Tuesday, August 21, 2007

IDF Soldiers Hijack Taxi, Shoot Palestinian Workers in West Bank Factory

Six Israeli soldiers run amok in West Bank

AM - Tuesday, 21 August , 2007 08:12:00
Reporter: David Hardaker

PETER CAVE: Israel's Defence Forces, the IDF, are investigating six soldiers who commandeered a Palestinian taxi, tied up the driver and then shot at random at workers outside a factory in the West Bank.

The IDF denies the incident is part of a culture of abuse, but it's holding investigations into the moral and ethical conduct of its forces.

Middle East Correspondent David Hardaker reports.

DAVID HARDAKER: It's one of the darkest tales to emerge from Israel's occupation - the day half a dozen soldiers ran amok, shooting an innocent young Palestinian and then attempted a cover-up.

BENJAMIN RUTLAND: I think you can categorise this as being indecent and immoral.

DAVID HARDAKER: Captain Benjamin Rutland from the Israeli Defence Forces.

BENJAMIN RUTLAND: We're taking steps to make sure that this sort of event will never occur again in the future.

DAVID HARDAKER: It was morning in the town of Dahariya - a small, isolated place in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

An officer in the Israeli Defence forces, the IDF, had been ordered to go out on foot patrol. Instead, he and five other soldiers took off their uniforms and set off on their own black operation.

First they stopped a passing taxi at gunpoint. They ordered the passengers out, tied up the driver, blindfolded him and held him in the back of the taxi.

A young Palestinian, 18 years old - called Adham Samamara - walked outside the factory where he was working and noticed a car stopped on the road.

"Arab, I thought they were Arabs," he says. "The car had West Bank numberplates and they were wearing civilian clothes.

"It's not unusual for people to stop outside our factory, to get some water and wanting some help," he says.

So, wanting to help, Adham Samamara walked towards the car. Within a minute, and without any warning, he was hit by a bullet in the chest. He remembers the sound.

(Sound of Adham Samamara making sound of gunfire)

"And," he says, "there was lots of pain."

Here, at his home, surrounded by family, the 18-year-old lifts his shirt and reveals the scars where the bullet entered his chest and then came out through his left side.

"It was a criminal act, what happened to Adham," his uncle says. "You should've seen the atmosphere in this house, we thought he was dead, we were frantic."

(Sound of machinery operating)

Outside the tile factory where Adham Samamara works, you can still see his blood mixed in the sand.

(Sound of Adham Samamara talking)

Israeli soldiers also shot at another employee, but they missed him, and they took off from the scene, leaving Adham Samamara lying bleeding in the street. The soldiers involved at first lied about what they'd done that morning. They claimed that Adham Samamara had approached them in a threatening manner.

Captain Benjamin Rutland from the IDF.

BENJAMIN RUTLAND: The IDF takes this event very, very seriously, and as a consequence, the fact that he disobeyed orders, did not get approval and placed both his soldiers and civilian lives in danger is very, very serious for us.

DAVID HARDAKER: The junior officer who was the ringleader that morning has been charged with a number of offences and may end up in jail. The other five soldiers are being investigated.

As well, there's been an investigation into the soldiers' entire battalion.

BENJAMIN RUTLAND: We're trying to work out whether the whole battalion had some sort of ethical-moral problem.

DAVID HARDAKER: Benjamin Rutland.

BENJAMIN RUTLAND: Within any group you may have a bad apple here or there. We devote considerable attention to making sure the people are given ethical training and learn exactly where the lines are.

DAVID HARDAKER: Is it a bad apple here or there, or is there in fact a systemic problem in the IDF which critics would say has come from 40 years of occupation?

BENJAMIN RUTLAND: I don't believe that there is a systemic problem. As we denoted, this is a discussion related to one particular battalion, amongst many within the IDF.

DAVID HARDAKER: The head of Israel's Defence Forces has said the incident is now to be included in IDF training.

Adham Samamara says he's pleased Israel has admitted it was in the wrong.

His uncle, Moussa, is happy too that the soldiers' lies were found out, because, he says, normally any act in the West Bank is considered a terrorist act, but this time they were forced to tell the truth.

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