Men who allegedly beat Arab arrested

ISM releases footage alleging attack; second such incident captured on film in less than a month.

masked settler in hebron (photo credit: AP [file])
masked settler in hebron
(photo credit: AP [file])
Police on Sunday arrested two settlers who were allegedly involved in beating a Palestinian they had tied to a utility pole near the outpost of Assa'al in south Hebron on Saturday in an incident that was caught on camera by activists. In a video of the incident posted to the Youtube Internet site, a settler can be seen walking up to a Palestinian who is sitting on the ground with his back against a pole surrounded by four soldiers. In the video, the Palestinians hands appear to be tied. As the settler stands inches away from one of the soldiers with the Palestinian at his feet, he suddenly kicks the Palestinian in the head and only then is taken away by one of the soldiers. It is not clear if the two settlers arrested by the police were in the video, which the police also have as evidence. The Jerusalem District Court on Sunday has already extended the remand of one of the settlers and the second one has yet to be taken to court. According to Ch.-Supt. Danny Poleg, spokesman for the Judea and Samaria District Police, both settlers admitted to beating the Palestinian, but claim they did so in self-defense and that he attacked them first. The military had no comment as to how the settler was able to beat the Palestinian while four soldiers stood closely by. Military sources noted only that the soldiers pulled the settlers away and that the police were now handling the matter. Tzvika Bar-Hai, who heads the South Hebron Hill Regional Council said that the incident happened after settlers saw Palestinians set fire to a nearby field, thereby endangering their outpost, and that the incident had to be seen within the context of that event. "If you saw a Palestinian setting fire to a field near your home would you think you were in danger?" he asked. But Mithat Abu Karsh, a 30-year-old biology teacher and a father of two children, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that he had been trying to put out the fire when the settlers stopped him. Along with a cousin he had been on his way to his family's wheat field. Initially they had planned to meet up with some activists from the Israeli peace movement in hopes that the activists would afford them some protection from the settlers, but when the group was late they decided to venture forth on their own. "As we were walking we saw fire. We tried to extinguish it but the fire spread very quickly toward an outpost. Suddenly we saw four settlers carrying clubs rushing towards us," said Abu Karsh. Impaired by polio, Abu Karsh said he was unable to flee, but he told his cousin to run away. "They (the settlers) caught me. They tied my hands using my shoelaces and then they dragged me until we arrived at the outpost," said Abu Karsh. Once at the outpost, he was tied to a utility pole where settlers used both their clubs and their hands to beat him, he said. "After a while, an Israeli army jeep came by with three soldiers inside. I begged them to stop and help me, but they refused. When the settlers saw the soldiers they increased the beating," he said. The police arrived 40 minutes into the event and stopped the settlers from continuing the beating, Abu Karsh said. They were followed by soldiers who gave him first aid treatment and then called for a Palestinian ambulance. The police, he said, questioned him about both the beating and the fire before he was taken to a hospital in Hebron, where he was treated and released. According to Poleg, Abu Karsh is not a suspect in regard to the fire in the field outside the outpost, although they are still investigating the blaze. The police detained for questioning and then released a Palestinian in connection with the fire. He added that the testimony of a soldier that witnessed the beating supports Abu Karsh's account of the incident. Bar-Hai, however, said he blamed the left-wing activists who came along for provoking the incident and he alleged that they were also involved in setting fire to the field. "These people did not come here innocently, they came to incite," Bar-Hai said and added that the police bore some responsibility for not stopping the activists from visiting their area. Assaf, an activist from the Israeli left-wing group Tayush who preferred not to use his last name, said that he and members of his group and the pro-Palestinian group The International Solidarity Movement arrived only at the end of the incident, where they saw a blackened field and Abu Karsh tied to a pole. Members of both Tayush and the ISM filmed what they saw. Assaf said activists have been in the area to try and protect the Palestinians who want to work their fields. "If we had been there earlier, this would not have happened," he said. The video of the beating of Abu Karsh is the second such incident this month. In a similar attack in the same area on June 8, settlers left an elderly Palestinian couple and their nephew wounded from blows to the head, face and hands. That incident was also caught on camera. AP contributed to this report.