In the past week, Al-Haq documented the case of three Palestinian construction workers who, after entering Israel through a breach in the Annexation Wall, were fired at by Israeli soldiers and brutally assaulted by police dogs.
As highlighted by the World Bank’s March 2013 report Fiscal Challenges and Long Term Economic Costs, restrictions imposed by Israel have severely paralysed the Palestinian economy. Such limitations include: restrictions on movement; the deterioration of infrastructure in various sectors such as water, transport, and telecommunications; and restrictions on trade. As a result, the unemployment rate among the Palestinian population remains alarmingly high. The World Bank estimated that unemployment amongst youths in the last quarter of 2012 reached 27.9 per cent in the West Bank and 48.9 per cent in the Gaza Strip.
Due to the lack of job opportunities in the West Bank, some Palestinians are forced to look for employment in Israel in order to make a living. However, entrance into Israel requires that Palestinians from the West Bank apply for entry permits, which are virtually impossible to obtain. As a result, Palestinian workers from the West Bank regularly attempt to cross the Wall without a permit, putting them at risk of being arrested or attacked by Israeli soldiers.
Mohammad ‘Abd-al-Qader ‘Amleh – Beit Ula– Hebron Governorate
Mohammad, 28, has been working in the construction industry in Israel for the past 12 years and is the sole breadwinner for his family of five. Two years ago, after years of working without any documents, Mohammad obtained a permit allowing him to enter and work in Israel. However, approximately three months ago, while Mohammad was on his way to work, Israeli soldiers seized his permit at the military checkpoint in north Bethlehem without explanation. Ever since, Mohammad has entered Israel through holes in the Wall.
On 15 May at approximately 7:00 pm, Mohammad and his friends ‘Umar Mohammad ‘Amleh, 31, and Jihad ‘Issa ‘Adam, 34, arrived in Wadi al-Qalamoun area, west of Beit Ula, where the Wall consists of a metallic fence. The three men had planned to enter Israel through a breach in the Wall and stay there over night in order to start work early the following morning. Mohammad and ‘Umar went through the fence first and reached the security road, which is reserved for the exclusive use of the Israeli military vehicles that patrol the area.
When the Palestinian men reached the western side of the Wall, they noticed a group of seven soldiers approximately ten metres away from them and another eight soldiers some 70 metres north of the gap in the fence. The soldiers ordered the Palestinian men to stop and immediately began shooting at them. The second group of soldiers also unleashed police dogs on Mohammad, ‘Umar and Jihad, who were running away.
One of the dogs caught up with Mohammad and attacked him, pushing him to the ground and biting his neck. Mohammad started screaming from severe pain and unsuccessfully attempted to free himself. ‘Umar, ran towards his friend to try and help him but was bitten on his right arm by another dog. Meanwhile, Mohammad saw that dogs were also chasing Jihad, along with two soldiers who were running after him and shooting at him. Only after approximately ten minutes from the attack, the soldiers began beating the dogs in order to separate them from Mohammad and ‘Umar. The soldiers then began to beat the two Palestinian men who were already bleeding as a result of the dogs’ attack. The soldiers kicked Mohammad, stomped on his back and punched him. They then tied Mohammad’ and ‘Umar’s hands with plastic cuffs and blindfolded them, and eventually managed to catch Jihad.
The soldiers forced the three Palestinian men into a military vehicle and drove them to the Israeli military checkpoint of Tarqumiya, where they were ordered to get out of the vehicle and get down on their knees. Mohammad felt pain in his back, neck, and his wrist, due to the tight handcuffs. Approximately one hour later, some military first-aiders arrived at the checkpoint, and cleaned Mohammad and ‘Umar’s injuries. Another half an hour later, Mohammad and ‘Umar were transferred into an Israeli ambulance and taken to the Barzilay hospital in Ashkelon, while Jihad was kept at the checkpoint. Throughout the journey and at the hospital, Israeli soldiers guarded the two Palestinians.
The next day, at approximately 7:00 pm, Israeli soldiers transferred Mohammad and ‘Umar to the main Israeli police station next to ‘Kyriat Arba’ settlement, in Hebron governorate. They waited until about midnight, when a police interrogator began asking them questions. When he accused the two men of having cut the fence, they firmly denied the charges and explained what had happened. On 17 May at approximately 4:00 am, Mohammad and ‘Umar were eventually released after paying a bail of NIS 1,000 each (approximately USD 270). Before leaving the police station Mohammad and ‘Umar received a summons to Ofer Israeli military prison, near Ramallah, for 1 December 2013. Later the same day, Mohammad and ‘Umar went to the governmental hospital in Hebron, where they received additional medical treatment and returned home the following day at 1:00 pm. The third Palestinian, Jihad, had been injured by a rubber coated metal bullet fired at his left leg by the soldiers and was released after midnight on 15 May. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 8642/2013)
Al-Haq’s 2010 case study Economic and Physical Oppression: The Wall, the Occupation, and Palestinian Workers illustrates more in detail the human rights violations perpetrated against Palestinian workers who attempt to enter Israel without a permit. Al-Haq condemns the pervasive ill-treatment and assaults of Palestinians attempting to enter Israel without a permit and reiterates that Israel, as the Occupying Power, must comply with its obligations under international law to ensure the livelihood of the Palestinian population in the OPT and to guarantee their rights to work and to an adequate standard of living.