Two youths shot dead as Israel escalates collective punishment

Israeli occupation forces detain a Palestinian youth during confrontations in Hebron, on 19 September, after two youths were shot dead in the occupied West Bank city earlier in the day.

Wisam Hashlamoun APA images

Two Palestinian youths were shot dead in the occupied West Bank on Monday, bringing the total number of persons slain by Israeli forces since Thursday to seven.

They have been named as Muhannad Jamil al-Rajabi, 21, and Amir Jamal al-Rajabi, both from Hebron.

Muhannad Jamil al-Rajabi

Amir’s mother told local media that her son had turned 18 in November and was in high school. Muhannad’s mother said her son worked in a machine shop with his father.

The killings took place at a military checkpoint near the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron’s Old City.

Israeli authorities said “two Border Police officers saw two ‘suspicious’ Palestinians approaching the checkpoint and asked them to stop,” as the Ma’an News Agency reported. “When the two Palestinian youths continued walking towards them, brandishing knives, the officers opened fire, killing one of them on the scene and critically injuring the other.”

There has been no independent corroboration of the Israeli authorities’ claims.

It was later reported that the second youth died of his wounds. No Israelis were injured in the incident.


Amir Jamal al-Rajabi

On Friday, another youth from the same extended family, 15-year-old Muhammad Thalji Kayed Thalji al-Rajabi, was shot dead near the same location after allegedly stabbing and lightly injuring an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint.

According to local witnesses cited by the news site Quds, Muhammad al-Rajabi had been left lying on the ground to bleed without first aid.

It has been a habitual practice of Israeli forces to deny medical care to alleged assailants, in effect letting them bleed to death in violation of medical ethics and international law.

Quds also quoted local sources saying that Israeli occupation forces shot the two youths on Monday in the upper part of their bodies and then sealed off the area, allowing no local residents in or out.

Photos and videos made by local residents showed the body of one of the youths lying on the ground covered in a blanket with his bare legs protruding.

Human rights groups have condemned Israel’s reflexive use of deadly force in such incidents, saying it amounts to an unofficial shoot-to-kill policy encouraged by Israel’s top leadership.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also called for full investigation of incidents in which Israeli forces have caused death and injury.

Shot in the back

Iyad Hamad and his infant daughter

Israeli forces have often claimed that Palestinians they have killed posed a danger, only to admit later that this was not the case, or for video or other evidence to emerge refuting the Israeli version.

In one such incident on 26 August, Israeli forces in a watch tower shot dead Iyad Zakariya Muhammad Hamad, a 37-year-old father of two, in the occupied West Bank village of Silwad.

“In the first of several versions reported by the media, the military initially claimed that Hamad had fired shots at the tower,” the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported last week. “This was later replaced by the claim that he threw a Molotov cocktail.”

Eventually, B’Tselem says, “the military alleged that Hamad had run toward them while they were on patrol near the tower, and that they performed the suspect apprehension procedure, which included firing into the air.”

But B’Tselem’s investigation of the slaying of Hamad, who according to his family had “limited functioning,” refutes the army’s claims.

“B’Tselem’s investigation shows that the soldiers shot Hamad in the back while he was moving away from them, posing no danger to them whatsoever,” the human rights group concludes.

The final version presented by the army – after several changes to the story – remains “inconsistent with the facts,” B’Tselem states.

“The military shot and killed an innocent passerby who was not a danger to anyone.”

Violence in Jerusalem

Earlier on Monday, Israeli authorities said that a man stabbed two Border Police combatants near Bab al-Zahra, or Herod’s Gate, just outside the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem.

Citing Israeli police, the newspaper Haaretz reported that “the alleged assailant approached the site from the direction of Damascus Gate. Upon noticing the two officers, he walked behind them and stabbed them a number of times. One of the officers then managed to shoot the assailant.”

Haaretz reported that a 38-year-old female officer was taken to hospital in very serious condition with stab wounds in the neck, and a 45-year-old male officer was hospitalized with moderate wounds to the upper body.

The alleged assailant has been named as Ayman al-Kurd, 20, from the Ras al-Amud neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

He is in “serious and unstable condition” after being shot, a spokesperson for the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem told the Ma’an News Agency.

A video appears to show part of the incident. It shows a person running up behind two other people. There is an altercation that is partly obscured by a passing bus. After the bus passes, two persons can be seen on the ground and one is still standing.

The video is filmed from a distance, making it difficult to determine who each person is.

Collective punishment

The latest deaths bring the number of Palestinians killed since a new phase of violence began last October to almost 230, many shot dead in what Israel says were attacks or alleged attacks which have killed more than 30 soldiers and civilians.

In the wake of the recent incidents, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tied a potential increase in violence to the approach of the Jewish High Holy Days.

But it is more likely that Israel’s policy of collective punishment – brutal measures that target whole segments of the Palestinian population under military occupation – is the immediate driver of violence.

After several incidents during the summer, Israel imposed closure on Hebron and its surrounding villages, affecting some 700,000 people.

And in August, Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman announced a “carrot and stick” policy to use basic humanitarian needs to blackmail Palestinians in the occupied West Bank into submitting quietly to Israeli military rule.

The approach involves subjecting villages where alleged Palestinian assailants come from to “heavy security,” while rewarding areas where there is no “terrorism” by allowing them to build hospitals, kindergartens and other basic infrastructure.

Such collective punishment measures are considered war crimes under international law.

On Saturday, Israeli forces raided Bani Naim village, near Hebron, searching homes, interrogating residents and sealing off the town.

This was in apparent reprisal after Israeli forces shot dead a youth from the village, 18-year-old Faris Musa Muhammad al-Khudour, and seriously wounded his fianceé Raghad al-Khudour, claiming they had deliberately run into a group of Israeli settlers with their car.

Israel also continues its relentless, violent raids throughout the occupied West Bank, detaining more than a dozen Palestinians in a typical night.

After Monday’s incident, Israel also appeared to expand the collective punishment measures to occupied Jerusalem, ordering dozens of Palestinian businesses in the Old City to close.

“This was not the first time police employed collective punishment against Arab shop owners following attacks in Jerusalem, but in previous instances this was limited to fines and no shops were closed,” Haaretz reported.

This deliberate and broad escalation in repression and violence by Israeli occupation forces is routinely ignored by English-language media, which only reports an “upsurge” when a handful of Palestinians reacts.