Detained and humiliated, Palestinian now wants a gun

Israelis held mechanic 4 days, asked 3 questions, set him free unharmed

April 09, 2002|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

BEIT JALA, West Bank - His hands bound behind his back and his eyes tightly blindfolded, Ahmad Ibrahim was taken Friday from his village near Bethlehem by Israeli soldiers and locked in a cell he likened to a packed chicken coop.

The 23-year-old auto mechanic was released yesterday, after being held for four days with 150 others sharing a single toilet, all of them waiting to be interrogated by Israeli intelligence officers conducting a wide, seemingly indiscriminate dragnet to find wanted terrorists.

Ibrahim said he was asked only three questions: his name, where he lived and whether he belonged to a political organization. The interrogation, as Israel calls it, lasted no more than five minutes.

Then he was driven to a checkpoint outside Beit Jala, several miles from his home, and set free - forced to walk away on streets deserted because of a curfew enforced by Israeli army snipers.

He walked through alleys until he reached Beit Jala Hospital. He sat on the curb, dressed in a ragged brown T-shirt and torn jeans, and watched armored personnel carriers rumble toward Bethlehem.

As a teen-ager, Ibrahim threw stones at Israeli tanks. He said he now wants a gun.

"There is no other way," Ibrahim said. "Nobody is satisfied with what is happening here. The Israelis want to destroy the Palestinian people and remove us from here."

Ibrahim's experience is believed to be similar to that of about 1,400 Palestinians between the ages of 14 and 45, who have been rounded up and questioned as part of an Israeli army sweep for suspected militants.

The scenes repeated themselves yesterday as scores of men gave themselves up in the West Bank cities of Nablus and Jenin. They left their hide-outs and homes in groups of five, their hands high above their heads, their shirts lifted to show that no bombs were strapped to their waists.

None of the detainees is allowed a lawyer. The army can detain Palestinians for up to 15 days without legal representation or other visitors.

Ibrahim said he was taken from a mosque in al-Khader, his village outside Bethlehem. He said soldiers disrupted prayers and ordered the males outside. He was driven away in a truck to a prison.

What surprised him most, he said, was the scant questioning. He expected to be grilled, but said they did little more than run his name through a computer.

Ibrahim said he was not beaten, but was given no food during his imprisonment.

"I was humiliated," he said.

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