tried to find out what hospital he was being sent to we were just told that he would be given the treatment that he needed. A stretcher was rbought but then taken away again. I tried to get the number of the young man from his mother but was told that the soldiers were holding his ID and I could not get it across to her that all she had to do was give me the number. Later when his father arrived he evidently managed to get the ID back. I had a feeling that he was being treated with kid gloves by the officers but that could be my subjective feeling.
It seems that the young man suffers from a breathing disorder and cannot use any sort of after shave lotion or anything perfumed on his body as it causes a very strong allergic reaction. Although the army doctor claimed that the pepper gas only gave great pain we know that gas has led to other deaths before this episode.
Then suddenly a Palestinian ambulance drove up on the Palestinian Hebron side and the young man was taken to one of the hospitals there and wonder of wonders….suddenly he was no longer under arrest. And everyone drove off.Also the man from Jordan managed to get away.
At a very late stage of the game TIPH officials drove up and took pictures but when we asked if we could get those pictures they said they could give us no information as it was against their orders which Hanna afterwards confirmed.
We thought that then our shift was over. We were all cold, wet and miserable but drove past a house where we saw another young man being brought out and put into a jeep. There too were HTPI officials but the two young ladies that we met were more friendly. Yehudiet managed to find out that the young man was accused of stealing but whether goods or arms we did not know. But we also met his mother coming down the road and though we could not help her we gave her phone number we gave to the TIPH
In the afternoon I got a friend to speak to Mirvat, the mother of the first young man (phone no. with reporter) who said that the man was still in hospital and as I sat here writing this report his mother phoned to say he was at home. I tried to ask what the reason was that the soldiers had detained and questioned him but could not understand and will ask a friend tomorrow to speak to her to clarify the issue.