JERUSALEM - A court in Jerusalem ordered the detention of three Israeli border police officers yesterday after they severely beat three Palestinian laborers Wednesday and photographed one another stepping on their victims.
The swift legal action against the officers, who confessed to the violence, came after Israel Radio broadcast graphic accounts of the beatings by one of the laborers and of the aftermath by their Israeli supervisor.
The incident drew public attention to what Palestinians say is common but usually unreported brutality by border police officers, who are on duty at checkpoints and patrol Palestinian communities under Israeli control.
Israel's public security minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, called the police officers' behavior "beastly," adding that he had told the chief of the border police that their commanding officers should be disciplined as well.
The beating occurred about 3 a.m. Wednesday, as the three Palestinians were heading home from work at a Jewish-owned grocery store in Jerusalem.
At a junction near the Palestinian town of Abu Dis, outside Jerusalem, the three were ordered out of their car for an identity check and then severely beaten without provocation, they said.
"There were beatings, screams, curses, and one of them was also using a rock, hitting hard," Faisal Darabeh, one of the workers, said in a radio interview.
"I was crying. He rammed my head into a wall, and I fell to the ground. He told me to get up, and when I got up he grabbed his gun and told me, 'The safety catch is on automatic, and if you say another word I'll kill you.'"
Darabeh said he and another laborer, who had been hit in the stomach and groin, were grabbed by the hair and their heads were slammed together.
Finally, the Palestinians were ordered to lie face down and the police officers took snapshots of one another stepping on the laborers' heads, Darabeh said.
The workers' supervisor, Moshe Zicherman, said in a separate interview that he knew something was wrong when he heard "terrible screams" in a radio communication from the workers' car.
When the workers finally radioed their location, Zicherman drove there and found them "in a state that was simply shocking," he recalled.
The lawyer for the police officers said that it was not an isolated incident. "These things happen from time to time," he told reporters.
The chief of the Jerusalem Border Police, Atef Dagesh, said that police commanders had filed complaints in the past against abuses by subordinates.