Cigarette Burns, Beatings, Attempted Sexual Assault: Settlers and Soldiers Abused Palestinians

12:00 Oct 12 2023 Wadi al-Seeq (وادي السيق) and Israel's IDF Sfar Hamidbar unit

Cigarette Burns, Beatings, Attempted Sexual Assault: Settlers and Soldiers Abused Palestinians Cigarette Burns, Beatings, Attempted Sexual Assault: Settlers and Soldiers Abused Palestinians Cigarette Burns, Beatings, Attempted Sexual Assault: Settlers and Soldiers Abused Palestinians Cigarette Burns, Beatings, Attempted Sexual Assault: Settlers and Soldiers Abused Palestinians Cigarette Burns, Beatings, Attempted Sexual Assault: Settlers and Soldiers Abused Palestinians
From left: Majd, Mohammad Khaled and Abu Hassan, cuffed and blindfolded, Wadi as-Seeq, October 2023. The image was disseminated on social media Credit: Courtesy Published by Haaretz and The Times of Israel

Cars with settlers approaching as-Seeq before the event. Credit: Omri Eran-Vardi. Published by Haaretz

Residents of the village packing up and leaving. Credit: Omri Eran-Vardi. Published by Haaretz

Abu Hasan. Credit: Courtesy Published by Haaretz

The post on Metzuda's Facebook page, since deleted (it was posted in Hebrew, and translated to Arabic) Credit: From the Facebook page Published by Haaretz

by Hagar Shezaf
Oct 21, 2023

The abuse lasted almost a whole day. Soldiers and settlers detained and handcuffed three Palestinians from the West Bank village Wadi as-Seeq, and for hours, according to the Palestinians, they were severely beaten, stripped to their underwear, and photographed handcuffed, in their underwear. Their captors urinated on two of them and extinguished burning cigarettes on them. There was even an attempt to penetrate one of them with an object.

At the same time, soldiers and settlers arrested leftist Israeli activists who were present, including a minor, cuffed them, threatened to kill them, and detained them for hours. Some of the activists were beaten. The activists say that in addition to the presence of people in uniform, at some point a young settler in civilian clothes was put in charge of guarding them.

The Israelis were released after three hours. The Palestinians were only released in the evening by Civil Administration officers, and were taken to a hospital in Ramallah. Both groups were extensively robbed, including cash and a car.

The events occurred on Thursday over a week ago, October 12. The soldiers were from the Desert Frontier unit (“Sfar Hamidbar”), which was established a few years ago and recruits “hilltop youth,” radical, often violent settler youth from illegal outposts in military service, particularly choosing youth from the farming outposts that have become prevalent in the West Bank.

An IDF spokesman told Haaretz in response that given the serious suspicions, the Military Police investigative division has opened an investigation, and the Jordan Valley brigade commander dismissed the force commander.

The Palestinians who spoke with Haaretz said that the settlers and soldiers detaining them said that the Shin Bet security service was expected to arrive. Then more men arrived in a civilian car, and questioned them while abusing them severely. In response to inquiry by Haaretz, the Shin Bet denied that their men were present at the site or were involved in the incident.

Haaretz spoke with six witnesses to the incident, three Palestinians and three Israeli activists. Two of the Palestinians who experienced the worst abuses sent numerous photographs of the bruises, signs of blows, and burns – not all of which are published here out of regard for the privacy of the interviewees.

“You heard about the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq? It’s exactly like what happened there,” Mohammad Matar, known as Abu Hassan, told Haaretz. His whole body was still badly bruised almost a week after the incident: “Abu Ghraib with the [Israeli] army.”

Masked settlers in army uniform

The incidents described in this article did not occur in a vacuum. They happened against the backdrop of factors influencing the current situation in the West Bank. The first is that, because of the war, and because most of the standing army forces were moved to southern Israel, most of the military force positioned in the West Bank now are reserves, which includes a large number of settlers who were called up.

Another factor is that the already heavily armed settlers are getting more arms. Under IDF directives, many settlers are eligible to bear arms, and there is an extensive and documented history of settlers committing violence or other illegal acts while armed with Israeli army rifles.

The third factor is the culture of threats and violence against the Palestinian shepherding communities in the West Bank – a trend that has intensified in the last year, since the current government came to power – but with the outbreak of the war in Gaza, it has become a tsunami.

Against this backdrop, the already blurred line between settlers and soldiers has become even more blurry. Throughout interviews with them, witnesses say that they find it very difficult to distinguish between a settler and a soldier. As it turns out – there isn’t necessarily a difference.

The attack occurred on Thursday a week ago, when the last residents of Wadi as-Seeq were leaving their village due to repeated attacks by settlers. Israeli activists and Palestinians who had come to help the villagers were already getting organized to go home.

Mohammad Khaled, 27, and Abu Hassan, 46, are Palestinian Authority employees who work on the “Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission” in Ramallah. They stayed in the village in recent weeks, helping its residents. They had gotten into their car and said their goodbyes before heading home. “We drove toward the entrance,” says Abu Hassan. “Suddenly we saw two pickup trucks with settlers in army uniforms. All were armed and some were masked. Twenty to 25 men jumped out of the vehicles and aimed their rifles at us.”

According to Abu Hassan, he immediately turned back toward the village and called the Palestinian Coordination and Liaison Administration to report that settlers were chasing him. He couldn’t call the IDF: Palestinians who want to notify the army about anything need to contact the Palestinian Coordination and Liaison Administration, which in turn notifies the Israeli Civil Administration.

The pickups overtook the two Palestinians near the village homes. They say that the uniformed settlers held them down on the floor and began beating them with their weapons, held their heads to the floor and stomped them. Afterwards, the two men said, their hands were bound with ropes.

At some point, a Civil Administration soldier came over and told the still-bound Palestinians that the ones who detained them were soldiers. “I said to him, ‘Are you sure? Because I know that these were settlers who live nearby. But he repeated that they were soldiers,’” said Abu Hassan. He says that he identified two of the men present at the scenes throughout the day as settlers that he knew, even though one was in uniform. One was a settler from an outpost close to the Palestinian village Deir Dibwan. He identified the other as Neria Ben Pazi from the outpost near Wadi as-Seeq, a known “hilltop” figure.

According to Abu Hassan, at this point, the soldier from the Civil Administration told the soldiers and settlers that he had checked the two Palestinians and found that Abu Hassan had been arrested in the past for stone-throwing and murder. The soldiers-settlers took Abu Hassan’s bag from the car and presented large knives that they claimed they found in it. Abu Hassan, for his part, insists that the knives had been planted. “They said they found knives on us and that we were planning a terror attack,” he says. “I told the Civil Administration soldier, ‘What terror attack? After all, I am the one who called the Palestinian Liaison, which called you. Who would commit a terrorist attack and call the Liaison?’”

An iron pipe and questions in Arabic

According to Khaled, the soldiers-settlers told that they were detained by the Shin Bet, forces of which would be coming soon. So, he said, when a white GMC arrived with an antenna and black star of David on the back from with six to eight uniformed men got out, they thought they were Shin Bet.

At this stage, the two men say, the abuse intensified. They say that the men who had emerged from the pickup took them to an empty building with no tiling on the floor, covered their eyes with cloth, and replaced the rope that tied their hands with metal wire. The two men thought that the building may have served as an animal pen, because the ground was covered in dung.

“They lay us face-down and one of them tore our clothes with a knife,” says Abu Hassan. “We were left in just our underwear.” He cannot say for certain how many men were there. “I estimate eight to ten,” he says.

“They continued beating us,” adds Khaled. “They had an iron pipe and knives, which they also used to hit us. They beat us everywhere, hands, chest, and head too. Everywhere. They stubbed out cigarettes on us. They tried to pull out my fingernails.”

The abuse continued. “They stomped our heads and pushed our faces into the dirt and dung,” says Abu Hassan. At some point, he says that one man removed his blindfolds. “He neared my face and asked, ‘Do you remember me?’ I told him, no. He told me, ‘I am a cow-herder from Biddya.’ He then beat me all over my body, stomped my head with both feet and jumped on my back, in an attempt to break my spine.” Abu Hassan understood from the person’s admission that he was a settler from one of the farming outposts near Biddya.

At some point, the two men say that as the abuse continued, a man arrived to question them. Abu Hassan remembers being repeatedly asked where they planned to carry out the stabbing attack. Khaled says that he was mainly questioned about personal matters. ‘What is your mother’s name? What is your sister’s name? Who is your girlfriend?’ The questions were in Arabic,” he says.

“The violence was relentless,” says Abu Hassan. “They poured water on us, urinated on us, and then someone holding a stick tried to shove it up my rear. I fought with all my strength until he simply gave up.”

According to the two men, after about six hours, they were taken out of the building and thrown onto the ground, bound and in their underwear.

At this point, someone photographed them and distributed the picture, which reached the Facebook page of a company called Metzuda – the Security World of Israel. The picture, which has since been deleted, shows another Palestinian, the presence of whom Khaled and Abu Hassan were unaware until they were later released. A man in IDF uniform is seen at an angle in the picture. The picture in the Facebook is captioned, “A terrorist penetration incident at the Ben Pazi farm near Kochav Hashachar. Our forces captured the terrorists.”

. . .

Continue reading full article at Haaretz News Source Link

IDF, settlers allegedly bind, strip, beat, burn, urinate on 3 Palestinians in W. Bank

Palestinian accuses suspects of attempted sodomy in attack days after Hamas onslaught; Israeli activists say they were also victimized; IDF boots commanding officer, launches probe

By JACOB MAGID for The Times of Israel (TOI)
20 October 2023, 2:14 am

A group of Israeli soldiers and settlers allegedly carried out a ruthless assault on three Palestinians in the central West Bank last week, days after the Hamas terror group’s October 7 onslaught in southern Israel

The reported victims told the Haaretz daily on Thursday that they were abused for hours on October 12, when they were beaten, stripped to their underwear, bound and photographed. Two of them were urinated on, one had cigarettes put out on his body and another was sexually assaulted by an assailant who tried to sodomize him, according to their testimony.

The IDF said military police opened an investigation into the incident and that the commanding officer was removed from his post.

The incident was part of a broader rise in violence across the West Bank since the outbreak of the Gaza war.

The altercation occurred in the small Palestinian hamlet of Wadi al-Seeq, 10 miles east of Ramallah, which Haaretz said was largely evacuated in recent weeks following an uptick in settler attacks on the shepherding community.

The handful of Palestinian residents in Wadi al-Seeq were preparing to also leave last Thursday morning, with the assistance of several left-wing Israeli activists and a pair of Palestinian activists from Ramallah.

Those two activists, 46-year-old Muhammad Mattar and 27-year-old Muhmmad Khaled, told the newspaper that as they got in their cars and were about to head back to Ramallah, a pair of pick-up trucks arrived carrying 20 to 25 Israelis in IDF uniforms, some of them with their faces covered.

Mattar quickly turned his car around to try and exit the other way and called the Palestinian Authority’s liaison to the Israeli military to report he was under attack.

The Israelis managed to catch up to Mattar and Khaled, pulling them from their cars and throwing them to the ground before striking them with their weapons, they said, adding the troops shoved their heads into the dirt and kicked them before later tying their hands.

The Palestinians said they recognized several of those in uniform as settlers from nearby illegal outposts and told Haaretz they could not tell which of the Israelis were conscripted soldiers, on-duty reserve troops, or just wearing partial military garb.

According to Mattar, the soldiers then pulled his bag from his car and claimed to find several large knives. He accused the soldiers of planting the knives, telling the newspaper that he would not have called for Israeli authorities to come to the scene if he possessed weapons that could get him arrested.

. . .

Continue reading full article at The Times of Israel News Source Link

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