25-year-old Palestinian Shot for Protesting IDF's Treatment of Women

A critically wounded Palestinian youth is hospitalized at Beilinson, allegedly after Israeli soldiers shot at him for protesting their treatment of women. Heitham Yassin, 25 years old, has been under heavy sedation and on a respirator since the November 4 incident.

Yassin's doctors have told a lawyer for the family that he has undergone two abdominal surgeries, and that he also has pelvic injuries and peritonitis.

The Israel Defense Forces Spokesman's Office stated, "The incident in question is being investigated by the division."

Attorney Moied Kabhah says he is still waiting for the full particulars from the doctors, including the number and type of bullets that hit Yassin.

Yassin lives with his parents in Algeria, but came a few months ago to visit the village of his birth Asira al-Shimaliya, north of Nablus. On the Saturday in question, he took a taxi from Nablus back to the village in the early afternoon. Access to five villages in the area is limited by a military checkpoint open only to residents of those villages and special permit holders.

Passengers sharing the cab with Yassin told human rights watchdog B'Tselem that their taxi, with four men and five women passengers, arrived at the checkpoint after an hour's wait. The driver collected the identity cards of all nine passengers and gave them to the soldiers.

At that time, following procedure, the women got out of the cab. According to the witness accounts, one of the soldiers instructed the women to pat their chests and stomachs in a sort of physical security check. Some or all of the women refused. Some witnesses say the soldier ceded the demand and only examined bags, while others say the soldier cursed the women and yelled at them.

After the women, the men got out of the cab and Yassin was the first to step up to the check, about two meters from the soldiers. The soldier instructed Yassin to pull up his shirt, which he did, while walking closer to the soldiers. At that time, the men heard him ask the soldier in English why he told the women to touch themselves. Another witness believes he told the soldier he could not instruct women to touch themselves.

According to witnesses, the soldier did not answer, and just yelled at him and pushed him. Yassin kept talking. One witness heard Yassin say, "Don't hit me." The soldier pushed him again and then apparently Yassin pushed back. The soldier yelled and cursed and hit Yassin on the arm and pointed his gun at him. At this point, two soldiers who had been searching the taxi joined the first soldier and also pointed cocked guns at Yassin.

One witness said Yassin then pushed the soldiers away as they tried to catch him and then they hit him. One soldier fired shots into the air and then at the ground. Another witness reported one soldier fired into the air while the other shot down at the ground, whereas the third soldier pointed his rifle at the other standing men.

According to the witnesses, one soldier shouted in Hebrew, "Stop, arms in the air." However, Yassin - who doesn't speak Hebrew - continued to walk forward and then the soldiers shot at him. Then Yassin fell to the ground. According to the eyewitnesses, the soldiers held him, hurling him face down on a cement block and handcuffed him.

All three witnesses say the soldiers beat Yassin for five minutes in the back and head with their fists and their rifle butts and kicked him, also in the head.

After about ten minutes, a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance, summoned by another passenger, arrived on the scene, but the soldiers refused to allow the medical team access to Yassin. An Israeli ambulance arrived shortly thereafter and transferred Yassin to a hospital in Israel.

A number of military officers arrived at the checkpoint and questioned the witnesses for about fifteen minutes.