A report recently published by Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) “reveals the widespread phenomenon of violence against bound Palestinian detainees by IDF soldiers and the almost absolute indifference to the IDF, the Ministry of Defense and the Knesset towards the existence of this phenomenon and the need to take action in order to eradicate it completely.”
The report is titled “No Defense: Soldier Violence against Palestinian Detainees”. According to the group’s press release, “The report reveals that although the phenomenon of violence against Palestinian detainees by soldiers is blatantly illegal, it is reinforced by a weak legal system which conducts only a small number of investigations and legal proceedings that concern cases of abuse by soldiers.”
A military spokesman responded to the report by insisting that Israel’s armed forces “act in line with international and Israeli laws regarding the arrest of terrorism suspects.”
But as PCATI notes, “the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] has no directives which regulate the treatment of Palestinian detainees in the period of time between their arrest and their placement in detention and interrogation authorities.”
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Israel upheld a law allowing the Israeli Defense Force to detain any person suspected of participating in acts of hostilities against Israel indefinately.
The PCATI report quotes Brig. Gen. Yossi Bachar testifying on April 11, 2006, at the trial of a soldier being prosecuted for abusing a Palestinian detainee: “Unfortunately I want to admit something that we are not fully aware of. These cases are not all that exceptional in their quantity…. These cases, in which Palestinian detainees are beaten by soldiers and police officers, happen occasionally, to my great regret. Many of them are not the subject of any complaint and are cloaked in various kinds of conspiracies of silence.”
Tenuous Truce Holds, For Now
On June 24 Israel killed two Palestinians in the West Bank city of Nablus. One of the victims was Tarek Juma Abu Ghali, a senior commander in Islamic Jihad. The group threatened to launch strikes inside Israel in retaliation, and claimed responsibility for three rocket attacks against Israel just hours after the deaths.
The other victim was Eyad Khanfar, variously reported as affiliated with Islamic Jihad or Hamas. After the killings, Hamas vowed that it remained committed to a truce with Israel. Hamas also urged Islamic Jihad to abide by the truce. Daoud Shihab, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, said that after talking with Hamas, “We have confirmed to our friends in Hamas that we have decided to respect the ceasefire.”
Israel said it would hold Hamas responsible for any attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip and reiterated that it would engage in hostilities in the West Bank at will, as only the territory of Gaza was included under the cease-fire agreement.
Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, said, “Any fire from the Gaza Strip is a gross violation of the understanding reached with Egypt”, which brokered the cease-fire with Hamas. Islamic Jihad was not party to the agreement. Regev added that Islamic Jihad’s retaliation violated “two cardinal points of the understanding reached through Egypt, namely that the truce applies only to the Gaza Strip and not to the West Bank and that it concerns all armed groups.”
Israel and Hamas agreed to the cease-fire just a week ago. Under the truce, Israel also agreed, in addition to ceasing hostilities, to ease the siege of Gaza. It initially allowed more goods to enter Gaza, but in response to the rocket attacks, again tightened the siege.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoom said, “Before the Egyptian side, Israel pledged not to close the crossing points and to ease the siege.” He added that “Hamas is committed to the lull and called on the Palestinian factions to restrain and to work on securing the success of the calmness.”