Israeli Invasions into the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (PC) - On Monday, November 25, Israeli soldiers ordered a young resident of the town of Nablus to strip completely naked in the street, according to Palestinian witnesses.
Yasser Sharar, 25, was caught violating the curfew in Nablus and was stopped by Israeli soldiers at gunpoint, who immediately ordered him to remove his clothes.
In an interview with Reuters, a witness explained, "They forced Yasser to take off all his clothes including his underwear...they ordered him to walk like a dog and then he burst into tears,"
The eyewitness who watched the scene from a few meters away continued, "He kept crying and was in a very stressful situation...many residents, including women watched him and he was very embarrassed."
Israeli soldiers refuted the claim, saying that they merely asked him to lift his shirt, but he voluntarily removed all his clothing to get media attention. The Reuters report also claimed that this is the first time Israeli soldiers have ordered Palestinians to completely strip naked publicly in a security operation.
However, recent interviews conducted by the Palestine Chronicle with scores of residents of the Jenin refugee camp contradicted the Reuters claim. Dozens of residents of the refugee camp claimed that during the Israeli invasion of April, 2002, it was a common practice to force residents to strip naked as a form of humiliation, or as the Israelis say, a "security operation."
Na'el Ammar, 43, is a resident of the Jenin refugee camp and explains how Israeli soldiers arrested and detained scores of men from the refugee camp, and forced many to strip naked, " We were mostly older people, sick and wounded. We had nine handicapped people with us, three were from the same family, sons of Abu Ibrahim. Some of us were too old, they were senile. When they told them "go left" they would go right, but they stripped them naked anyway. I tried to help them as much as I could. I was the only one who spoke Hebrew...Close to us was a group of young men. They were handcuffed, naked and lying on their stomachs. The Israeli tanks would pass by them so fast, only forty centimeters away from their heads."
Nawal Hawashin, a mother of eight, told Palestine Chronicle reporters that they threatened her 18 year old son with death if he did not follow their orders to strip naked, "They ordered my son and other young men to take off all their clothes and throw them on the ground. The soldiers warned that if the boys made any move, they would be shot. Near the Sahah, there was a body of a man with a white beard. He was lying dead on the ground, and tanks were rolling right over him. I couldn't recognize him. My son Mohammed said, "Mother, I am too ashamed to take my clothes off in front of women." I told him, 'Son, this is our fate."
Jamal Hussein has a family of thirteen. A man who worked as a cheap laborer in Israel before the invasion of Jenin described in detail how terrified Jenin residents were gathered in the center of the camp and forced to undress, "Soldiers stationed on the top of a nearby house started throwing dirt on us.. We remained 15 men and boys. Half an hour later a tank came and stood near us. They pointed the canon at us. And they spent over an hour terrifying us that way. The commander of that unit spoke in Arabic to us, "Go to Saha". While we were on our way, we kept reading Koran. We felt that they were going to execute us. Once we arrived there, we found a large number of men, forced to strip completely naked. There was a big pile of clothes. Soldiers started shooting right above our heads, they would call on us, one by one. Once they pointed at you, you would have to pull your pants down and your shirt up, when it was my turn, as I stood up, I noticed the body of a man, Jamal Sabbagh. It was some sort of a test. If you pass, you are arrested and if you don't, they'll shoot and kill you."
According to Jenin residents, Israeli forces were not discriminatory in their aggression, young men, old and disabled were targeted. 45-year old Um Siri lamented how her son was not only forced to strip naked, but how he was later used as a human shield, "Then they took my son, they had him strip naked, and they also started firing between his legs to terrorize him."
Israeli soldiers arrested and detained Um Siri's son for days, during this time, she did not know if he was dead or alive. Finally she found him in a rescue shelter where he recounted how he was treated, "When I also found my son, he told me that the soldiers took him to a field near the camp with many other young men, he told me that the soldiers had them walk in front of the tanks, as they were looking for fighters."
The vulnerable and elderly, according to residents, were treated just as mercilessly. Um Siri recounted how the women of Jenin tried to come to the aid of some men, forced to stand naked publicly, in the pouring rain, "We passed by the sons of Sheikh Abdel Salam. They were standing there in the rain, after the Israelis had them strip completely naked. There was a woman who came with us. She took her headscarf and tore it to several pieces and gave it to the young men to cover themselves. A very thin old man approached while screaming, 'My sons, my money, for God's sake, they took everything!' The Israelis had him strip naked like the day he was born. Once the women saw that, they started pulling their hair, hitting their heads, and wailing. He has all of his life's savings with him, because he was worried that he might lose it in the invasion, but when the Israelis stripped him naked, they found the money and took it."
Other residents described how young men were stripped naked and then shot. Yusuf Shalabi, a young man from the camp explained how the Israeli soldiers denied medical treatment to the wounded, "...I remember this nightmare very well. It is very difficult to talk about it. I remember them stripping the people naked, they would handcuff them and blindfold them. I remember seeing two wounded men, one was wounded in the shoulder and the other in the leg. They were screaming in pain and the soldiers would not allow them to be treated.
The Israeli army, who according to Amnesty International committed war crimes in Jenin in April of 2002, targeted medical workers as well. They also forced the women to remove their head scarves. Seham Shalabi, a young woman who works in a textile factory in Jenin recounted her memories of those days last April, "An army jeep came and started circling the house, then it opened fire at us. Why would they open fire at us? Then they came and they searched us, and had us walk two by two, out of the camp. Just as we began moving, we saw another group of tanks and bulldozers. We found some doctors and medical workers, forced strip naked, handcuffed. Then they put them in trucks and took them to the Salem detention center. The Israelis started shouting and ordering us to take off our head scarves.
Humiliation of medial workers was not only reported by the residents of Jenin, but these events were also narrated by the medical workers themselves. Mohammed Rafi' the director of the Red Crescent Society's youth development programs in Jenin recounted how the Israelis held medical workers hostage in the Jenin hospital for days, and then forced them to strip naked as well. "They did not allow anyone in or out. If one of us wanted to leave to the hospital across the street, it would take two hours of telephone calls and deliberation. Ambulance drivers would be forced to wait for two hours with people bleeding inside before they were allowed entry to the hospital, they would take our volunteers or drivers, have them stripped naked, and interrogated and insulted.
Of the scores upon scores of interviews conducted by Palestine Chronicle reporters in the Jenin refugee camp, that act of forcing civilians to strip naked was reported time and again. The Israeli army has defended the action, saying that such tactics are necessary to assure that Palestinians are not carrying explosives.
Many of the quotes within this article will be included the book titled Searching Jenin, edited by Ramzy Baroud, Editor-in-Chief of the Palestine Chronicle. Searching Jenin will be available in bookstores in December 2002.
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