Beit Ummar, Bethlehem, Thu 12.3.09, Afternoon
Visit to Beit Ummar following curfew and arrests: one inhabitant of Beit Ummar called Irith G. and asked her to come and see the situation in the village after two days of arrests and a full day of curfew. I will report in short: the army was in the village from Tuesday night until Thursday early morning (I don’t know exact hours), March 10-12, 2009. Part of this period there was a curfew in force, that was announced by loudspeakers on Tuesday at 4 a.m. (although searches in the houses started already before that - according to one of the inhabitants).
A large force of soldiers stayed in the village and went from house to house. They said that they were looking for weapons. While searching they made a terrible mess in the rooms of the houses, they took everything out of the cupboards and threw it out on the floor, overturned furniture, tore up sacks of food – proof of this we saw in many photographs made by a female inhabitant, an Israeli - American who is married to a local of the village. In the photographs broken glass from doors and windows is also seen, and other instruments that were smashed, apparently by rifle butts. We also saw the destroyed door-locks. In one of the buildings where the soldiers were active we spoke at length to the family. According to them the soldiers stayed there for four hours during the day.
When we arrived the house was in order again, but they also told us that there was not one room where the soldiers did not cause upheaval. The family, parents and 11 children, were locked up during that period in one room. As the father testified, they treated them roughly and brutally. One child was beaten, another small girl was brutally pushed and they sprayed tear gas (from a small canister) straight into the eyes of two children, after they told them it was a spray-can.
The soldiers made an exact drawing of the house, room by room, and wrote down the phone numbers. The soldiers call this action “mapping” (this I learned from a soldier who served in the occupied territories). From this family four sons were arrested. One of these sons is only twelve years old and the father threatened that he will complain about the arrest of a minor. The soldiers gave him a couple of slaps and released him. The other three were handcuffed, their eyes covered, and they were taken away. The next morning, i.e. the day we were there, all three returned. They told that since there was no room in the prison facility at Etzion, they were left outside, handcuffed and with covered eyes, all through the cold night, and the next morning they sent them back, without interrogation and without indictment.
The impact of this brutal stay of the soldiers in the village was still apparent from the conversations and the descriptions from several villagers we talked to. According to them, 37 persons were arrested and seven amongst them returned the next day. The rest is still under arrest. .