According to the radio report, the soldiers were manning a roadblock outside the Palestinian neighbourhood of Abu Dis earlier this month when they allegedly detained, beat and humiliated two unidentified Palestinian boys.

Press reports added that the soldiers forced the boys into an abandoned house near the roadblock. There they urinated into a small plastic bucket, dipped the boys' identity cards in and, at gunpoint, forced them to retrieve the IDs with their mouths.

According to testimonies made by the boys to Israeli human rights organisation Btselem, the soldiers also extinguished cigarettes on their skin.

Before being released, they were ordered to jump from the roof of the one-storey building, causing unspecified injuries.

The soldiers, who belonged to the notoriously violent border police, were arrested on Sunday night, after the story was published in the Hebrew-language press.

Racial hatred

One of them reportedly told police that he did what he did because he hated Arabs and wanted to exact revenge on them.

An Israeli border policeman
checks a Palestinian woman's ID

An official at the Israeli Ministry of Justice said in an interview on Monday that "such behaviour by the border police is unfortunately rampant".

He pointed out that Israel needed to find a "deep and radical treatment for this phenomenon".

Earlier this month, Israeli media reported that three other border police forced a Palestinian to drink urine at a checkpoint near Ram Allah.

Death threats

The soldiers reportedly threatened to kill him if he did not heed their orders, telling him they would shoot him and then claim that he attacked them and they acted in self-defence.

A spokeswoman for Btselem told that mistreating and humiliating Palestinians was an established policy of the Israeli Border Police Force.

"It is a systematic policy. It is a modus operandi - this is common knowledge," she said.

She pointed out that border police were carrying out such acts with impunity and without any real deterrent.

"Every policeman involved in such acts knows deep in his heart that he won't be punished and that even if punished the punishment will be petty and symbolic," she said.

She added that for every case of humiliation exposed, there were many others that went unreported.

Last week, President George Bush in his address before the UN General Assembly renewed his call on Israel to end the daily humiliation of the Palestinians.