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Israeli settler attacks Palestinian girl, Police detain four human rights workers

Israeli settler attacks Palestinian girl
by ISM Hebron, 28 April 2007

On Tuesday, April 24, just after 11 am, two human rights workers (HRWs), an Israeli and an international, saw a settler boy from the Tel Rumeida Settlement beat a Palestinian girl as she was making her way home from school. The six border police standing close by did nothing to intervene. The HRWs were standing at a military post a block away from the military post that sits at the edge of the settlement area. The attack occurred just beyond the second military post, inside the settlement area. The settler boy was sitting on a curb watching the Palestinian girl as she was walking toward him. He then sprung up, rushed toward her, and began hitting and kicking her. The Israeli HRW, legally able to enter the settlement area, ran toward the settlement, however he was stopped by the border police and threatened with arrest. In this time the settler boy’s mother pulled him away from the Palestinian girl. Another Israeli HRW ran up toward the border police shortly after the first. He was also stopped and threatened with arrest.

Israeli police detain four human rights workers
by ISM Hebron, 28 April 2007

On Wednesday April 25, the soldiers entered a residence housing a number of international HRW’s in Tel Rumeida. They attempted to make a search for both persons and evidence of involvement in a recent incidence of graffiti in the locality. Initially, there were two HRWs on the roof. Another HRW came out soon after following the commotion. Having established they had no papers to qualify their search and refusals by the army to outline the reason for their presence, they were repeatedly asked to leave. It was only after several minutes the HRWs were able to get the military out of the building. Even after the military were leaving a soldier was intent on causing continued harrassment by preventing the HRW from closing the door by putting both his foot and gun in the way. The HRW emphasized that if the military felt there was a problem then they should call the police and have it dealt with correctly.

On Thursday, April 26, three HRWs were detained by the Qiryat Arba Police. At 9:00am, a female HRW had began duty at the Tel Rumeida checkpoint to keep watch over the locality. During the following half hour, she noticed a local settler from the Beit Haddassa settlement drive past and stare at her on a number of occassions. This was initially dismissed as passive aggression by the settler. However, at 9:30am, the police arrived at the checkpoint and requested the attention of the female HRW. Two army personnel were present at the checkpoint and a further two police officers were present as well as the HRW. The police first questioned the HRW about an incident of graffiti that had taken place in the locality and the HRW denied any knowledge or involvement of the incident. Her passport was requested and given immediately and obvious attempts were shown that she was willing to co-operate into their investigation and their concerns.

To the police inquiries, she explained her whereabouts, who she had been with and the exact times that she had been in the street. She was ordered to go to the police station for further questioning. Despite repeated statements that she had not been involved in any way and a desire for the CCTV camera videos to be checked to demonstrate her lack of involvement, the police stated that as the settler had specifically pointed her out as being involved, they must take her in for questioning. (The CCTV cameras are militarily run and record the whole of Tel Rumeida, day and night). Further to this, the HRW in cooperating gave the name of the only person she had been speaking with in the street the previous evening, another male HRW. The police demanded that this other person attend the police station for questioning. Both HRWs felt confident that their innocence would be proven and cooperated fully.

The female HRW went into the police van to be taken to the station. While doing this, she further alerted fellow HRWs of the incident to request support and guidance. Arriving at the police station, she spent some 15 minutes waiting in the back of the police van before being taken into the police station. She was also asked to call her fellow male HRW to cooperate and come to the police station. She fulfilled this request by asking her fellow HRW to attend the police station and it was agreed he would attend on the condition that it was the police only and not the army that he would attend with. The female HRW was left to wait for around 30 minutes, during this time she was introduced to the Commanding officer, Yusef. After this wait she saw her male HRW arrive at the station and he was requested to sit some 15 meters away and that they were not to talk to each other. The male HRW had his passport number taken. However, when the settler saw the male HRW, the settler indicated the HRW was not the one involved in the grafitti. The HRW was released and driven back to Tel Rumeida.

After waiting another 30 minutes, the female HRW was taken into a set of offices and asked to wait for another officer, Adiel Shalom. Only after waiting for some time did Adiel request for the HRW to attend his office where he advised that he wanted to ask her a number of questions relating to the graffiti incident. He seemed determined that she had undertaken this act despite her refusals. It was only when the HRW inquired whether she had been arrested that the officer confirmed that she had been arrested under suspicion of writing “Free Palestine” on a number of walls in the Tel Rumeida settlement. The femal HRW once again described where she had been the previous evening and who she had been with and re-asserted several times that she had not been involved and that she was being falsely accused. The police officer claimed that she was a liar and that he “knew what people like her were like.” The officer was aggressive in his questions and demanded that she told the truth, stating that she was a liar and that she had been involved and told her repeatedly that she had done the graffiti.

To his allegations, the HRW continued to protest her innocence. The officer made threats relating to her being pulled in front of the judge to be deported for this incident. The officer had been making notes from the interrogation which he requested the HRW to sign. Because the document was in Hebrew, she was unable to read it and therefore did not sign it. The officer considered this a sign of guilt and he continued to harrass her with claims she was a liar and raising his voice to her.

The female HRW then spoke with the British embassy who offered her support and further a legal adviser who spoke with the officer and was able to advise that the police were moving towards a release solution. This consisted of military orders prohibiting the female HRW from entering the Tel Rumeida area for a period of 14 days. The HRW declined this offer and despite repeated threats of being deported and being taken to jail the officer finally agreed to release her “without conditions.” The HRW was required to sign a document for her release which held English translations and was left to go free after a total period of 4 hours.

Shortly after the male HRW was taken by the police, a second female HRW was asked for her passport. After a few minutes of questioning she was asked to get into the police jeep to come to the police station for further questioning and to have her visa information checked. After an hour of waiting, an officer returned her passport and warned her if she was caught once again in Tel Rumeida she would be arrested.

On Friday, April 27, 2007, a fourth HRW was at the top of Tel Rumeida street, just a block from the Tel Rumeida settlement. The same settler of the previous day implicated who implicated the HRWs stopped his vehicle and spoke to the army. Soldiers then detained the HRW. Present were two army patrol officers, three HRWs, two journalists and a handful of Palestinian children. The HRW was brought to Qiryat Arba police station and detained for four and a half hours, then released. The police questioned the HRW for a half hour on the grafitti incident and appeared to accept that he was not involved. The remainder of the questioning dealt with visa issues. The settler who implicated the HRW was also present at the police station and interviewed by the police for approximately a half hour.

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