Israeli officer attacks Palestinian demonstrator, kneels on his neck and prevents his evacuation at gunfire
On Tuesday afternoon, 1 September 2020, Palestinians held a march to protest Israel’s expropriation of over 700 dunams [1 dunam = 1,000 sq. meters] land belonging to the villages of Shufah and a-Ras in Tulkarm District in order to establish the Bustanei Hefetz industrial zone. The protest, held by 200 residents of area villages, human rights activists and journalists, was the third in a month.
Dozens of soldiers were deployed along the main road (Route 557). As the Palestinians drew near, several soldiers hurled tear gas canisters and stun grenades at them, while others pushed protestors off the road. The Palestinians retreated to a spot where three soldiers were standing.
About an hour later, one of the three – an officer – entered into an argument with a protestor and threatened him with his weapon. This prompted another demonstrator, Khairi Hanun (61) from the village of ‘Anabta, to stand between them. The officer pushed Hanun to the ground, kneeled forcefully on his neck and tied his hands behind his back. The two other soldiers ordered the protestors to move back, at gunpoint.
The soldiers then lifted the handcuffed Hanun, and the officer led him aside. The protestors began arguing with the three soldiers, and about 15 minutes later, managed to wrestle Hanun from them and lead him to a nearby car in order to drive him away. After Hanun got in the car, the officer smashed the driver’s window with his rifle and ordered him, at gunpoint, to get out. When a Palestinian ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later, the soldiers finally let Hanun go.
On Monday, 21 September 2020, at around 4:00 A.M., about 15 soldiers raided Khairi Hanun’s home. They searched it, confiscated two laptops and two mobile phones belonging to Hanun and his daughter, and arrested Hanun. The family does not know why he was arrested and only found out two days later, through a journalist, that he is being held in at the Ofer military prison.
In response to video footage of the incident published by Ha’aretz, the IDF Spokesperson announced that a “violent disturbance” had taken place, in which “a Palestinian known as a major instigator who participates in many disturbances throughout Judea and Samaria, pushed the force’s commander several times and tried to create a provocation. The commander showed restraint, but after several such attacks, the force was compelled to arrest him, as he kept attacking it and engaged in disorderly behavior. The suspect resisted arrest, so the force had to handcuff him. After his arrest, the suspect was given medical care on site.”
This response is completely detached from the reality indisputably captured on film: an armed officer, surrounded by other armed soldiers, attacked a 61-year-old unarmed protestor, threw him to the ground, kneeled on his neck, handcuffed him forcefully and tried to prevent him from leaving to receive medical treatment while threatening another person. The military provides backing not only for violent acts of this kind, but for Israel’s sweeping ban on Palestinians’ right to protest for any reason. In this case, Israel barred residents from holding a non-violent demonstration against the dispossession of their land – as always, expropriated to serve Israeli interests. The military’s automatic support is yet another part of the justification the occupation regime provides security forces for routinely using violence against Palestinians. Soldiers understand full well that violating Palestinians’ rights is not only permissible, under the occupation, but an integral part of their enforcement responsibilities.
On the day of the incident, B’Tselem field researcher Abdulkarim Sadi collected testimonies from Hanun and other witnesses.
In his testimony, Khairi Hanun (61), a falafel vendor and activist from ‘Anabta and a married father of four, recounted:
We were about 200 demonstrators. The soldiers who were already in the area, probably waiting for us, started to push to get us off the main road and fired tear gas and stun grenades at us. We moved off the road to the land slated for takeover. Still, the soldiers kept provoking us by firing live ammunition in the air and firing tear gas and stun grenades.
I said to them, “You told us to move away from the road and that’s what we did, so why are you still chasing us?”
When I saw one of the soldiers pointing his rifle at a protestor, I went and stood between them. The soldier didn’t like that and knocked me to the ground.
He kneeled on my neck while trying to handcuff me. I couldn’t breathe. I remembered the case of the American, George Floyd, and was scared I would die. I was angry that I couldn’t resist and defend myself. The soldier kept me pinned down until he handcuffed me, and then he lifted me up and took me aside with two other soldiers.
The other protestors managed to free me by pulling me from the hands of one soldier. They led to a Palestinian Authority vehicle that was parked there. I was exhausted and my face was bruised from the pressure of the soldiers’ knee on my face. While I was in the car, one of the soldiers smashed the window on the driver’s side with his rifle. Until an ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later, the soldiers prevented us from leaving.
The ambulance took me to ‘Izbat Shufah, where I drank some water and washed my face. I didn’t want any medical treatment, only to get away from the soldiers.
My whole body ached, especially my head and neck. I’ve been taking part in peaceful, non-violent protests for many years, and this is the first time soldiers have used such violence against me.
In his testimony Tashsin Hamed (69), a farmer from Shufah and father of eight, related:
The soldiers pushed us off the road. I was standing next to an old friend of mine, Khairi Hanun, who always takes part in the non-violent protests. He’s known for coming dressed in traditional Palestinian clothing. Suddenly, I saw one of the soldiers knock Khairi to the ground. It surprised us all, because he hadn’t done anything. He hadn’t been violent and there was no reason to assault him.
I saw one of the soldiers pin Khairi to the ground and handcuff him, despite his age. The soldier was pressing on his neck with his knee. After the soldier handcuffed Khairi and picked him up, I tried, with other protestors, to pull him away from the soldiers. We argued with the soldiers and everyone started pushing and shoving. It took about 15 minutes to get him free.
There was a Palestinian Authority vehicle there, and we led Khairi to it to get him away. Suddenly, a soldier smashed the window on the driver’s side with his rifle.
The whole thing was barbaric. You could see it came from hate. The soldiers kept the car from leaving for about 15 minutes, until a Palestinian ambulance arrived.
In that demonstration, the soldiers used dozens of tear gas and stun grenades and also fired live shots in the air. No one was injured.
In his testimony, M’aruf a-Rifa’i (52), a media advisor to the chairman of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Commission, who is a resident of ‘Anabta and a father of five, related:
After the protestors managed to free Khairi from the soldiers, we put him in the car I was driving, which belongs to the government office in charge of the struggle against the Separation Barrier and settlements. I was parked about 10 meters away from the site of the incident.
Khairi got in the back seat and I tried to drive away, but one of the soldiers, the officer, smashed the window on my side with his rifle. Shards of glass flew at me and cut me.
I got really nervous because he was pointing his rifle at me, and I was afraid he’d shoot me.
The officer came closer and threatened to shoot me if I didn’t get out of the car. Then, he grabbed me by the neck and pulled me out. Finally, a Palestinian ambulance arrived for Khairi.
The attack on Khairi was barbaric. It’s just like when the American policeman attacked George Floyd. The soldiers’ behavior is proof of the extreme treatment of Palestinians under the occupation.