Two Israeli soldiers have been indicted for stealing money from Palestinians and sexually assaulting female tourists at Qalandia checkpoint in the occupied West Bank.
Indictments were filed against the pair – who belong to the Israeli Military Police’s Border Crossings Unit – yesterday at Israel’s Jaffa Military Court. The court heard that the soldiers stole money from Palestinians during security checks at the Qalandia checkpoint, located between Jerusalem and Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.
In addition, according to the indictment, the pair asked female tourists to remove their shirts during a security check on two separate occasions, the Times of Israel (ToI) reported. ToI added that the soldiers ordered the women to remove their clothes despite the fact that “there was no clear security need to do so and in violation of standing orders at the crossing that prohibit male guards from strip-searching female civilians”.
The indictment heard that, between March and September 2018, the Israeli soldiers in question intentionally conspired to steal money from Palestinians travelling through the checkpoint. The pair is said to have taken joint shifts on a relatively-isolated part of the checkpoint, where they targeted middle-aged Palestinian women by sending their luggage through the X-ray machine – itself against regulations – then inspecting any luggage found to contain money.
Jaffa’s Military Court charged the soldiers with “looting, attempted looting, indecent assault, and improper use of authority”. The court also “ascribed to the soldiers a racist motive, saying the two believed that ‘since Palestinians are hurting Jews, it is legitimate to take their property’”.
The incident is not an isolated occurrence. In September, two Israeli border police officers were accused of stealing almost 20,000 shekels ($5,600) from Palestinians over the course of two months. One of the soldiers was found guilty of robbing Palestinians at gunpoint, leading him to be charged with six counts of robbery – including armed robbery – and taking advantage of his position. His accomplice was charged with three counts of robbery.
It is also not the first time Israeli soldiers have been accused of sexual harassment and assault. In April it emerged that Ahed Tamimi – the then 16-year-old Palestinian arrested for slapping an Israeli soldier who trespassed on her family’s land – was subject to sexual harassment during her interrogation. Tamimi’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, filed a number of official complaints against the interrogators, arguing that one of the interrogators questioned Ahed in an inappropriate way for a female minor, which amounted to sexual harassment. A video of the interrogation also emerged, in which the Israeli interrogator can be heard telling Ahed: “You have eyes like an angel.”
According to the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association – known as Addameer – Israel routinely undertakes strip searches and body searches of women prisoners which “violates its obligations under both international human rights and humanitarian law, including the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.” Addameer adds that “Article 3(1)(c) of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) forbids ‘outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment’” which includes sexual violence.