Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, revealed harrowing details of the Palestinian teenager who was kidnapped and tortured with fire by a group of Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank two months ago, in a report released last week.
On August 17th, 15-year-old Tareq Zbeidi and five of his friends were enjoying a picnic near their village of Silat a-Daher, based in the Jenin district of the northern West Bank.
However, a large group of Israeli settlers from the nearby Homesh Israeli settlement later arrived in cars in the area, carrying stones and sticks.
The Palestinian boys quickly fled the scene, as one of the settlers began throwing stones at them and managed to escape back to their village. However, according to B’Tselem, Tareq failed to keep up with his friends due to a leg injury he suffered just two weeks prior to the incident.
He told the rights group, “The settlers drove towards me and hit me with their car, and I fell to the ground. The car stopped, and four settlers got out. Some were holding sticks. They attacked me and hit me in the shoulder, legs and back.”
Moreover, they bound his hands and feet and chained him to the hood of their car, before driving him to Homesh, where they slammed on the brakes, causing him to fall to the ground.
He added that, upon arrival at the settlement, other settlers ran over to kick and taunt him. His ordeal consisted of being pepper-sprayed and spat in the face, all the while being cursed at in Arabic and Hebrew.
As they continued to assault him, the Israeli settlers carried and hung him from a tree to “burn his feet”.
“I was left hanging like that for about five minutes, with my eyes covered. I felt them cutting and rubbing the skin of my left foot with a sharp object. I was in so much pain. I couldn’t take it. Suddenly, I felt a strong burn on my right foot, from a lighter or something similar. It lasted a few seconds. I screamed and cried in pain and fear. It wasn’t till then that they took me down from the tree,” Tareq recounted.
He was then struck in the head with a stick and lost consciousness.
According to B’Tselem, Israeli soldiers arrived shortly after in a military jeep and the settlers accused Tareq of throwing stones at them.
When Tareq regained consciousness on the floor of the military jeep, the soldiers threatened to arrest him if he threw stones again. “They said they knew everything about me and that if anyone threw stones at the settlers, he’d come to my house and arrest me.”
Tareq’s uncle and older brother immediately put him in a Palestinian ambulance and took him to a hospital in Jenin, after picking him up from the station.
“I was taken to the ER, where I was examined and X-rayed. They found bruises and wounds on my shoulder, back and legs, as well as wounds and burns on my feet. I stayed there until the next afternoon, and then I was discharged,” said Tareq, adding that, despite being discharged, his body was sore and he could not walk because of the cuts and burns on his feet.
Settlers usually attack Palestinians and their property in the West Bank. Israeli and Palestinian estimates indicate that there are about 650,000 settlers in the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, residing in 164 settlements and 116 outposts.
B’Tselem noted that the attack on Tareq was the tenth settler attack on Palestinians near the settlement, documented by the group since the beginning of 2020.
“This case may be exceptionally cruel, but settler violence against Palestinians, often with the participation of soldiers, has long since become part of Israeli policy in the West Bank and integral to the occupation routine,” B’Tselem said in the report.
“The long-term result of these violent acts is the dispossession of Palestinians from growing swathes of the West Bank, facilitating Israel’s takeover of land and resources there.”