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Israel soldiers and settlers, blindfold, beat, urinate, sexually assault Palestinian activists in West Bank

October 20, 2023 at 5:28 pm

Israeli forces take Palestinians in custody as 3 wounded during Israeli raids on Al Am’ari Camp, Ramallah, West Bank on October 15, 2023. [Issam Rimawi – Anadolu Agency]

A group of Israeli soldiers and settlers, last week, conducted a series of brutal assaults against three Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, reported The Times of Israel. 

According to the victims’ accounts, as reported by Haaretz, they were subjected to hours of abuse on 12 October. They were physically assaulted, stripped to their underwear, bound and photographed. Additionally, two of them were urinated on, one had cigarettes extinguished on his body and another was sexually assaulted, with an Israeli assailant attempting to sodomise him.

The Israeli Army has initiated an investigation into the incident, and the commanding officer involved has been removed from duty.

The abuse took place in the Palestinian village of Wadi Al-Seeq, located east of Ramallah, which had seen a recent increase in settler attacks against the local Palestinian shepherding community, leading to the evacuation of most of its Palestinian residents in the past few weeks.

According to Haaretz, on the morning of 12 October, a handful of Palestinian residents in Wadi Al-Seeq, along with the assistance of a group of left-wing Israelis, two Palestinian activists from Ramallah were preparing to leave until pickup trucks arrived, carrying around 20 to 25 Israelis dressed in Israeli Army uniforms.

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In response, 46-year-old Muhammad Mattar swiftly turned his car around to use an alternate route and contacted the Palestinian Authority’s liaison with the Israeli military to report the attack.

However, Mattar and 27-year-old Muhammad Khaled, were forcibly pulled from their vehicles by the Israelis and beaten with weapons. The Israelis also proceeded to shove their heads into the dirt, and kick them before tying their hands.

The Palestinian activists recognised some of the uniformed settlers from nearby illegal outposts. According to Mattar, the soldiers then searched his bag, allegedly discovering several large knives. Mattar accused the soldiers of planting these weapons, insisting that he would not have contacted Israeli authorities if he had been in possession of items that could lead to his arrest.

Mattar recounted that the soldiers informed both him and Khaled that they were being placed under arrest and that a group of Shin Bet security service agents was on their way to interrogate them.

According to Khaled, a white GMC truck bearing a Star of David, from which six to eight more soldiers came out from and who they believed were Shin Bet officers.

The two activists were then taken to an abandoned structure and blindfolded. One of the soldiers used a knife to cut their clothing, ordering them to lie face down, wearing nothing but their underwear.

The Israelis proceeded to subject the Palestinians to severe physical abuse, using an iron pipe to beat them all over their bodies, including their heads. They also stubbed out cigarettes on Khaled’s body, and even attempted to extract his fingernails. Furthermore, the attackers forced their faces into the ground, including in filth.

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Mattar disclosed that the soldiers repeatedly questioned him about his supposed intentions to carry out a stabbing attack, despite denying the accusations. He stated that the Israelis poured water and even urinated on them. Additionally, one of the soldiers even attempted to sexually assault him but stopped after encountering resistance.

After enduring six hours of abuse, the Palestinians were removed from the abandoned building and forcefully thrown to the ground, after which a soldier photographed them and posted the image on an ultra-nationalist Facebook group with the caption, “A warning of a potential infiltration by terrorists at the Ben Fazi farm near Kochav HaShahar. Our troops have apprehended the suspects.”

However, the post was later removed, but had already been shared by various Arab media accounts. In the photograph, another Palestinian, unknown to Mattar and Khaled because they were blindfolded, is also present.

The third person, a resident of Wadi Al-Seeq who preferred to go by the name Majed, explained to Haaretz that he was at home when the Israelis arrived and was unable to escape, unlike some of his neighbours. Majed reported that he also suffered severe beatings at the hands of the Israelis, who tied him up and confiscated his belongings.

Even though they were accused of purporting a stabbing incident, neither Mattar nor the other two Palestinians were subjected to arrest or additional interrogations.

Instead, the Civil Administration allowed them to contact their families and request an ambulance for hospital evacuation. Mattar remained hospitalised for one night, while Khaled and Majed spent two days receiving medical care. During this process, the three individuals had their phones, vehicle and cash confiscated.

Meanwhile, five Israeli activists who had been detained in the area of Qadi Al-Seeq, after hearing the attacks against the Palestinians, were eventually freed along with the Palestinians. They were warned by the Israeli soldiers that they were lucky that they did not beat them and they should return.

One week since the traumatic incident, Mattar, still deeply affected, shared with Haaretz that the attackers aimed to communicate two messages: “One, that the Jews have gone crazy after what happened on the Gaza border; and two, that we, the Arabs, dare not mess with them.”

He added, “I told them that I was against Hamas and against Palestinian Islamic Jihad, but it didn’t interest them. They said that all Arabs are s**t and that we should be sent to Jordan. Have you heard about the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq? It’s exactly like what happened there.”

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The Israeli Army issued a statement following an inquiry into the incident, claiming, “The force caught the suspects and found a knife and an axe after searching them. The manner in which the arrest was carried out and the conduct of the force in the field was contrary to what was expected of soldiers and commanders in the Israeli Army. The incident is being investigated by commanders and many discrepancies have emerged from their accounts.”

“After the initial investigation, a decision was made to dismiss the Commander of the unit that carried out the arrest. Due to the seriousness of the suspicions, it was decided to open a Military Police investigation.”

The punishment issued to the Israeli settlers and soldiers is far more lenient than those handed down to Palestinians, including minors convicted of throwing stones. Even if no harm or damage is caused, Palestinians face penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

Tensions in the Occupied West Bank have escalated significantly since 7 October after the Palestinian Resistance initiated Operation Al-Aqsa Flood against Israel, a multi-pronged surprise attack including a barrage of rocket launches and infiltrations into Israel.

The Resistance said the offensive was in retaliation for the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Occupied East Jerusalem and Israeli settlers’ growing violence against Palestinians.

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