An Israel Defense Forces officer has been charged with brutally assaulting a Bedouin citizen of Israel who complained of being delayed at an army checkpoint near Hebron.

According to the indictment, which was filed by the military prosecution last Thursday, the officer beat his victim on the head with the butt of his rifle, breaking his nose; cuffed his hands behind his back and choked him; and finally left him lying there, handcuffed, blindfolded and bleeding, for at least half an hour.

Throughout this time, the victim’s family was waiting for him in their car.

The alleged assault took place about three weeks ago at a temporary checkpoint south of Mount Hebron, when Fadel Haniyeh, 21, of the Negev town of Tel Sheva, was driving home with his wife, mother, older sister and 5-year-old brother.

At the checkpoint, the officer − whose identity is under a gag order − asked him to pull over and get out of the car for a security check. A few minutes later, the officer reportedly halted his inspection, and the family was left waiting by the roadside.

According to the indictment, Haniyeh then complained to the officer about the delay. In response, the officer reportedly ordered Haniyeh to accompany him to a spot farther away, whereupon a physical confrontation erupted.
The officer then allegedly ordered Haniyeh to get down on his knees. When Haniyeh refused, the officer shoved him, according to the indictment, but he didn’t fall. The officer then allegedly pointed his loaded rifle at Haniyeh, cocked it, and ordered him again to get down on his knees. When Haniyeh didn’t instantly obey, the officer reportedly began hitting him in the head with the rifle butt, causing Haniyeh to fall. A few minutes later, the officer handcuffed and blindfolded him as if he were under arrest, according to the indictment.

Once Haniyeh was lying on the ground, the indictment said, the officer sat astride him and began hitting him again and again.

Later, the officer reportedly choked Haniyeh twice, muttering “I’ll kill you, I’ll humiliate you in front of your family.” He then told another soldier to guard Haniyeh, who lay there handcuffed, blindfolded and bleeding from the nose for about 25 minutes.

According to the indictment, when the soldier finally asked his superior when his prisoner would be freed, the officer walked over and asked Haniyeh, “If I tell you to lie down, what would you do?” Haniyeh, sobbing, reportedly replied, “I’d lie down.” The officer allegedly continued, “And if I told you to shut up, what would you say?” Haniyeh replied, “I’d shut up. Just let me go now,” the indictment said.

The officer then reportedly removed the handcuffs, but not the blindfold, and took him back to his car. Only when they reached the car did the officer remove the blindfold, while also ordering the family not to talk about the incident, the indictment said.

Instead, Haniyeh complained to the police, prompting an investigation. The indictment is based on his testimony and that of his family, as well as the medical evidence of his injuries, for which he was treated at Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva.

The officer is charged with assault causing bodily harm and conduct unbecoming an officer. His trial will begin today in the Jaffa Military Court.

Attorney Idan Pesach, representing the officer, said he hasn’t finished reading the material, but from what he has seen so far, “it emerges clearly that the complainant is the one who assaulted the officer at the checkpoint, and the officer’s actions were meant solely to restrain the citizen’s assault and prevent the situation from deteriorating.”
Haniyeh, interviewed at his home yesterday, was still visibly upset. “I never thought a thing like this would happen to me,” he said.

He said the incident began when, shortly after pulling the car aside for a security check, the officer disappeared. “After 20 minutes, when I’d had enough already, I came and said to him, ‘Can you take care of me? You’ve searched the car, you didn’t find anything.’ And what did the officer answer me? ‘Shut your mouth. If I want to detain you until morning I’ll do so.’”

The officer then took him aside, to a darker spot, and Haniyeh acknowledged that a violent confrontation developed. Nevertheless, he said, that didn’t justify what followed.

“He began beating me − on the face, on the head; he grabbed me by the throat and choked me two or three times, until I couldn’t breathe. And I was crying the whole time, really crying.”

When questioned by the Military Police, the officer claimed that it was Haniyeh who attacked him and even tried to grab his gun. But that claim isn’t mentioned in the indictment, apparently indicating that the police didn’t believe the officer’s story. Some of Haniyeh’s claims were also omitted from the indictment, such as his claim that the officer pushed his wife.

“I never thought I’d see such a thing,” Haniyeh said yesterday. “I was hurt, and I want to put him on trial so he can get the punishment he deserves. He’s an officer? He doesn’t belong in the army.”