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Text testimonies They’re familiar with it as mapping, because it’s done all the time
catalog number: 227393
Rank: First Sergeant
Unit: Reserves
Area: Tulkarem area
period: 2013
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They’re familiar with it as mapping, because it’s done all the time
Rank: First Sergeant
Unit: Reserves
Area: Tulkarem area
period: 2013

Four, five days before the end of the deployment, they notified us that we're doing a battalion operation. They said we’re going into some village, there’s something called mapping villages. We go to the village, photograph the people, the houses, so that there’s intelligence information. We went out, one or two buses to this thing, around 60-70 people. We drive around 40 minutes [in order] to reach the point in the fence from where we can get off and walk down toward this village. Eleven at night, they said we’d walk there, we’d walk as a battalion, training on the way. Everyone felt like we were doing this because we didn’t manage to get an operation in, they searched for it. It was a walk of four or five kilometers, it took us almost three hours. Two at night, the village is not very big but the entire battalion was there, it’s close to 60-70 houses. We split into a team, I was supposed to write down names. We reach the first house in the middle of the night, the officer who is supposed to open and talk to them, someone next to him is securing him, someone with a camera, I’m writing and two behind me are securing. Helmets, everything, war, weapons. It’s to go at two at night and to knock and slam really hard on the tin, “Anyone there?” And no one knows the language. Knock on the door, no one answers, apparently it’s an abandoned house, somehow the door opens. It was a pretty new house. There were some bags, it turns out there were three young guys who just left the house. They heard that we were coming, came back, we saw them. Three young guys, two of them from the Palestinian police or something, who didn’t really understand what we wanted. We photographed them, photographed the house with a digital camera, the rooms, the people. I took down their details. It was the first house. We understood that it was for no reason, you go and bother the whole world, you don’t really know what it is you want.

Are you searching for something? Nothing, not searching, just looking. Because they had three bags and the house was pretty empty, they [the soldiers] allowed themselves to ask them to open the bag. “What’s in here, what’s in there?” We didn’t come with any previous information on weaponry, you don’t enter a house with weaponry like that. In the second house, there wasn’t anyone there. In the third house, we knocked and someone opens the door, middle of the night, turns on the light, he doesn’t understand what we want. The officer talks to him, tries to tell him. He says, “What did I do? What happened?” We tried to calm him down with hand gestures that everything is OK, that nothing happened. He’s tense, because ultimately, five soldiers show up at his doorstep with weapons, helmets, dressed in bulletproof vests. We moved their carpets, so as not to get them muddy. We are full of mud, a huge layer of mud on our legs. We dirty the place, even when we try to be clean. We were wet when we got into the house, his kid is crying, the woman is in the room, he brings his ID, gets photographed in the middle of the night. He’s really angry because he doesn’t understand what’s wrong and why it’s happening.

Are they only photographing him, or his wife too? Only men over 18 years old are photographed. [We] don’t photograph women or children. We reached another house, open the door, someone elderly, maybe 65, he’s also polite to us but afraid of us. He sleeps in a house that’s all plaster, no flooring yet, there’s nothing yet, and he has three kids, they’re crying. It’s a village that hasn’t produced any activity or anything hostile, there was no information, they just wanted to map it, to know what’s happening inside. The explanation they provided was that if they kidnap someone to one of the houses, then the Shin Bet will know what it looks like on the inside. The last house we went to – we knock on the door, knock on the door. No answer. Knock, knock, knock. After about 10 minutes of waiting, the blinds open. Someone around 33, 35 years old opens the window, she’s crying intensely, heartbreaking crying. She’s hysterical in the window, six men at the entrance to her home with weapons, helmets. It’s a private home so the window is about the height of my head; she’s not far from me. She opens the window and she’s shaking, and she’s crying, her nose is running. She’s hysterical. It’s 3:30 in the morning, we’re knocking violently at the door, her husband is a Palestinian police officer, he’s at work and she’s with her two kids, she’s crying; they’re hysterical and she refuses to open the door. He [the officer] tries to convince her to open the door but she won’t. He insists on opening the door. He radios the company commander, somehow gets to the point that she’s willing to contact her uncle. It’s 3:30 in the morning; she calls him because she refuses to open the door without someone else being present. They called him and woke someone else up in the village; he drove over from his house, her uncle. They went in and we left without anything, because we don’t photograph children or women and we didn’t take their ID’s or anything. A day later while eating lunch, we started talking about how it was unnecessary, that it was monstrous, and that we’re an army of monsters. What we wanted to do is photograph people and houses.

Was the goal to enter all the houses in the village? On the surface of it, it seems so to me. I don’t know what the order was exactly. People saw it as a mapping [operation] because they’re familiar with it as mapping, because it’s done all the time. The decision was on the command level, the response all the time was, “The brigade commander dropped the order,” the brigade commander of the area.