Hader Sharif is once again struggling to get around on crutches. He had almost completely healed from orthopedic surgery to his thigh when, one night, Israeli cops came to his West Bank home to arrest him. Since then, he’s been back on crutches and is barely walking, having had to undergo another operation on his thigh.
On March 2, Sharif, 34, a manual laborer, fell from a wall he was rebuilding in his village of Beit Ula, west of Hebron. His thigh and hand were smashed. The married father of two underwent surgery at Al-Ahli Hospital, in Hebron, where doctors anchored his thigh with three metal screws. Sharif needed extensive physical rehabilitation as well. Every other week, he went to his doctor for regular follow-up appointments, and his condition was improving.
About two months after the procedure, at 2:30 A.M. on May 14, Sharif was awoken by a phone call. On the line was one of his brothers, who lives across the street, and who informed him that his house was surrounded by policemen. Sharif got up and looked through his bedroom window. The house was indeed surrounded by Israeli security personnel, some of whom were masked. Sharif asked them to identify themselves. Instead of receiving an answer, he was asked, “Where is Hader Sharif?” Sharif hurried to get dressed.
Six or seven policemen − he doesn’t remember the exact number − entered the house. Sharif told them he was recovering from surgery and needed his crutches to stand and walk. According to him, one of the policemen answered: “You’re a liar, you’re just faking.” Sharif says the policeman continued “to bad-mouth” him. He finished getting dressed. No one told him why he was wanted or the crime for which he was being abducted from his house in the middle of the night. He was only told: “You’re wanted.”
A GMC Savana van and two military jeeps vehicles were parked outside. This is how Sharif describes what happened next: “I left the house on crutches. I’m telling the cops to slow down because I’ve recently had an operation, and they’re telling me that I’m a slacker. Then they opened the door of the Savana and I’m going, ‘Hey, slow down,’ and they pushed me and threw me into the car. I fell hard onto my right side, and felt the bone breaking again.
“I’m screaming in pain, and they’re not hearing me, not listening. I was on the floor of the car and they’re saying, ‘Get up, get up.’ And then I lifted myself up so I was sitting in the backseat.”
We are sitting on the balcony of Sharif’s house, together with another villager, Mohammed Amla, who is also recuperating from serious injuries. The Oketz unit − the canine unit of the Israel Defense Forces − sicced dogs on Amla, 29, who sustained bites to his back and neck, and needed hospitalization. We wrote about him in this column on June 14.
Back to Sharif: After he was shoved into the police van, the cops tied a rag over his eyes. He says he was also bound with plasticuffs. This detail is important, because the police spokesperson would later claim that Sharif was not cuffed because of his medical condition. Sharif’s brother tried running after the policemen to explain that his brother had recently had orthopedic surgery, but to no avail. He even tried showing them his brother’s X-rays, but they continued to argue that Sharif was lying and faking.
Sharif says he continued screaming in pain during the car ride and told the cops that he was postsurgery; they responded by beating him. “A cop told me to shut up and slapped me across the face. The car was driving through the village, and I’m screaming the whole time and no one is paying any attention.”
The car finally reached the police station in Gush Etzion. Sharif says he could hardly get out of the car or stand. Inside the station, he says he asked for medication for the pain, but didn’t receive any. After about half an hour he was taken back outside and led, this time, to a Toyota Land Cruiser. He had trouble getting into the car.
“Listen, here’s what he did,” he relates. “The cop grabbed the door of the Toyota and said to me, ‘Thirty seconds and you’re inside the jeep, or I kick you and you get in by force.’” Sharif somehow dragged himself in and this time was driven to the Kiryat Malakhi police station. He says he asked the driver to slow down because of the potholes in the road, as his pain was getting worse. What did the driver do, according to Sharif? “On my honor, I swear, he hit the gas before every speed bump.”
When they arrived, the rag that had covered Sharif’s eyes was removed. He says he tried to cover his throbbing thigh with the rag and apply pressure. In response, he says, one of the policemen kicked his thigh precisely where he’d been operated upon. At the Kiryat Malakhi station, he immediately asked to see a doctor and then asked to be taken to hospital. He says he knew his bone was broken again. But no one listened to him there, either.
Sharif was taken in for questioning and asked how he’d broken his leg the first time. Afterward, the investigators told him he was suspected of having stolen a truck in Israel, but they fairly soon concluded that he apparently had nothing to do with that incident and that he had, in fact, been arrested for nothing. At around noon he was taken to the Tarqumia crossing and casually discarded there to fend for himself.
A car bringing laborers back from Israel saw him and picked him up. He was placed on a piece of plywood; the car inched ahead until the Palestinian ambulance that had been called arrived. Sharif was taken back to Al-Ahli Hospital, where he’d been operated on two months earlier. He underwent his second surgery the following day, and had new platinum rods and screws inserted. His physical rehabilitation program was back to square one.
Sharif now has two sets of X-rays at home: one from the first operation, following his initial accident; the other after the second operation, following his arrest. “It’s much worse than before,” he says.
David Asraf, police spokesman for the Judea and Samaria District, responded as follows: “Pursuant to your inquiry, the Israel Police has investigated the matter and found the following: The force that conducted the arrest wrote an organized, detailed report, noting that the detainee had an injury to his right leg and that he needed crutches to walk.
Therefore, the team leader instructed the men not to cuff the detainee. The report further notes that, before getting into the car, the detainee was examined by a medic and transferred to the Kiryat Malakhi station, where he was wanted.”
And what about Mohammed Amla, whose back and neck were mauled by an IDF dog while he was crossing into Israel to work as a laborer? Immediately following that incident, the IDF spokesperson made do with a terse, “The matter is being investigated.” This week, a letter from military prosecutor 1st Lt. Snir Cohen arrived at the offices of B’Tselem, officially informing the human rights organization that the Military Police will launch an investigation into the siccing of dogs on Mohammed Amla, an unarmed laborer, by the Oketz Unit.