Name: Leith L.
Date of Incident: 29 May 2012
Location: Beit Jala village, Bethlehem
Nature of Incident: Soldier violence / detention
On 29 May 2012, a 15-year-old boy is beaten and detained near Bethlehem, in the occupied West Bank, by Israeli soldiers while waiting to be picked up from school.
At 9:00 am, on 29 May 2012, 15-year-old Leith was sitting with two friends across the road from their school, after completing an exam. He was waiting to be picked up by his father. Whilst waiting, Leith saw a number of Israeli soldiers approaching from the nearby military camp. “When they were close, they started shouting at us in Hebrew. We felt scared. [My friends] ran away but I hesitated for a second before deciding to run,” says Leith. “I ran for 20 metres and hid in a grocery store, but two soldiers followed me. They cornered me and started kicking me and punching me hard. They hit me with their rifles in my stomach. They were also insulting me and calling me 'a son of a whore,'” says Leith, who recalls that the events were witnessed by the old man who owned the grocery store, but who did not interfere.
The soldiers then dragged Leith out of the store and tied his hands behind his back with a single plastic tie, before placing him in a police car. “My father and two of my teachers arrived and started arguing with the soldiers and policeman behind the car,” recalls Leith, who also reports being further beaten on his head and shoulders. Leith was then blindfolded and taken to the nearby military camp. “I entered through the gate and many soldiers surrounded me. They started punching me in the stomach and hitting me with the barrel of their rifles on my back and stomach. There were so many of them, I was able to see their legs from under the blindfold. They kept beating me. I was shouting and feeling so much pain. I was really scared because I was alone with them inside a military camp.”
A short time later Leith was taken for interrogation where he reports being further physically and verbally abused. “Many soldiers gathered around me and started insulting me and asking me questions in Hebrew and broken Arabic. Five or six of them were insulting me and asking me questions while others were laughing. One of them hit me in the stomach with the barrel of his rifle. I felt so much pain,” recalls Leith, who says he was scared. “Then an officer came in and introduced himself. He asked me what happened and I told him. ‘The soldiers tell a different story,’ he said in clear Arabic. ‘Why did you run away when they approached you?’ he asked. ‘Because I was scared but I didn’t do anything.’”
Leith reports that the other soldiers were slapping him whilst he was being questioned, before the officer asked them to leave. They all left the room except the officer and one of the soldiers, who stood behind Leith. “I felt his hand on my shoulder and I could see the officer’s legs in front of me from underneath the blindfold,” recalls Leith. “‘Tell me what you have done?’ the officer asked me. ‘I didn't do anything,’ I responded, and he hit me in my stomach with the barrel of his rifle. ‘Tell me what happened,’ he asked again. ‘I didn't do anything,’ I responded again. ‘A settler car was attacked with stones,’ he said, and I denied any connection,” says Leith. “I asked him to get me some water to drink and he said 'how about a drink of shit?'” Leith reports that the officer then left the room for about 10 minutes. “Don't you want to talk and tell me you threw stones at the Israeli car?” said the officer when he returned. Leith denied the accusation and the officer then left the room again for about 30 minutes. Leith reports that whilst the officer was gone, soldiers came in every five minute or so, and slapped, kicked and verbally abused him.
“About 30 minutes later the officer came back and punched me in the stomach,” recalls Leith. “He put my I.D. card in my pocket and said ‘You didn’t throw stones?’ ‘No I didn’t,’ I replied. ‘We'll bring you here again if any Israeli car gets attacked by stones,’ he said. Leith was then untied and his blindfold was removed, before he was released at the gate where his father was waiting for him.
“I still suffer psychologically,” says Leith. “It comes back to me in my dreams. I have nightmares. I did not do well in the Technology exam the following day, and I am certain I will fail.”
6 June 2012