Testimony: Soldiers Beat Palestinian at Nablus Checkpoint

Troops left civilian alone only after liaison officer intervened, says Machsom Watch observer.

Four Israel Defense Forces soldiers severely beat a Palestinian man at the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus on Tuesday while their female colleagues egged them on, according to a Machsom Watch activist who witnessed the incident.

Median Amran, 28, from the village of Burin, south of Nablus, was seriously injured and had to be hospitalized after four soldiers beat him up for no apparent reason. Only the intervention of an officer stopped the beating, said Dafna Banai, a member of the group of Israeli women who conduct daily observations at military checkpoints.

The IDF spokesman, however, said Amran tried to snatch the gun of one of the soldiers at the checkpoint after refusing to go through the metal detector.

Banai, who was at the checkpoint on Tuesday afternoon, told Haaretz that at about 4:30 P.M., she noticed a young man passing through a turnstile and heading toward a second turnstile. One of the soldiers shouted at him to turn back, but the first iron gate locked and he could not return to the line of people waiting to get out of Nablus.

"The soldiers pounced on him, beat him in the face with a rifle, kicked him. He was not violent, he only tried to escape the beating and ran like a trapped animal in the closed compound between the two turnstiles, with the soldiers kicking and beating him," she said.

Amran yelled that he had undergone surgery and had a metal plate in his shoulder, and that every pull on his shoulder hurt him, so that he should not be handcuffed.

Banai said she saw the soldiers bang his head on the concrete and choke him, all the while trying to handcuff him from behind, heedless of what he was telling them.

An IDF Coordination and Liaison Administration officer present at the checkpoint, Yazid Yosef of Beit Jan, intervened and separated Amran and the soldiers, shielded him with his body and shouted to the checkpoint commander, Amir, to restrain his men.

Yosef, who said he was a relative of Border Policeman Madhat Yosef, who was killed at the beginning of the intifada at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, shouted to the soldiers not to handcuff Amran, and said he would make sure he didn't escape.

Banai said that during all this the women soldiers were yelling words of encouragement to the soldiers such as, "Don't let him go, cuff him, show him."

Banai saw blood spilling from a cut near Amram's eye. She said that the beating lasted about five minutes.

The checkpoint commander's main efforts were directed at keeping Banai and another volunteer away from the site, she said. In addition to his first name, Amir, Banai obtained the surname of one of the soldiers who participated in the beating: Gurevitz.

On Wednesday afternoon, Amran was released from a Nablus hospital suffering from a concussion and blows all over his body. He also required stitches for the cut in his face. The soldiers at the checkpoint recognized him and detained him for an hour on his way home, Machsom Watch members said.

Banai said that she told a senior Coordination and Liaison officer who telephoned her Thursday that she feared the soldiers would abuse Amran even more if the story was reported. The officer promised her this would not happen.

Amran told Haaretz on Thursday that the beating incident was triggered when he heard a soldier near the first turnstile speaking in an abusive manner to a women waiting in line. He told the soldier to speak politely, and the soldier yelled "Turn back," to him, pushed him with his rifle and was joined by other soldiers who then beat him up.

The IDF spokesman linked the incident to an attack that took place earlier Tuesday, when a Palestinian woman from Nablus stabbed a female soldier. Troops at the scene shot and killed the stabber.

"A few hours after the incident in which the soldier was stabbed at Hawara, a Palestinian man arrived there," the spokesman said. "The soldiers asked him to go in an orderly way through the metal detector. After he didn't respond to the soldiers' requests, the forces at the scene were compelled to send him to the back. In reaction, he began to go wild and grabbed hold of one of the soldiers' weapons. A clash began in which the soldiers used force in an effort to overpower the Palestinian and handcuff him."

Banai said the soldiers were particularly abusive toward the Palestinians passing through the barrier throughout the day Tuesday, culminating with the beating of Amran.