Thirteen days of trauma
A testimony by Rawhi Qarqaz
(In front of his house in Jabalya)
Three years ago, Rahwi Qarqaz (42) had an accident on his motorbike and as a result he fractured his right shoulder and suffered a breakage in the cartilage of his left knee. Since then, he has undertaken numerous surgeries on several occasions, the most recent was in April 2010 after his knee ruptured. On the 15th of July 2012, Rahwi was arrested at the Erez checkpoint after applying for a permit to enter Israel and seek further treatment. He was subsequently detained for 13 days.
“Even after surgeries in Gaza and an additional surgery in Egypt, I still suffered from pains in my leg. I was told that I required a specialized treatment, however this service was not available in any of the hospitals in Gaza. I therefore asked my doctor for a recommendation for referral to a hospital in Israel and in May, I started the process of obtaining my medical referral. The process took too long and meanwhile, my health kept deteriorating. I had to wait until July before I could finally get my referral and an appointment to the Al-Makassed hospital in Jerusalem.”
Rahwi was called to attend a security interview with the Israeli Intelligence Service before they could allow him to enter into Israel: “I arrived at Erez around noon, they searched me and an Israeli officer asked me what the purpose of my visit was. I showed him all my medical reports but I wastaken to an investigation room. The officer told me that they did not care about my documents and that they had been waiting for me for a long time. They then accused me for manufacturing and storing rockets in my home.”
Rahwi was subsequently blindfolded and taken to Ashkelon: “They put me in a solitary cell and I was questioned all day and all night with only one or two hours of break. I was tied to a chair that was fixed to the ground,my hands were tied to the back of the chair and my feet were tied to the legs. They did not harm me physically, but they swore at me and verbally insulted me. The number of investigators in the room varied between one and five and people would come and go at any given time.”
During the investigation, several charges were raised against Rahwi: “For the first four days they asked me about my house and also about the steel factory that my brother owns. In 2010, my house caught fire, I stored diesel for my generator and the machines for my brother’s factory at that time but I still don’t know what started the fire. They however said that the fire was caused by some of the rockets I was in the process of making and they also claimed that my brother and I had manufactured between 900 and a 1000 rockets. I told them that, even if it had been a fire caused by rockets, it would not only have affected my house, but the entire neighborhood.”
After four days, Rahwi was transferred to the Be’er Sheva central prison, where he spent the next three days with other prisoners: “They sent other prisoners, who pretended to be Hamas activists, to come and talk to me in order to try to get me to admit to crimes I hadn’t committed. One of them, an old man about 60 years old, got angry and argued with me when I refused to confess to the charges. He even tried to force me by the use of physical force. Another prisoner came with a notebook and was taking notes of what I was saying. He lied to me by saying that my brother had said that the charges were true and that I should also confess.”
Rahwi was then taken back to Ashkelon for what he describes as the “worst days of his detention”. In Ashkelon he was interrogated day and night: “I was interrogated from 9am to 4:30pm on Sunday and then given a 30 minute break. I could tell the time by looking at the investigator’s watch. At 5:00pm, the interrogation resumed and I was interviewed until 5:30am on Tuesday. During this time I was not allowed any breaks. They would give me different names of people and then demand me to give them information about these persons. They were specifically interested in three persons whom I didn't know at all. They also showed me a map of my neighborhood and asked what I knew about my neighbors. I was psychologically traumatized by all the questioning and they would not let me go, even when I told them that I didn’t know what they were asking for.”
On the 2nd of August, at around 11:30, Rahwi was finally released: “They told me that I had not been helpful and that I could only go if I agreed to give them information about my neighbors and other people in the future. They told me that they might call me for this purpose.I agreed not to lie to them in exchange for my release. When I was reclaiming my items at Erez, I found out that the NIS 1,660 and USD 300 I saved to pay for my treatment was missing. At that time, I did not even care about the money. I was just happy to be free and to see my family.”
Rahwi is grateful to be re-united with his family, but he still has not, at least up until now, received any treatment for his leg. He limps and supports himself with a crutch: “The entire episode was extremely hard for my wife and my three children. They went through a lot and all they could do was to call lawyers, the ICRC and other organizations in order to try to get me released. My own mental state was also greatly affected by the endless questioning. Right now, I am just taking the medication I was given by my doctor after I returned. Hopefully, I will be able to go for an operation in Egypt in September, but for now, I will just wait.”
Even though his interrogators promised him to consider his application to enter into Israel, Mr. Qarqaz did not try to submit a new application. Even if he receives a referral to Egypt instead of East Jerusalem, he is not sure that he will be able to cover the expenses of the travel.
The testimony was taken by PCHR-Gaza, and modified according to the information collected by PHR.
First Published, 15 august, 2012.
Video narrative Here: