Two weeks after an Israeli military court indicted an Israel Defense Forces commander and five soldiers for beating and abusing two Palestinians they had arrested, Israeli news website Ynet published Tuesday parts of the testimonies of the detainees.
A testimony of the soldier who filmed the abuse was also published. The soldier said the incident "wasn't nice" and that he had filmed it so the others would stop.
According to the indictment, the soldiers arrested a Palestinian father and his teen son on January 8 in the village of Abu Shukheidim in the West Bank.
The two were suspected of aiding the assailant who had killed two soldiers from their battalion in December, but in effect were not directly involved in the attack.
After the arrest, the soldiers punched and kicked the two, who were handcuffed and blindfolded, and hit them with their weapons, causing severe wounds.
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Two of the soldiers are also accused of obstruction of justice, after they coordinated their testimonies. The military prosecution sought to extend the detention of defendants until the end of legal proceedings. The soldiers' commander is suspected of having failed to stop the abuse, and was under the military equivalent of a house arrest.
The son, 15, testified that he was beaten by four soldiers in the face, chest, stomach and legs. "They hit my knee with the gun barrel and my chest, knees, thighs and groin with the butt end… I couldn't open my left eye. My mouth was full of blood and my shirt was soiled as well. I also bled from my nose."
He added that some of the abuse was verbal as well. "One of the soldiers asked me to say 'In spirit, in blood, we will redeem Palestine' while I watched him beat up my father. The soldier told me 'Look at your dad. He deserves to be beaten. You think you're patriotic.'" The teen added that no one had intervened to stop the abuse, and that "after they finished, they started dancing."
The father testified that he was cursed at and hit with a belt. "When I asked them why they were beating me up, they hit me with the butt end of their weapons and one of the soldiers stepped on my face and broke my nose. I bled profusely and wasn't allowed to speak. I shouted at them but they told me to shut up. I was then hit in the face and lost consciousness."
The father said that he had to undergo surgery, and had three broken ribs.
The military police also investigated the soldier who filmed the abuse in a two minute clip. The soldier at first denied having anything to do with the video, and then admitted that he filmed it and said: "It's not a nice situation, it's even shameful. It's a shameful video. If someone had filmed me doing this, I would have stopped immediately. I filmed them so they would stop." According to him, the abuse was halted in time and there was nothing excessive about it.
One of the soldiers who carried out the abuse claimed that it was inappropriate to have the detainees close to him and his comrades due to the emotional turmoil the soldiers experienced in the wake of the December attack. "The fighters just saw a terrorist who killed our friends, and they [the Palestinian detainees] helped him hide."
The soldier added that after several minutes of the assault on the father and son, he asked one of the other soldiers to stop. "When they pounded them the first couple of times I didn't say too much, I said it quietly, I didn't have the courage to tell him to stop. But when he continued, I raised my voice. They hit them for about 10 to 15 minutes- until the two detainees stopped screaming. The older one was silent and screamed at times, but he didn't put up any resistance."
A different soldier told investigators: "I hit the detainee out of pain, not because I wanted to lash at him. It was because of my pain and loss. I lost myself for a few moments, but I didn't lose my humanity."
The soldier said he was sorry for attacking the detainees and that he tried to help the father afterwards. "I didn't control myself. Only later did I come to my senses and stopped the incident. I yelled 'enough, stop,' because I realized what I had done."
The commander of the battalion clarified that he does not regret sending his soldiers on the mission. In his investigation, he said that he has no doubt that it was necessary in order to "settle scores" with the assailant who had killed two fighters from his battalion and that this was necessary in order to "create a feeling of success amongst the fighters." He also said that their behavior was unacceptable and that he suspended them from duty.
The IDF Spokesperson's Unit told ynet that the arrest of the soldiers has been extended until February 19 and that the commander of the battalion is no longer under arrest.