We live in Yanoun, a small village near the municipality of Aqraba, a town with a population of just under 8,200 (2007, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics). We come home to the village from Jerusalem or Nablus by way of the Za’tara Checkpoint/Round-about. It is a busy intersection and is not a permanent checkpoint. However, Israeli military and border police often put up flying checkpoints to check Palestinian documents.
On May 23, 2013, we passed through Za’tara on our way to Huwarra, at approximately 12 noon. We observed a young Palestinian dressed in a red t-shirt, mid-calf light blue shorts and running shoes. He was being questioned by two Israeli military on the east side of the highway. This is not unusual in Palestine. The Israeli military routinely detain and interrogate young male Palestinians. Several with whom we spoke on that day said that they were detained and questioned for over 50 minutes each.
We returned at approximately 12:45 p.m., and to our surprise, the young man was now on the west side of the highway, down on the ground, surrounded by a dozen Israeli military.
Three members of our team left our vehicle and walked quickly to where the military were gathered. The young man was unconscious, lying in a semi-sitting position with his back against a concrete structure. He had blood over his left eye. And he was not responding to attempts by the military to rouse him.
Before we could photograph him, two soldiers, one them a captain who didn’t speak English, stood between the youth and us and ordered us to cross the road to the east side. They then escorted us to the sidewalk immediately below a another armed soldier in front of the guard tower on that corner, and told us to stand there. I asked for the major in command to come to tell us what had happened. I then asked how the youth had come to be on the west side of the road and unconscious. One of the two soldiers who spoke English told me that he had heard the young man became panicky in questioning and tried to run, then ran into a light pole. Anyone running in the Za’tara checkpoint risks being shot.
The English-speaking soldier said that we were doing Israel harm. I replied that we are not the enemy. I then pointed to the unconscious young man and asked: “If it were you or me lying there, what should be done? What’s happening to him right now is a violation of his human rights and his humanitarian rights. He’s not even being given first aid. Is that right? As human beings, is that how we would want to be treated?” He looked thoughtful for a moment and didn’t reply. When his captain asked for a translation, he gave a dismissive snort.
There were a total of five military vehicles (jeeps, heavy transport vehicles) and up to 18 soldiers on the site over the next two hours. Two ambulances and a physician arrived from the Red Crescent society. We could see them, time-to-time, trying to revive the youth and bandage his head.
The young man was kept in the direct sun for over an hour. He was not placed into a recovery position. He was not shaded from the sun. He was not given water. He was not transported to hospital for a more thorough check up.
After more than an hour and a half, he eventually revived, and with the help of the Red Crescent staff, was able to walk with assistance to the military compound on the west side of the checkpoint. The Military then ordered the Red Crescent to leave. The youth was kept in custody. And the major never came to speak with us.
We are trying to determine the identity and condition of this youth as well as where he lives so that we can take statements from him.
This incident was disturbing.
Several of the young man’s international human rights were violated: his right to life, his right to food and water, and his right to health. International human rights law is applicable to the territory of a state, and also extends to any territory under its effective jurisdiction, even outside its borders.
His international humanitarian rights were also breached. Under a belligerent occupation, like that in the occupied Palestinian territory, civilians have the right to be protected: respect for their person, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs.
The fact that this young man needed assistance and was not getting it, was not treated for his injuries and given first aid, was not sent to hospital for complete physical assessment of any damages, and was kept in custody — all are more than enough for concern.
Our team is following up on the details of this incident through the International Committee of the Red Crescent. When we know his identity, and if he gives consent for us to publish his story and photos, I will come back to you.
For more information in international humanitarian rights, follow this link: http://www.diakonia.se/sa/node.asp?node=776
From the troubling land of our common ancestors, until next time.