VIDEO - Border Guard policemen were caught on camera beating a 17-year-old Palestinian youth at the West Bank village of Hawara, near Nablus Wednesday. The incident was documented by one of the local residents.
The operational activity of the three Border Guard officers involved in the incident was halted Thursday evening following an order issued by Border Guard Commander Hassein Fares. The officers were summoned to present their version to the Police Investigation Unit on Friday morning.
Earlier, Fares said in response to the incident, "I view such behavior as extremely severe. The matter will be probed by the Police Investigation Unit.
"Border Guard fighters work to protect the citizens of Israel and are responsible for thwarting hostile terrorist acts, while dealing with numerous acts of violence carried out against them," he added.
The commander also said that there had been a drop of 64 percent in investigations launched against Border Guard officers for excessive use of force in 2006.
The head of the investigation team, Avi Peretz, said that the investigation would not take long as the evidence was solid and "one picture is worth a thousand words."
The Police Investigation Unit decided to launch the investigation immediately after watching the film. Peretz estimated that the investigation would last a week or two and its findings would then be handed over to the State Prosecutor's Office.
"We still have to listen to the suspects' version. In similar cases in the past, soldiers were tried and even went to jail," he said.
The youth, Hindawi Qawarik, told Ynet that at about 12:30 pm Wednesday, he and his friends were leaving school when they noticed a Border Guard jeep not far from them.
"I told my friends that if we pass near them, they'll hit us like they did a few weeks ago," he said.
The policemen approached the youths and questioned them regarding a stone-throwing incident that took place earlier. They then decided to detain three of the teens for further questioning.
Hindawi was one of those three. "I pretended not to hear them and kept walking, because I could still remember the beating I got last week. But one cop chased me. When I saw that he was after me I halted. He dragged me back to the direction of the jeep, and when we got there he pushed me and pinned me to the wall, so that no one will be able to see what they were doing to me."
At this point, according to Hindawi, the violence began. "Two of the policemen started hitting me in the legs with a rifle, punching me, slamming my head against the door of a nearby container, pushing me to the floor and hitting me in the head.
"I kept screaming: I haven't done anything, you can check my ID." Hindawi said that one of the policemen tried to persuade the others to stop, "but they just ignored him and kept on hitting me."
According to the teen, one of the policemen also took books out of his school bag and tore some of them apart. Then they released him, not before "a few more slaps and punches." Hindawi's account has been verified by an eyewitness.
'Our lives have become a nightmare'
Hindawi told Ynet that the police violence has already become a daily routine in the village. "We already got used to the beatings, but it makes it very hard for us to study… very often we miss the first two classes of the day because they detain us, humiliate and hit us."
Other Hawara residents told Ynet that soldiers and policemen, mostly Border Guard policemen, have turned their lives into a nightmare. "Once every few days the policemen and the soldiers declare a curfew in the village, claiming that Border Guard jeeps have been stoned," they said.
One of the residents said that in addition to the violence, the policemen harass the village girls, a thing that causes "severe social problems within the Palestinian families and social and psychological problems for the girls, who are forced to handle curses that are unacceptable in our society."
Sources at the village council claimed that complaints filed with the Coordination and Liaison Authority have yielded no results.
Meretz MK: This is the cruelty of occupation
Left-wing Knesset members responded angrily to the affair. Meretz faction chairwoman, MK Zahava Gal-On, called on the Police Investigation Unit to launch an immediate investigation against the officers involved in the incident.
"It is unthinkable that Border Guard policemen should use violence against Palestinians because they think that no one is watching and that they won’t be punished. These images show the brutality of occupation in the territories," she told Ynet.
MK Danny Yatom (Labor) urged the internal security minister, the police commissioner and the Border Guard commander "to launch an immediate investigation and publish its findings. If the Border Guard officers are found guilty, they should be punished severely, and if not – it is important for the Israeli public to know this.
"The investigation is aimed at revealing the truth and punishing the guilty officers, or alternatively, preventing further damage to the State of Israel's reputation," he said.
MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) said that "it is clear to all that the occupation corrupts the best of soldiers. The incident must be investigated and we must make sure that norms of inappropriate behavior will not be allowed among IDF soldiers and Border Guard police officers."
Hadash faction chairman, MK Mohammad Barakeh, said that "members of the Border Guard and the security forces draw their cruelty from the prevailing atmosphere in the Israeli street."
Amnon Meranda and Lilach Shoval contributed to the report